How to reach journalists: top expert tips on using social media for public relations

3 MINS Team

Whenever people ask me if I “do” public relations, my answer is swift and decisive, “Nope!” Sure, I can write a mean press release, and I often do that for clients, but public relations is really about media relations and how to reach journalists, and that’s an entirely different field.

With the rise of social media, it’s become easier and harder at the same time to reach journalists. Easier, because you can connect with them on Twitter, which they use in droves, but harder because, well, there’s a firestorm of noise on Twitter.

So I was curious: What are the best ways to use social media for public relations? The answers came from Susan Apgood and Susan Campbell, founder and director of marketing, respectively, at News Generation in Washington, DC.

News Generation specializes in broadcast media relations, so their focus is on pitching TV and radio news programs with story ideas. Naturally, News Generation does their own media relations, too, most of it via Twitter.

Here are excerpts from our conversation around how a team of media relations experts use social media to reach journalists:

Let’s talk about how you use social media in a broader sense.

Susan C: We are probably doing the same thing that many small organizations are doing. In the broadest sense, we have two target audiences: one is broadcast media – journalists, producers, operations people at radio and TV stations – and the other target is our clients or potential clients – nonprofits, associations, government agencies, for-profits. We’ve determined via trial-and-error where our clients are and what works best for us. We’ve been very active in the blogging space, making sure our content is dynamic. That was really the start of our social media efforts.

We do quite a bit in terms of promoting our news, curating content and sharing that content – a lot of things people are doing to be found. But I think where we are sort of unique or what works for us is that fact that we use social media to support our media relations work, especially with journalists. Every story we pitch, we pitch on social media as well. It’s a way to directly reach journalists and producers, and it’s a great way to underscore and amplify the news that we’re sending out each day.

How do you use Twitter when pitching?

Susan C: We use it to direct message and break through the email clutter people get. It’s not as successful as it once was, but we have secured some big interviews because of that. It’s also helped us when we post every story we pitch out, because sometimes our clients will call us and say, ‘Hey, we didn’t know you worked with Accenture!’ They get to see the high-level work we do for other clients.

Are there other social media channels you use?

Susan C: We do, but more for traditional reasons. We use Facebook to share the human side of who we are and LinkedIn to show we’re in that space and sharing the work we do. Google+ is really just for SEO purposes.

Do you use email marketing at all to reach the media?

Susan A: We do, very much so. We use it as a tool to share what content is available now, what’s coming up. It’s called Reporters Rundown and features top picks. Maybe they’ll find something that works for their station that they can immediately download and use or set up an interview they can use next week.

How are the open rates?

Susan C: Generally 16 to 18%. Considering that the audience is busy reporters, that is pretty good!

Have you successfully used social media to reach journalists? What has worked well for you?

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