Whether you are an SEO or PR at an enterprise, your job is connecting with influencers to gain a higher share of voice on the Internet. When once we used fax machines, snail mail, and email to connect with key influencers, emerging social mediums like Twitter have broadened the arena of communicating. This month’s installment of our “Ask an Expert” series explores Twitter pitching: its effectiveness and how it should be used for media and influencer outreach. We polled both PR experts and the media to get feedback from both sides of the street. You will be surprised at the lack of consensus between experts, but nonetheless, it provides a great roundup of actionable tips and thought-provoking opinions.
Word From the PR Experts:
How do you use Twitter to pitch to gain publicity/share of voice? and Do you feel it’s an effective method for PR outreach?
My first, second and third rule for using Twitter is to be interesting. I do my best to provide a unique view on how media is changing by tweeting links with my commentary. I also follow (and over time have been followed by) many journalists, entrepreneurs and experts. Engaging them in conversation over Twitter has lead to many great relationships, business opportunities, and quotes.
Twitter and social media are now a required part of PR outreach. That doesn’t mean you should crudely just tweet pitches to random journalists. Every communication you have with a journalist, be it over email, phone or in person, should be informed by what they’re sharing on Twitter. Twitter’s also a great place to build a relationship with journalists and establish yourself as an expert before you need to pitch. I became a source for a CNET article simply because I tweeted at a journalist in response to a question he had.
For PR, Twitter is part content strategy, part PR strategy, and part community strategy – it’s an interesting channel and an integral part of what I consider to be “new PR.” Complicated, right? Actually, it’s not complicated if you simplify your view of Twitter as a useful tool in the PR toolbox that enables a both a push and pull strategy.
These days all marketers should be thinking about content, conversations and community. I assume if you are reading this you believe in all three. Twitter is an essential channel in this equation; it allows you to discover and distribute content and to be part of a conversation. As such, PR needs both a push (distribute) and a pull (discover) Twitter strategy.
Push – For PR, content marketing is an evolved means for sharing (pushing) a story, Twitter being a key channel. For example, using your social network to share a story on your own blog can not only gain traction and bring eyeballs to your web site – it can also make its way to the proper journalist, aiding their discovery. In some ways you become the media. PR folks have been pushing content for ages in the form of press releases, traditional pitching, etc.; this is nothing new, it’s simply an additional (and often more effective) means of distributing content
Pull – Pull is simple, I use Twitter to discover new content and to stay informed. For years I rarely posted, I used twitter as a research tool. Just like you and I, journalists Tweet about their interests and by following and reading their Tweets I was able to keep up to date with my industry, which informed my PR pitching strategy. Twitter is an amazing way to discover what thought leaders are thinking about every second of the day. Using this information to craft a pitch helps you to cater your pitch to the specific recipient and we all know the more custom crafted a pitch is the better chance we have of success.
Whether using Twitter for push, pull or both it’s an essential element to PR success – and a lot of fun!
“Twitter is best for researching a reporter or perhaps engaging in conversation not directly related to a client to help build the relationship. We watch Twitter feeds to learn what journalists are writing about, but we don’t use Twitter to pitch, since we are often looking for individual or regional/local connections.”
First and foremost, I use Twitter as a relationship building tool. Second, I research and seek to provide value to the journalists, bloggers, and people I work with. Third, I listen because listening is integral to building relationships and uncovers great opportunities in real time to connect a source to a story. Time, care, good written communication skills and engagement are paramount. It’s the result of these things that Twitter has proven the best way to work with multiple audiences to garner incredible results among journalists and bloggers or connecting directly with consumers.
Twitter is a place where humans have conversations and exchange information, conversations and information lead to relationships and relationships typically bear many fruits. Some of my biggest successes in PR and social media have happened on or because of engagement on Twitter.
A Word From the Journalists:
Question: Do you feel Twitter is an effective medium for reaching journalists? Do you like being “Twitter pitched”? If so, what’s your preferred way to be engaged with there? And if not, why don’t you like it?
I do believe it’s effective. I like it because with 140 characters, people have to cut the crap.
I do think Twitter is a very effective medium for reaching journalists, primarily because most of them are (a) on there and (b) huge fans of Twitter. Indeed, 59% of journalists worldwide now use Twitter. So, taking this question literally, Twitter is, by definition, one of the best places to reach them.
However… personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Twitter pitch. I don’t mind it so much as an opening way of getting attention, but I still prefer my pitches to be sent via email. I’m a huge fan of and believer in Twitter, but sometimes a pitch therein can feel a little bit pushy. Or perhaps it’s simply that folks who use Twitter to pitch stories are often a little pushier… which is maybe why they use it! Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, an open pitch exposes the story idea/concept on a public platform, which isn’t always ideal, and of course doesn’t work for embargoes, which are increasingly par for the course in tech coverage.
That said, I don’t get many direct pitches on Twitter. The vast majority still come via email (probably 95%). Which, as above, is a trend I hope continues! So, while Twitter is a great way to find and engage with journalists in pretty much all countries, I’m not convinced at this stage in its progression it’s the best (or, indeed, right) place to pitch story ideas.
Organization is everything to me, as I imagine it is to most professionals. That said, the only way a pitch has a fighting chance is if it comes through my email, because that is where I organize my day, my articles and, basically, my life. I may be in the minority, but Twitter is not where I spend most of my digital time, but my email is. Twitter is not always open, but my email is.
I can see the benefits of reaching journalists on Twitter, as a way to cut through the clutter of a crowded email inbox, but for me email is still my preferred way to be engaged by marketing or PR professionals, and probably will be the foreseeable future. When I am pitched on social media networks, whether it is Twitter or LinkedIn, I always take the conversation to my email. For me, pitches fall through the cracks, when I can’t label them, file them, schedule corresponding tasks or forward them in/from my Outlook inbox. My suggestion is to see how active the journalist is on Twitter. If they only have around 100 tweets (like me), they are likely not extremely engaged on that channel. Like in all things Web, personalize the experience for the end user.
I don’t use Twitter for pitches or for soliciting article sources, because I don’t want my competitors to see what I’m doing. Reporters like me are still competitive and putting all my business out there before it’s published just gives other marketing magazines a chance to scoop me. I try to do all my own interviews. If I do find online sources, I attribute them. I generally try not to reveal my hand re: how I go about my research.
To Twitter pitch, to not Twitter pitch, that is the question. Has it been answered? While responses were mixed, we noticed many similarities: social media has created amazing opportunities for public relations and SEO professionals to increase their organization’s share of voice and establish relationships.
Here are more resources on the topic:
- “Pitching on Twitter? Try these 8 tactics to entice the media” via Ragan.com
- “Pitching Through Social Media, Yah or Nay?” via PRWeb
- “Twitter Pitching Etiquette: What Works What Doesn’t” via Social Media Today
- “Ask An Expert: Online Media Relations 3.0″ via iAcquire Blog
Stay tuned for more next month on iAcquire’s exclusive Ask an Expert series.