Do’s and Don’ts for Media Engagement on Twitter

Pamella Baker Masson Chris Brooks

Nearly 90% of journalists use Twitter or Facebook to follow and monitor news yet, only 1% prefer Twitter as a point of contact with PR pros, according to a Society of New Communications Research study. What this says is that Twitter is of utmost value to members of the media, but they are very wary about how it is used—or abused.

At PR News' Media Relations Conference, which took place on Nov. 30 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., Pamella Baker Masson, associate director of communications for Smithsonian National Zoo, said that Twitter is now viewed as a news source for journalists.

"It's the new version of the AP Daybook," she said. Masson and Chris Brooks, manager of social engagement at Hilton Worldwide, shared some Twitter best practices:


  1. "Establish a relationship first with the journalist," said Masson. "Consider using a personal Twitter account rather than an organizational account." A day earlier, at PR News' One-day Bootcamp for Emerging PR Stars, Nate Hindman, small business editor for the Huffington Post, echoed that sentiment. "It's great to be able to keep up with people through social media, but hard to start a real relationship,” he said. “The best relationships I've had with PR pros have been developed face to face. Any chance you have to take a journalist out for a beer or coffee is very valuable.”

  2. Track existing relationships: "Use your organization’s account to follow all reporters and publications that have written stories about you," Masson said. Brooks stressed that Hilton creates different Twitter lists to track media.

  3. Give credit where credit is due: "If you retweet a story about your organization, give the credit to the journalist," Masson said.

  4. Provide an experience: For the Smithsonian Zoo, animal births are big events, and to connect with its audience during a birth Masson provided a viewer experience by live-tweeting the event. While your organization may lack lions, tigers and bears, think about which events your followers would enjoy feeling as if they were on site.

  5. Tap resources: Brooks said that Muckrack has a feature for communication and social media pros that enables PR pros to find journalists talking in real time about their company, competitors and industry. This could serve as a great tool for influencer tracking and crisis management. Hilton also has daily online monitoring integrated into media clips, according to Brooks. 

  6. Integrate: At Hilton, Twitter is integrated across all of the corporation's press materials its media center, press releases and website—"folks aren't going to be able to engage with you on Twitter if they can't find you," said Brooks. 


  1. Tweet information perceived as unhelpful: "If you are tweeting both to general audience and media, strike the right balance between breaking news, helpful tips and general information," said Masson. Hilton programs 10-20 tweets per day, a mixture of evergreen stories and news. They also do Twitter chats to fulfill true, two-way dialogue and peel back the corporate layer in communications, said Brooks.

  2. Be oblivious to the volume of your tweets, said Masson. 

  3. Use Twitter incorrectly: "Understand how to use a hashtag and tinyurls," Masson said. "It will appear obvious to all if you don’t use Twitter lingo." 

  4. Try to pitch an exclusive: Masson quoted a journalist who works at the Associated Press: "I would rather not have a first-time introduction for a pitch on Twitter. I am more receptive to learning from PR folks who I already know." 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg