Pitching Reporters on Social Media – What Works & What Doesn’t

Last week, we attended a PRSA event, “Meet the Media: How Journalists Use Social Media for News and Sources,” and heard from a great panel of journalists including:

Not very long ago, email was the prime and preferred method for reporters to receive pitches. Fast forward to today and social media has rapidly surpassed email for many reporters looking for new and interesting story ideas and sources. According to Michael Roston, email is one of the least effective ways to land your story, simply due to saturation. He says landing a good story from an email pitch has as much to do with luck and timing as it does content.

That’s not to say that email is dead – far from it – but if PR pros are struggling to get the attention of their target reporters, they should explore new channels of communication where these reporters are most active. But before you log onto Twitter and start pitching, there are few things to keep in mind. Here are the key takeaways shared at the PRSA panel about targeting reporters via social media:

1) Understand who you are pitching: This may not sound like new advice, but it is worth a mention. Before you even think about pitching, know what information they require, the beats they cover, what company they work for AT THIS TIME (mentioning the wrong or previous company is a fast-track to the black list), and don’t forget to call out if you have worked with them in the past. A past successful experience is likely to increase your chances of being included, so feel free to remind them. With so many social media channels, that also means knowing which channels are they most active on and how they prefer to interact with their followers.

2) Personalize your pitch: Social media has made it easier for people to bombard reporters with pitches, questions and follow-ups across platforms.  And, like email, this leads to the same challenge of saturation.  Paula Rizzo said showing interest in her work is one way to get her attention. Demonstrate that you have done your research by re-tweeting or sharing their article and commenting on posts – engage with them. All the panelists agreed that this drives up the likelihood that they will read your pitch and not just assume they were part of a list.

3) Make them come to you: Social media has become a very useful tool for reporters who are seeking out new story ideas and expert sources.  Paula and Michael both spoke to this, using the Zika virus as an example. When the story broke, it was really difficult to find experts because this was an entirely new issue so they took to searching Twitter to find someone who was out there speaking knowledgeably on the topic. By carefully maintaining a presence on social media for your client and promoting areas of expertise, you increase the chances of a reporter coming to you for when new stories break.

This is some great insight for PR pros to keep in mind if you’re leveraging social media when working with reporters. Happy pitching!

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