Pitching reporters using social media: What do the journalists say?

Whenever I see the phrase “pitching journalists on social media” I cringe. Why? Because it’s not about “pitching” the reporter on Twitter. It’s about starting a relationship with that journalist that will lead to the actual pitch–when the time is right.

That’s the way I see it, at least.

But, everyone has a different perspective on this. So, I thought we’d ask the journalists themselves what they think. Do they like PRs approaching them on social networks? What’s the best way for PRs to do this? And, how exactly do media members use social media now as part of their day-to-day work?

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All good questions that can help us, as PR pros, do our jobs more effectively. Let’s hear what the journalists have to say.

 

Michael Rand, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

I think social media has its limits, and nuance is often lost. I think an e-mail or even phone call is a better way to make a pitch. I have no problem with initial contact on Twitter, but maybe I’m in the minority?

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

Twitter. It’s about the only thing I use regularly. Facebook is almost irrelevant to me right now. Instagram is a nice tool, but I view it more as entertainment than anything else. LinkedIn never really caught on with me, though I do maintain a page.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

I’m on Twitter almost non-stop. Maybe too much. On my desktop and mobile. It alerts me to breaking stories, allows me to promote my work, helps me track down sources and lets me communicate directly with readers. It’s become indispensable.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Twitter. Not even close. As I said, I hardly ever use Facebook. The pace of Twitter and the interactivity make it a no-brainer.

 

Jen Westpfahl, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

Journalists who aren’t yet comfortable with the fact that social media is more social than media aren’t likely to want to be approached that way. I don’t mind being approached on social media by people I already know but for cold-call pitches, email seems to be more useful.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

The key is the same whether on social media or elsewhere — know me, my audience, my niche and offer something useful. If you throw a headline and link at me just because I happened to mention some keyword you search on Twitter, you’re not going to get very far.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

I monitor what people are talking about, what questions they are asking, what stories they are sharing. I share our stories across many networks and ask our audience questions to help improve our coverage. I also do a fair amount of customer service work via social media.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

I think Facebook has offered up more in terms of discovering things I didn’t know about, while Twitter has been more useful in sourcing and exploring stories once the original idea has been brought to my attention. Twitter is easier to search by subject matter and location and is more public, but we get more story ideas from readers on Facebook.

Katie Humphrey, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

Personally, I don’t mind being approached on social media as long as it’s not spam. Reporters get a lot of pitches across many channels – by phone, by mail, and especially by email. Some of them are helpful. A lot of them are not. Right now, social media still feels like a place to converse. In that spirit, it can be a great place for pitching or getting in touch with a reporter. If it turned into just one more platform on which I had to spend a significant time filtering irrelevant pitches or spam, that would be disappointing.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

Most important: Be smart about pitching the right reporter. Many reporters’ Twitter bios or other public social media profiles say what they cover.

Once you’ve figured out that what you’re pitching fits within my interests, contact me. That could be through a mention or a direct message on Twitter, or maybe a private message on another platform like LinkedIn or Facebook. Be human and strike up a conversation, just like you would in person. It might lead to a story, or it might not, but if the pitch is relevant to my beat I’ll keep you in mind as a future source.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

My beat – the lifestyle side of technology – is obviously social media friendly.  I check Facebook and Twitter throughout the day to monitor news, see what people are talking about, chat  and find sources. My Instagram account has a lot of personal photos, but I also use it if I’m out reporting and there’s something visual to share.

Sometimes I write stories about specific networks, so I’ll hang out there for a bit. Vine, Pinterest, etc. I can see the potential uses for Google+, LinkedIn and Reddit, but so far they haven’t often factored into my daily reporting or sharing.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Both Facebook and Twitter are helpful, but I lean on Twitter more.

The constant Twitter  chatter and link sharing is good for discovering stories and sources for stories. It’s also fun to throw a question out to Twitter users, especially when I’m just starting to work on a story, to see what people think. Sometimes I get nothing, but usually Twitter users are happy to help me understand something or share their perspectives. While Facebook still feels more personal to me, Twitter is a great place to meet new people.

That said, it’s worth remembering that Twitter is still a relatively small portion of the population. Queries shared widely through Facebook can sometimes grab a broader demographic. Neither, however, replaces a spoken interview or traditional networking for sources. We might start chatting on social media, but I like to follow up on the phone or in person for better understanding.

Erica Hanna, Bring Me The News

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

I’m honestly not sure. It could be that for on-air talent, they get so many messages on social that pitches fall through the cracks? I’m not sure, since I’m not using social in that way.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

When we hosted a JMU612 meetup on the topic, we talked a lot about the “proper” way to pitch…my personal preference would be to have the org looking to pitch me: 1. establish a relationship via social 2. Mention the story idea in a private social message. 3. Follow up via e.mail I suppose it’s all about personal preference, though?

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

I am currently the Director of Branding and Social Engagement at BringMeTheNews.com. I participate on our social channels, along with our other content producers in efforts to connect with our audience, figure out what they want more/less of, and establish long lasting relationship. It’s been really great to have the flexibility I’ve been allowed, to help the brand grow and thrive socially. I work directly with my social media partner @carriegohl to implement social strategy, educate, and innovate in the space. Yay, buzzwords! But, seriously…it’s what we’re going for.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

All of our content producers are constantly scanning all social channels, but…I feel we get the most “trending” story content from twitter. It moves so much faster than the intelligent facebook feed, and since it’s real time it’s an immediate source.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

Journalists tend to be annoyed with PR people, but that is often more the fault of cranky journalists (guilty, sometimes) than anything the PR workers are doing wrong (though I have had my share of run-ins with incompetent PR operatives). A bit of courtesy and open-mindedness all around will work wonders.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

An impossible question to answer broadly. It depends on what individual journalists prefer. In my case, e-mail and social media are fine. Snail mail is OK, if quaint. Cold calls annoy me a bit (or a lot if they come in when I’m on deadline in the mid-to-late afternoon). Other journos will give different answers.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

Breaks roughly three ways: Promote my work and that of my colleagues; keep up with what other journalists on my beat are doing, and what is trending on my beat; communicate with sources (often privately, like via DM).

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

I don’t know that I have a magic formula. I just cultivate an open-door policy in all kinds of communication, and let sources choose the one the one they like the best. It all works out, organic-like.

David Brauer, MinnPost, Southwest Journal

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

Honestly, I think some of it is that social is limited formatically. (Think Twitter’s 140 or Facebook’s publicness, even with FB Messenger.) Journalists I know are pretty comfy via email, which has some of the immediacy of social but more perceived privacy — remember, social is almost by definition supposed to be read by more than one person, often the antithesis of how journalists news gather.

A lot of it may simply be discomfort with change, again. Speaking for myself, I don’t mind being contacted socially – especially since I’m in that group of journalists who have enjoyed finding PR people who “get it” via social — but as with this discussion, what started via social was followed via email.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

Can’t speak for others, but I have an open-DM setting on Twitter (anyone can DM me), so I like getting the quick ask and arrangements for follow-up (email, in-person, phone, etc.) I should note that I am not besieged by PR people these days so may have a higher tolerance for it. But brief, direct, then asking-for-permission for a longer exchange feels right to me.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

When I was a media reporter, most if not all of my sources/subjects were on social so it was a logical place to monitor them and interact as need be. I’m kind of a classic heavy user — I combine need for discussion of interesting stories (I work at home), with a bit (honestly) of self-promotion, with about 20x as much promoting other good stories as my own.

My goal – perhaps like many PR people – is to contribute quality information to the infosphere and be seen as a knowledgeable connector/authority.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Twitter by far. Facebook makes it too easy to share uninteresting viral stuff, games, and other entertainment I’m not that interested in. It is not optimized for quick reading & high-signal-to-noise info-gleaning as Twitter. Twitter also does not require reciprocal following, something FB only figured out recently. Thus, I cultivate a smaller, 600-person group of smart people who are good at surfacing new stories on Twitter, where my FB feed contains far more people who I accepted as a compromise to grow my brand.

James Norton, Heavy Table

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

The main problem with being approached on social media is that it’s very hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Within the context of a richer medium (e.g. email) you can more thoroughly figure out if you’re looking at a story, or a possible story, or a non-story. With social media, you’re generally getting a too-small-to-be-useful nugget of information, possibly with the menacing addition of a shortened link that could lead anywhere.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

Is email considered social media? That’s always the best bet – there’s no character limit and there’s no risk that the message will fall into Facebook’s mysterious vortex of content we’re allowed and not allowed to discover. Within the framework of email, you can (briefly) lay out your idea, attach a relevant document or two, and make responding a straightforward proposition.

That said, a quick tweet calling out @heavytable will get my attention, but unless it’s something directly and immediately relevant I may not get around to it for a while – or ever.

The usual rules always apply, though: Know my publication and audience, make sure the pitch is timely, and make sure it’s as focused as possible. Stick to those ideas and even a tweet can engage my attention.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

We use Twitter and Facebook both to push out our new daily content and give it some mobility and to interact with our readers – answering questions, receiving tips and other story ideas, and generally staying connected to the fabric of people reading and writing about food in the Upper Midwest. Depending upon the project, we also take advantage of Pinterest, Foursquare, and other platforms.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Is RSS still a legitimate answer to that question? I probably find out 60-75% of my new information by following other trusted sources by RSS. I think emailed tips are right up there with chance discoveries on Twitter or Facebook. But between the two, Facebook is considerably more useful than Twitter, which can be difficult to sift through for intelligible nuggets.

Dylan Belden, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher?

Many of them probably think they get enough pitches in their e-mail inboxes and want to keep it compartmentalized that way. Others may see social media as more personal and want it to be casual. For me, though, the important thing is the quality of the pitch and whether it applies to me. The method of delivery isn’t too important.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels?

I think social media is a good way to make connections and start conversations, but it seems to work best to follow up via e-mail or phone. I think if somebody were to follow me on Twitter, then send me an @ reply or a DM and say “hey, I’ve got a story idea for you, can I e-mail you?” that would feel totally appropriate and it would get my attention much more than if something just landed in my inbox out of the blue.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

Twitter in particular has become a hugely important way to monitor what’s going on and what people are saying. A good editor or breaking-news reporter follows a mix of other media – official accounts and individual journalists – as well as PR flaks, average people and heavy news consumers to get a good snapshot of what’s happening. I glance at Tweetdeck throughout the day to keep up on the news and jump into a conversation from time to time. I also tweet out links to stories my staff has done, or retweet other good work. It feels like a great way to stay up to date and to promote what we’re doing.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Twitter. Maybe it’s just the way I use it, but I’ve always seen Facebook as more personal, and I keep my list of friends pretty tight. Twitter is more of a free-for-all where I’m interacting with people I don’t know, seeing retweets, and watching the feeds of newsmakers and other media. There’s a lot of potential for story ideas to come out of that mix, and if we’re looking for sources, word seems to travel faster on Twitter and get us responses fairly quickly.

David Schwartz, KARE-11

Only 25% of reporters surveyed said they wanted to be approached by PRs on social media. In your opinion, why isn’t that number higher? 

I would assume that represents the amount of reporters active on social media versus those who are not.

What’s the best way for PRs to approach you and other journalists on social media channels? 

For my purposes, Facebook and email work. Those are avenues in which you can really explain a pitch or idea. Although, making a connection in FB or Twitter first never hurts. Like anything else in life, a pitch or idea coming from someone that you have a previous relationship with (even over just social media) has a better chance of being accepted.

How do you use social media as part of your daily routine in your job?

Oh my, in SO many ways. I check it first thing in the morning to see what I missed overnight. I use it to tease stories that I am working on that day or to put out information that I get during the day. It basically allows my information to be relevant when there is NOT a newscast on (which is for most of the day). I post fun, non-sports things as well, cause I think it’s important to make yourself more than just a robot spewing information. Often the tweets people enjoy most are ones in which I tweet about food or my kids. I feel like people want to know that I am more than just a sports reporter, because there IS a lot more to me.

What’s been more effective for you in sourcing/discovering new stories–Facebook or Twitter? Why?

For me, Twitter. I can communicate better with teams and athletes that way. I recognize that some reporters like Facebook better. But I just get use from Twitter