August 12, 2013

Twitter and the Media: Real-Time Public Relations

Media is no longer a one-way-street: gone are the days where you get your news from the paper, and then again from the nightly news. Media is cyclical. Consumers have taken hold of the media, and they want their say, too. Twitter has the power to influence people, and that reporter from the New York Times is no exception. Based on the concept of cyclical media, this instant, real time discussion that occurs online, has the power to mold and shape traditional news and reporting. So why not take advantage?

Journalists want to report on what their audience is talking about. Many members of the media do this by turning to Twitter, where they get ideas for stories, reach out to disgruntled readers, or give insight into a piece they’re working on. When news breaks, it almost always spreads first through Twitter. The difference between real-time discussion (Twitter) and traditional reporting (CNN) is that Twitter users are more interested in breaking the story—regardless of whether or not they have all the facts, or even the accurate facts. Media outlets like CNN and The Washington Postmay get their tip from Twitter, but we still rely on traditional outlets like these to take the deep dive, giving us the facts and, of course, the who, what, where, when, and how.

What does this mean for the PR industry? Put simply, Twitter has changed the game. Consumers have grabbed their megaphones, for better or for worse, and the noise is only getting louder.

The upside? Twitter allows PR professionals to apply an essentially free social media tool to augment traditional PR efforts and influence people. Your Twitter strategy should always be consistent with the overarching goals and voice of your campaign, but with social media, there’s a little bit more wiggle room. Take advantage of the fact – for the first time ever – you can communicate directly with your audience in real-time.

At Delucchi Plus and Blue Bug Digital, we take pride in our innovative delivery of public relations and social media marketing services, including using Twitter for press outreach. From our experience, here are a few ways we perfect and optimize the art of the Twitter pitch:

  1. Know How to Use Twitter. You might be surprised how many people try to use Twitter as a shortcut to press coverage, without first taking time to explore and learn how media pros use the platform. Our team is full of social media experts who, rather than simply use Twitter as a publicity engine, also understand its roles as a sounding board, question forum, and a research tool for journalists. Our team has built up credibility on Twitter, a crucial first step before reaching out to the media.
  2. The same standard PR best practices apply here, too. We customize and optimize our pitches for each journalist. We keep our pitches relevant to each reporter’s subject matter. We proofread our tweets – they’re short, but spelling and grammar are still crucial. Our team’s experience in traditional PR helps us observe etiquette that many overlook because of Twitter’s casual nature.
  3. Brevity is the soul of the pitch. We’ve only got 140 characters to sell the pitch, and we use them wisely. The character limitation can actually be helpful in simplifying and focusing what’s important in our outreach, but if we find we need help fitting in details, links, photos or video, PitchEngine is our favorite tool.
  4. Build Media Relationships. Building a long-term rapport with journalists will make it much easier to pitch a story when the time comes. Our team picks the journalists we need to target and we find them (not just their publication) on Twitter (using tools like MediaOnTwitter). Most importantly, we then create a rapport by commenting on or retweeting their articles and Tweets and responding to their questions. When the time comes for the pitch, the reporter often recognizes us (or our client).