PR professionals have more tools at their fingertips (literally) with Facebook, Twitter and the recently launched Google+ providing different ways to fan, follow and circle your clients, colleagues and members of the news media. Successfully navigating these outlets requires time and education, but acquiring the skill pays huge dividends.
Phone and email have always been the standard means of communication between PR pros and journalists, but social media is quickly changing that and facilitating smarter, more efficient communications for both parties. The social media savvy PR pro knows that it’s no longer necessary to call and ask what a reporter is working on…more than likely they’ve already shared it with their followers and provided the best way to contact them so that your client can be considered for the story they are working on.
Lists of reporters, editors and other journalists using social media are abundant online. Two such examples are the lists of The Miami Herald staff members on Twitter and journalists on Google+. Most large publications have something similar to share their staff members’ social media details with readers and sources. The worldwide media database, Cision, a critical resource for communications professionals, provides social media profile details for listed contacts, including recent tweets, LinkedIn connections and Facebook details.
Let’s look at how Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can be used to help solidify relationships with media contacts, providing new ways to pitch them with relevant news and information.
Facebook: The jury is still out on whether this is a personal or professional space to network. Some prefer to keep their profiles private and only become friends with very close contacts while others add just about everyone with whom they contact (or don’t). A mix of personal relationships combined with professional contacts is the best way to get the most from Facebook. Media use the social networking site just like everyone else, and some are open to connecting with you while others may not. Journalist often share their Facebook profiles at the end of their published stories, as links to other social media accounts, and/or as part of their Cision profiles, meaning they are open to connecting with the public.
Google+: Launching just this summer, the new social media outlet has already become a hub for media contacts to share their stories while connecting with their colleagues and sources. Circles enable users to place similar contacts in specific groups, enabling you to choose what information each group sees. Who doesn’t want his or her own personal circle of media contacts?
Twitter: Although it can seem challenging to express yourself in 140 characters, it’s quite impossible. Using tiny URL’s and hashtags, tweets are a powerful way of saying a lot to a large audience. Many media outlets ask their staff members to use Twitter to stay in touch with their audiences, so there’s a high probability that the contacts you seek will already be tweeting. When a relationship is established, the direct message feature keeps your conversations private and provides a quick form of one-on-one communication.
The standard “no-spam” rule absolutely applies. Randomly reaching out to a member of the media via social media without doing your homework about the journalist is the same as calling to pitch a story without knowing the reporter’s beat and understanding his or her preferences and needs: You just don’t do it. When used the right way, social media can be an extremely powerful tool with significant opportunities to build long-lasting relationships with members of the news media, and it should be embraced by skilled PR professionals.