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Tweeting amidst the masses: Part I

What do New York Time’s Brian Stelter, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have in common? Well besides being highly respected journalists in the field, they have a considerable number of Twitter followers. Stelter has over 100,000 while Maddow actually has over 2 million. Although not all journalists have even 80,000 plus followers like Kurtz, many can boast followers numbering into the thousands. Amidst all the babble, it can be hard for those looking to connect and get noticed.

Eric Oppegaard, marketing and communications manager with Florida-based Libra OnDemand, has found success through reacting and sharing. “For example, I found an article where a hotel was experiencing problems with customer service. I composed a simple blog post, outlining how the use of our software and best practices could have helped avoid the issues they were experiencing. I reshared the original article, and through use of the blog post, reacted to it,” he said. Not only did the original author turn around and write about his firm, but he also gained the hotel as a client. “This has worked countless times for both my personal use of social media, as well as work with clients. Monitor the social networks of those you want to communicate with, reshare and react to what they have to say,” he said in an email interview. “If you go out and start broadcasting your own message to journalists, or you pitch to them directly, it likely will not get you very far.”

Although this is an example of a success story, some looking to pitch a journalist on social media may want to reconsider altogether, noted Leslie Gornstein, a freelance writer for new outlets including Los Angeles Times Magazine, E! Networks and The Style Network. “I have more than 25,000 followers on Twitter and can’t possibly field a pitch that way. Even if I had only a few followers, I still wouldn’t be likely to notice any publicist communiqués via Twitter simply because the limited number of characters one can use,” she said. “A good pitch is tailored to me. It targets a specific journalist, and a specific section within a specific publication. It mentions why a story is timely now, and why it would be a perfect fit for my very specific reader demographic. I’ve never seen a tweet that can do that.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Purdie, a freelance writer for Triathlete and Running Times magazines has had a different experience. When a PR pro posted a comment about a piece she had written, she was impressed. “It was just an aside in a pitch. It made me see he did his homework and honed the pitch personally,” she said in an email interview.

Regardless of a journalist’s personal preference, Mario Almonte, managing partner at Herman and Almonte PR, said a PR pro should not be using “tactics” to stand out. “While media like Facebook and Twitter give you greater access to journalists, they are full of potential landmines to those who rush too quickly into them without seeing where they’re going,” he said in an email interview. “Social media is a new way to reach people, but the old rules still apply; provide meaningful content, not random noise. Journalists don’t mind being contacted with meaningful, relevant pitches through any means. They just don’t like people who abuse the privilege to inundate them with stories that are clearly irrelevant to their beat.”

–Katrina M. Mendolera


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