If I had a dollar for every article I’ve read about “doing your research before pitching” since landing my first public relations agency position more than 10 years ago, I’d be rich.
The pressure to produce big results on tight timelines has never been greater. We (the PR world) have asked for a seat at the C-suite table, and thanks to the wealth of analytics to finally help us prove the value of PR, many of us are there.
Yet at the same time the media landscape continues to evolve at a somewhat frightening pace. In particular, much of my work lately has been focused on developing and executing national consumer media relations strategies. I remember when the Cision contact list for a major women’s magazine was five or more pages long. Today it’s about two, maybe three at the biggest outlets. Contributing editors and freelance writers contribute much of the coverage, many of whom used to be on staff full-time.
And my point is?
Real-time research before hitting send on a well-tailored media pitch is one of the most important aspects of our day-to-day programs. Agencies and consultants alike need to counsel (and in some cases re-train) clients to understand this deliberate and often time-consuming approach requires patience up front; however, the long-term payoff is invaluable.
Enter Twitter as Part of the Media Relations Strategy
Twitter is by far my favorite tool for researching journalists today. The short bio often gives a hint to what they cover and if you’re lucky, a hint or two about their personal interests off the clock—such as a NPR reporter who seems to only cover national sports, yet his personal passion for craft beer yields a couple of major beer industry pieces each year. Cision alone won’t tell you that.
In the highly competitive space of natural foods marketing, Twitter speaks volumes about what certain editors and freelancers are working on day-to-day via pictures of taste test setups or commentary about what’s cooking in a test kitchen. You’re not going to find this level of real-time relevancy anywhere else.
Everyone uses Twitter slightly differently, but as of late I have found the most success by:
- Following editors and freelancers from a combination of my personal account and the brand account
- Openly @ reply tweeting to ask for an email address to send an idea about a relevant topic if I cannot find their email elsewhere. The 140 character limit forces you to be ruthless about cutting out pitch jargon
- Speaking of just asking the question – reach out and ask if they are interested in the topic/industry you are working on without any sort of brand sell attached
- Discovering other journalists who would have never been on my radar based on who my original target is interacting with
Media relations competition is fierce, but I firmly believe our tools for cutting through the clutter to stay relevant are stronger than ever.