The dos and don’ts of approaching journalists on social media

20 November 2014, Blog

Social media is a blessing and a curse when it comes to pitching to journalists. While TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram and even Foursquare present new and exciting opportunities to making valuable connections, it is easy to overstep the mark.

Here are four top tips for approaching journalists online so you don’t threaten the relationships that we rely on:

Twitter can be a blessing and a cruel mistress

Overall, Twitter is a brilliant place to join in conversation with journalists and even pitch stories to them that might be of interest. This is because journalists are predominantly very active on the site and treat their accounts professionally (apart from the odd selfie).

On the flip side, some national journalists become inundated with pitches and introductions over Twitter so tailor your introduction carefully. Also provide them with something of interest that will give them a reason to tweet back; mentioning brands, news stories or launches are a good approach.

Know your platform

As a general rule of thumb journalists loathe being approached on Facebook.  Even though Facebook now has many non-social uses this doesn’t mean the network has turned all business. Journalists, especially ones who consider their Twitter account to be an extension of their reporting, want to maintain some semblance of privacy on Facebook.

Instagram or Vine are useful for particular journalists, for example fashion or retail specifically, due to the nature of the platform and the visual offering that they provide. So think about where you speak to journalists, but also the type of approach that you are going to take.

Know your journalist and what they write about

As with traditional pitches, it is important to know your journalist inside-out before approaching them. Social media itself is the perfect resource for understanding what types of news and stories your journalist engages with and writes about. Whilst this may appear obvious, it is neglected more than you think.

Unless you have a close relationship with a journalist, you should not be asking them who is the best person to pitch at their publication or broadcast channel. It’s imperative that you find out as much as you can about  the journalist who is most appropriate to your story and what they have been writing about which will then make the approach more compelling.

Tweets are public; don’t mass tweet to several reporters and outlets.

The scattergun approach rarely produces results in mainstream media, and even more so public on social platforms. By and large, once you have approached a journalist they will check out your profile and if all they see are 20 identical tweets to rival journalists then you can bet your bottom dollar that they will lose interest.

Also, never approach journalists via their organisation’s Twitter account. It’s more than likely they have received over 100 mentions in the past hour and there’s every chance your approach will be overlooked.

Tell journalists you’re on social media channels

Don’t leave it to chance for journalists to get ‘social’ with your organisation. At the outset it’s critical to promote the fact that you are on social media. Also promote social media accounts at the bottom of press announcements and in your email signatures.

So to summarise. Do your research, tailor your approach and make it unique. Follow these rules and you will stay well within the lines of social media etiquette.

Written by Digital Account Manager, Jack Showell.

JBP Staff Member

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