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6 Ways to Pitch Journalists on Social Media
Posted on March 17th 2014
Journalists rely heavily on social media to find news, connect with sources and influencers, and build their own personal brands. Because they’re already active users, pitching journalists via social can be a great way to get on their radar and gain coverage for your brand… as long as you do it with finesse.
Before you pitch your next story, check out these six quick tips to help you catch journalists’ attention without coming across as spammy or self-promotional.
Build relationships now, pitch later
Most social networks won’t allow you to send a private message to someone if you aren’t connected in some way. Even when it’s technically possible to message someone outside your social circle, it’s bad form. If you want journalists to pay attention to your brand, you need to build a mutually beneficial relationship long before you ever reach out with a pitch.
First, you need to decide where to build the relationship. If you don’t know the journalist or are only loosely connected, choose LinkedIn or Twitter (journalists love Twitter). Steer clear of connecting on Facebook unless you already have a long and friendly history with that person, for example, a former colleague or a journalist you’ve worked with for years.
Don’t expect people to automatically follow, friend, or connect with you back. You need to give them a reason to connect, starting with a good first impression. Ask yourself this question: If a journalist who covers your industry read your profile right now, would they be interested in learning more? A concise, compelling profile description can make the difference between getting followed and being ignored.
At Prezly, for example, we’re all about helping PR professionals, so we try to make our social media profiles as relevant to our target audience as possible.
My Linkedin Profile summary.
In just a few words, we’ve succinctly captured who we are, what we care about, and how PR professionals can benefit from our services. Aim for this kind of clarity in your own social profiles, and journalists will be more likely to accept your connection.
Message one-to-one, not en masse
Though it may seem like a waste of time to send each pitch individually, think about it from the journalist’s perspective. They probably get hundreds of pitches a day, and you can bet that spammy mass messages get sent straight to the trash. Besides, most social networks discourage mass messaging by limiting the practice or banning it altogether, so you might not have a choice.
Adopting a one-to-one strategy means shifting away from mass email pitches and taking a more targeted approach. Instead of hitting everyone in your database with a single email, single out your most important influencers and pitch them one at a time over social media. Prioritise your contacts and work your way down.
While it’s OK to send the same pitch to multiple contacts, we recommend personalising each message to the specific interests of each individual. The more tailored and relevant your pitch, the better your chances of starting a conversation.
Don’t pitch a story, start a conversation
Social networks are designed for two-way conversations, not one-way promotions. Instead of pitching your story outright over social media, aim to start a dialogue. The conversation can certainly be related to your pitch, but it doesn’t need to be.
In fact, engaging with journalists when you don’t have a pitch will actually help you in the long-run, provided your conversations stay relevant. It shows them that you can add value and understand the things they care about.
If you aren’t sure what to say, read up on your contact’s profile or check out a few recent posts to get the conversation going.
Ask for advice instead of sending a pitch
Instead of sending over a straight pitch, try asking a journalist for advice on your story instead. This can be a powerful way to gain coverage and build trust without seeming overbearing. Compare the following examples:
- We’ve got big news from Coca-cola. Check it out here - url
- I’m working on a story for Coca-cola. I’d love to hear your opinion about this. Care to have a look? url
Both of these messages link to the same place, but notice how the second pitch opens up a two-way dialogue, inviting the influencer to provide feedback and share an opinion before choosing whether to write about your story. These are the relationships you want to cultivate - influencers who actually tell you what they like and dislike about your pitch.
Create a reference landing page
When pitching with social media, you want to keep your message as short and conversational as possible. It’s essential, therefore, to create a landing page with all the relevant facts, images, and attachments for your story. Simply drop the link inside your conversation, and if your message is compelling enough, your contacts will click.
Don’t skimp on this - if you nail the landing page, your contacts will have everything they need to write their own articles about your story. We’ve spoken with numerous journalists about this, and they typically decide in a split second whether a story is worth writing about or ignoring. You don’t have much time to make a positive impression.
A few things to keep in mind when building our your reference landing page:
Include all the information a journalist needs to cover your story: your contact info, the full pitch text, images, videos, and other relevant attachments.
Keep your landing page clear and simple, so journalists can understand your story at-a-glance.
Make sure it’s accessible on mobile (if you’re having a conversation on social, chances are good that people are using their mobile phone to reply)
A URL shortener is handy because it saves you space (especially in Twitter DMs where you have limited characters)
Follow up on coverage
After your contacts have written about your pitch, follow up by thanking them via social media. Public thanking is optional but encouraged. You should also do a quick check to make sure all links and attributions are correct, and privately inform journalists of any errors so they can fix them promptly. Finally, show your continued interest by sharing any feedback you have on the coverage or providing additional updates if the story is still unfolding.
Social media is a powerful way to pitch journalists and build relationships, but the rules and best practices are different than standard email pitches. First and foremost, remember that social media isn’t just another sales channel. It’s made for building and growing connections between people. Be sure to use it that way.