When you’re on a bootstrap marketing budget, you can never have too many friends in media. If you don’t have those connections now, there’s still hope. You just might be able to win a few new media friends with the social media darling, Twitter. Twitter has been a favorite of the media and public relations professionals since its beginning back in 2006. The quick, “cut to the chase” 140 micro blogging site is perfect for sending out quick editorial queries, source requests, or soliciting feedback on headlines. I’ve put together some tips below to help you transform Twitter into the latest weapon in your PR arsenal.
How to Find the Media
One of the easiest ways to find relevant media contacts that cover your beat is to check their current publications. With the rise of Twitter’s popularity many reporters, journalists, and bloggers are adding their twitter handles to their bylines. If their twitter contact information isn’t listed, try a search on Twitter itself or one of the many search directories such as Twellow. Another great resource for finding media on twitter is MediaonTwitter. The directory is pretty self explanatory and includes a list of over 1,000 contacts from publications such as FOX News, USA Today, Business Week, and many other blogs, radio shows, and regional magazines both in the states and overseas. With HARO’s Peter Shankman helping promote the list, you know it has to be good. (P.S. Make sure you’re signed up for that too!)
Once you have found contacts handling your beat, jump in there and “follow” them. It’s also a great opportunity to send a quick tweet to say “Hi” and mention that you” liked their article on __________.” Nothing overly gushy, but just a quick “Hey, I’m here and sincerely interested in what you have to say…” type of greeting. If they respond, great! If not, no big deal. Either way, this is about building a relationship and not instant gratification. You have along way to go if you want to “friend” a meaningful media contact.
How to Truly “Follow”
Once you start to gain momentum on Twitter, it can become hard to catch everyone’s tweets in your twitter stream. This brings me to my love/hate relationship with Twitter. I love the amazing access to people, information, and culture, but hate the overwhelming nature of it all. To break it down into smaller portions, I rely heavily on “groups” in Tweetdeck. This is the best tool I’ve found to ensure that I use my Twitter time productively. Without these groups, the ADD sets in and I get caught up in all types of random rants, Etsy shopping, and web surfing. I have a “PR” group that I use to follow all my media contacts. The result is a perfectly edited tweet stream that allows me to keep up with all my “media friends”. Check this group regularly and be sure to answer any questions, comment on posts they’ve written, or just mention you had a garden omelet for breakfast too. Everything helps as you work to build the relationship.
Just remember that friendship should be a two-way street with you listening twice as much as you talk. In other words, DO NOT spam media contacts repeatedly with self-promoting tweets. If you do, I guarantee you’ll learn the true meaning of “fail whale” the hard way.
When to Pitch
The best time to pitch is when specifically asked. For example, when a writer tweets they are looking for sources on “short selling in real estate”, be sure to let her know you’d be glad to answer any questions. While this is the most obvious time to pitch, it isn’t necessarily the most common situation. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? More likely, you will be the one initiating the pitch. If done well, it has a good chance of being well received. If done poorly, you’ll burn bridges and lose your newfound “friend.” My best suggestion is to be sincere, concise, and informative. For example, I sell baby clothes and often design pieces that are inspired by current events. Recently, I designed some “Little Republican” and “Little Democrat” onesies to celebrate the upcoming election.
In this case, I would send this tweet, “Love ur article “ObamasSenseofStyle”! Election is great 4 biz, our political baby clothes r selling out! Wld love 2 share stats! link.bit.ly”
Please note that the tweet is only 140 characters. This doesn’t give you much space to sell your story. The key is to make sure your link seals the deal. The link that I attach will have all the information regarding the product including a description illustrating the news worthy significance of the product, any celebrity fans or political figure customers, a downloadable 300 dpi picture, interesting customer testimonials, and maybe a counter showing which political party has the highest percent of sales. Ideally, the goal is to include information that demonstrates the newsworthiness of the product.
Follow-Up for Your “Following”
As with anything in marketing, the follow-up is your key to success. The same rule applies to your following strategy on Twitter. If your @ replies go unanswered or if your pitch falls on deaf ears, don’t get discouraged. Go ahead and send a little reminder if you don’t hear a response back in 24-36 hours.
To continue with my example, I might send the follow-up tweet, “Update! Obama may have style, but McCain has the most sales…Curious if this is an indicator for Election Day??? Is there an upset brewing?”
Regardless of what happens, stay vigilant, courteous, and helpful. If you can’t help with a story, suggest a contact that might be a great source, re-tweet their posts, and be sure to take your interaction outside of Twitter. This means commenting on their blogs, reading their books, and adding their blog to your personal blogs “blogroll.” The more you understand their writing style and interests, the easier it will be for you to craft your pitches.
The Bottom Line
I hope you can see the value in adding Twitter to your PR arsenal. As always, remember to be respectful of the media and stay on topic, concise, and informative when pitching. Your good intentions will be rewarded. Even if you don’t receive press from your intended media contact, you are greatly increasing you odds of being picked up elsewhere. One of the many lessons I’ve learned in my endless pursuit for publicity is that Google can be your greatest ally. Google never forgets, and it all but guarantees your publicity efforts won’t be forgotten either.