Read This Before You Pitch That Reporter on Social Media

Sending out a press release or blind-calling reporters isn’t the best way to get your stories told or your message out. With six PR pros to one journalist these days, getting through is a big part of the battle. The best thing you can do is get to know the reporters who write on your relevant beats and build a relationship with them based on trust. Face-to-face meetings over coffee or lunch, and old-fashioned telephone calls can go a long way to get that relationship going and keep it strong.

Plus there’s that social network thing. Reporters are notoriously social and most of them stare at their phones all day. So should you get into the act with them?

The short answer is no. “Do not pitch to reporters on social media as a rule,” said Peter Himler, a longtime PR strategist now with Flatiron Communications LLC in New York. “But there are always exceptions,” he added.

Those exceptions are all about strategy. And don't forget, the old rules still apply: Don’t send the same pitch out to dozens of reporters impersonally. Develop your key relationships and build trust.

Here’s how to do it:

Be in the right (cyber)place. Some platforms are for sharing photos of cute puppies and others for business communication. Knowing where and how to pitch is crucial. Think Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs, mostly.

Establish yourself first. Before you can pitch, you need a platform. Get onto Twitter. Tweet. Tell the world about your expertise and gain a following.

Follow reporters’ social media presence. Read their tweets to get acquainted with their beats, and refer to them and/or retweet when appropriate. They’ll notice. Himler noted Twitter is a two-way street and the best platform to get through to journalists.

Use hashtags wisely; they’re the raised hands of cyberspace. If a reporter is looking for info on Galaxy S10 phones, he or she will search tweets for #galaxy10. Tweet it with the appropriate hashtag and—don’t forget—tweet about why anyone absolutely needs what you’re telling.

LinkedIn: Where business networks. Most reporters are on Linkedin, and they will look for sources on it. And reporters fully expect, and don’t mind, getting DMs via that platform

Avoid Facebook. The ubiquitous platform is having a bad year. Journalists are leery of its cavalier privacy attitude, younger people think it’s uncool. Besides, for birthday greetings and cats on Roomba videos, not business communication.

But also use Facebook wisely. Facebook actually has some business cred. But it’s a targeted weapon. If your company has a strong presence there, you can text reporters you know about it.

DM someone. You’ve sent an email, you’ve left a voicemail. No response. In this case and if you know the reporter, reach out with a text or DM him or her. From personal experience, if I see a Twitter or Linkedin DM, I will pay attention and read it.

If a reporter has a blog, read it. Add a comment; most reporter blogs are about subjects they’re passionate about. They’ll be happy for the feedback. After you’ve done that, feel free to pitch—but elsewhere via email or a Twitter/LinkedIn DM.

Remember that success on social media is no different than succeeding elsewhere. Having a compelling story and a relationship with a reporter goes a long way. In fact, it’s usually the only way to cut through the noise they deal with every day.