Do Something Different: Engage the Media Using Twitter

With only 140 characters, how do you entice the media to cover your story?

Think about it: Is 140 characters really different than the lead in a press release? Remember, reporters only read the first paragraph and if it strikes their interested, they read the rest.  If the first paragraph doesn’t capture their interest, you don’t have a story! 

Twitter is one of the most effective social media sites for getting your message out to, not only a mass community but also to a specific targeted media community.  Reporters use the site all the time to look for sources. In fact, a May 2011 TEKGROUP survey of journalists finds that 90%  use Twitter, Facebook and blogs on a daily basis to follow/monitor news and information.

Reporter Marianne Brown of the Connecticut Post said, “Because I was working on an especially tight deadline, I needed sources who would be directly on point very fast,” said Brown. “I sent my Tweet out cloaked through ProfNet because I needed the sources' backgrounds as well to establish their credentials so that I wouldn't waste time answering calls from folks whose's info wasn't directly relevant.”

Brown received five responses in the three-hour window that were relevant, informative and led to other sources.  Not every one of them was quoted by name in her article. But their views helped shape the piece.

Twitter enables PR professionals to develop something that is quick while capturing the attention of the reporters creatively to entice them to be interested in your story.

How do you do this?

•    Create a Media List:  For starters, you need to get a list of reporters and bloggers. Use an application like Twellow to research your list and make sure you are on the right track, targeting the right people. Each person on Twellow has a full description of what they write about and their interests. 

•    Follow Reporters: Make sure to input their information in your Twitter account.

•    Listen: Don’t forget to listen to what reporters are saying. It’s very telling especially on Twitter. What do they write about on Twitter? What type of messages are they putting out? They may even be looking for a source and then it’s a win, win for both parties!

•    Create a Friendship: Make sure that once you are following reporters, bloggers and producers that they follow you back.  You do this by talking with them when you don’t have news. Start a conversation going. Respond to their posts. Get them to talk with you. When they see you offer value, they will follow you.

•    Develop Your Message: What do you want to say?  Is it newsworthy?  Can a reporter develop a story around the tweet? To shorten up your tweet, use word symbols that get your message across.  For example for “You” type “U” to shorten the content.

•    Use Links: It’s important to provide more information to reporters.  Do this by providing a link to your newsroom with the full press release and background information there. Making this the information easily accessible will help the reporter immensely.

•    Follow up: You can follow up on Twitter but you may want to also try e-mail and/or the old-fashioned phone. Remember, there are lots of messages on Twitter, and how will your message stand out?

So if you’ve never done it, try tweeting out your next pitch.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the positive responses you will receive.

Hilary JM Topper is the president and CEO of HJMT Communications, a boutique PR firm located in Westbury, Manhattan and Rochester N.Y.  She is also the author of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media but were afraid to ask…,” available on She can be reached at [email protected].

6 responses to “Do Something Different: Engage the Media Using Twitter

  1. Nice post Hilary. I would suggest taking it a step further and not only sharing your news via Twitter but also to your LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends and fans at the same time.

    I have been working on a popular new free tool that does just that:

  2. Twitter’s fine as an arm’s length way of tracking journalists’ needs. But it’s no substitute for developing strong working relationships that make you the “go to” guy when reporters are on deadline.

  3. Great post. If you want to save some time, @tweetmags has comprehensive media lists by category – over 1000 magazines, hundreds of news outlets, publishers etc. Just follow the list and you don’t have to search for individual media outlets. Hope it’s helpful.
    Cheers, JTL

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