PR Twitter 101: How To Engage Media, Get Ahead Of The News & Connect With Fellow Pros

Twitter, the free, 24-hour news source that provides instant connection with target audiences. Oh be still, my public relations heart. There are lots of tools PR pros use, but Twitter is by far one of the most helpful and robust. There are endless ways it can improve a practice, so many that both getting started and staying on top of new Twitter developments can be a challenge. So lets keep things real… efficient, and get knuckles deep in the Twitter-sphere right away. Here is a round up of tools and tactics that will help PR pros better engage with journalists, get ahead of the news cycle and stay connected to the ever-evolving PR industry.

Engage With Writers
Building relationships with journalists is a fine art, whether communicating via fax machine or social media. Here are three steps for creating meaningful media relationships over Twitter.

1. Find (and follow) the media

Many journalists utilize Twitter and love it for the same reason PR pros do – it’s a fast and simple way to keep up with the news. There are a variety of tools available for finding writers’ Twitter handles, here are just a few:

  • Media on Twitter and Muck Rack both provide databases of media professionals’ Twitter handles
  • Media databases (like Cision and Vocus) have Twitter handles for registered writers
  • Journalist directories like presspass and Seek or Shout are free programs that allow you to search for writers by beat, news organization and location (and of course provides Twitter handles)
  • Publication websites, in addition to listing an author’s email, will often list a Twitter handle

TIP: Create private Twitter lists for each publication, beat or industry you follow for simplified monitoring and engagement.

2. Listen first, act later

Now that you’ve found media to follow, it’s time to start listening. By only following (and not engaging with) writers at first, you’ll learn how they prefer to use Twitter. Are they active and conversing with others or has their account been dormant for months? Do they regularly speak with PR pros and ask for news tips or do they only Tweet links to stories they’ve written? Learning how journalists use Twitter will be a good indication of whether or not it’s worth trying to start a conversation online versus picking up the phone.

TIP: Resist the urge to pitch a story right away. Let your first interactions with a journalist be non-promotional.

3. Start a conversation

Once you know your target journalists’ tweeting style, start engaging with them lightly. A good first interaction is retweeting their links. After a few weeks of retweeting (only a few posts, let’s not be excessive and retweet everything), it’s time to start a conversation. Good examples of this include answering questions and sharing interesting links. But remember, Twitter is one huge conversation, so when it’s time to engage a writer, make sure that what you have to say is relevant and adds value, or you’re sure to get lost in the buzz.

After a few (well-received) conversations, it’s safe to go for the pitch. Luckily, Twitter plays to journalists’ true love– brevity– so you’ll be forced to keep your pitch short and to the point. For an example of how to format a Twitter pitch, check out this great article on pitching with social media.

TIP: Not all journalists want to be pitched via Twitter, but a good way to vet out those that do is to just ask. For example, try tweeting, “Hi, @name, I work with @companyname and I have something you might like, what’s the best way to connect w/you?”

Getting Ahead Of The News Cycle
One of the best parts of Twitter is its instant access to breaking news. Staying on top of developing stories gives PR pros the opportunity to insert their expertise when relevant, and ultimately increase the likelihood of earning some solid media placements. There are many tools and tactics for finding relevant tweets. Here are a few of the best:

  • Alerts: Utilize the search columns in desktop Twitter applications, like Tweetdeck, and enter keywords or hashtags relevant to your industry.
  • Advanced Search: Twitter’s advanced search digs deep into precise words, phrases, hashtags, locations and accounts, allowing you to access conversations not on your feed. Here is an article that details helpful search operators you can use for even more precise results.
  • Query Services: Journalists who need urgent sources often use query services for immediate help. Follow these popular query service handles for instant access to reporters in need:
    • @Profnet
    • @HARO
    • @Pitchrate
    • @JournoRequest

Stay On Top of PR Trends
In addition to providing endless access to news, Twitter can also be used as a feed for tracking PR-specific topics as well. If you stay on top of, and add value to, these industry trends, you’ll end up a whip-smart PR thought leader yourself.

1. Follow other PR pros and industry hashtags

These industry leaders will keep your feed rich with public relations goodness:

  • The Associated Press (@AP)
  • PRSA (@PRSA)
  • PR Week (@PRWeekUS)
  • PR News Online (@PRNews)
  • Sarah Evan (@PRSarahEvans)
  • Heather Whaling (@prtini)
  • Bill Stoller (@Publicityguru)
  • Mashable (@Mashable)

Don’t forget to follow local and national agencies, PR blogs and your fellow pros (it doesn’t hurt to see how they are interacting with media).

Add these hashtags to your alerts for even more relevant conversations:

  • #PR
  • #publicrelations
  • #crisispr
  • #crisismanagement
  • #mediarelations
  • #reputationmanagement
  • #pradvice
  • #branding
  • #advertising
  • #happo
  • #prjobs

2. Participate in chats

Check out these ongoing chats for real-time discussions on industry events, news, strategies and tactics:

  • #Pr20chat: Tuesdays, 8 p.m. EST (Weekly public relations 2.0 conversations)
  • #Journchat: Mondays, 8 p.m. EST (Facilitates conversations between public relations professionals, journalists and bloggers)
  • #PRStudChat: Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. EST (Brings together students, teachers and professionals)
  • #SoloPR: Wednesdays, 1-2 p.m. EST (Conversations for solo, freelance PR professionals)
  • #MeasurePR: Every other Tuesday, noon-1 p.m. EST (Explores the wild world of PR measurement)

3. Strategize your Tweets

Create a public relations strategy for your own Twitter handle. Determine how many Tweets you will share about yourself, your company and industry news. Focus on adding value to conversations and resist over sharing about what you ate for lunch. And of course, always keep it professional.

Did we miss something? Let us know how you use Twitter for PR purposes in the comment section below.

Post Image © designaart – Fotolia

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Stay Connected