It’s clear that the public relations landscape is changing. No longer does emailing a journalist a press release always result in coverage on major news channels (there are exceptions, naturally, but the average business doesn’t get on Oprah). These days, journalists (and yes, bloggers too) are inundated with press releases. It’s easy to hit delete and move on.
How do you get your pitch heard above the din? Conversation. Engagement. Interaction.
Social Media is Key in Your Pitch
Why? Because that’s where your media contacts are hanging out these days, and that’s where they look for story ideas. But be forewarned: there is a lot of bad social media pitching going on already.
Pamela Johnston of PJ Inc. Public Relations says she avoids doing certain things on TwitterTwitterTwitter that are looked upon negatively, like:
• pimping client news
• straight out traditional pitching
• sending random things to people/journalists she doesn’t know
I like that she doesn’t use traditional methods of pitching on social media. You can’t apply the same methods you used 10 years ago to Twitter. It’s impossible. Instead, you must find new ways to reach media contacts.
The world is small these days. Social media tools like Twitter, FacebookFacebookFacebook, LinkedInLinkedInLinkedIn, Kirtsy, DiggDiggDigg, blogs, video and web sites are quickly becoming integrated. It’s fairly easy to connect with someone and keep up with what they’re doing. Journalists and bloggers are no different.
Social Media as a Learning Tool
I always like to learn about the journalist I’m targeting before I contact them. I start on the media website and read her bio. I then search for her on GoogleGoogleGoogle. 8 times out of 10 I find her Twitter profile, Facebook profile and maybe even a personal blog. I study all these sources and connect where I can. Sometimes I find that this isn’t really the right journalist to be pitching.
I make notes in my contact database with links to all her sources. I then make a plan to interact with the journalist in her own space. I comment on posts I like. I retweet her content on Twitter. I send a brief note on Facebook (not pitching a story, but sharing one of her posts I liked and asking to connect). This way, by the time I’m ready to pitch her, I’m already on her radar.
Pitching a media contact is a process. It’s not something that will happen overnight. Plan ahead and work for several weeks to get to know a journalist or blogger for best results.
Be A Resource
According to Nick Lawhead of Desautel Hege Communications, he connects with media types on Twitter when they’re looking for topics where he can provide experts:
It is quite common for reporters, news producers and anchors to post something along the lines of “looking for interesting stories about ______ to discuss today.” Being part of an agency, it is critical for me to capitalize on those opportunities for my clients. Often times, this doesn’t require a “pitch” as much as connecting a reporter with a resource (hopefully my client).
This goes back to monitoring social media. Your best successes might not come from a pitch at all, but rather the reward of being a good listener and paying attention to the journalists you can help. Journalists like being helped better than they like being pitched.
How to Pitch Properly
If you haven’t found that opportunity to help a reporter out, move on to pitching. Keep in mind, if you’re using Twitter to pitch, you have 140 characters to get it right. Assuming you’ve been following a journalist or blogger and know that your pitch is right up their alley, start by sending a tweet (not a DM) saying something like:
Lori MacGregor, who works with the natural skin care line, LATHER, tries the soft pitch approach. She uses social media as a way to keep up with beauty editors she knows, as well as to get to know the ever-increasing number of beauty bloggers out there.
Twitter has let me learn who the key players are, keep up with their content, and reach out to them in a way that makes sense. Because LATHER is a small company, many of them have never heard of us, so we’ve gotten coverage from outlets we never would have before. I think it also helps that I don’t look at every pitch as an immediate placement opportunity; rather, I view it as an opportunity to build a relationship with these writers who I might otherwise not have a chance to meet.
Forming Your Overall Strategy
The key to using social media in your pitch plan is to not make it your entire plan. Use different tools, like press releases, article marketing sites, blogs and social networking sites to create a well-rounded strategy.
Chris Martin, of Chris Martin Public Relations, uses a multifaceted approach to help his clients get exposure. He developed a Facebook Page to launch a survey about texting in the dental chair. From this, he got his client, Chicago Dental Society, featured on several local news and radio stations.
He’s also successfully pitched a blogger and landed a radio interview for the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association and he has developed new relationships using #journchat, an ongoing conversation among journalists, bloggers and PR professionals via Twitter.
If you’re not currently using social media in your pitch plan, make some changes. You’ll soon appreciate the interaction you get with social media versus the black hole where you once sent a press release. And don’t be afraid to try new things! Every day, PR professionals are finding better ways to get heard.