Many small businesses are waking to the power social media has for helping everything from lead generation and brand awareness to customer support and product research.
But did you also know that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr can actually enhance your ability to connect with journalists and bloggers possibly interested in covering your business?
More and more media use social media to find story ideas to cover and sources for quotes to use in articles and other content they produce every day.
Finding and pitching journalists used to be the exclusive domain of PR agencies with subscriptions to pricey media lists and ‘rolodexes’ filled with best friends in the media. Nowadays, any small business armed with a good story idea and a targeted social media strategy can get the attention of just about any journalist anywhere – provided they pitch the right journalist with a timely story idea.
In order to improve your small business’ chances of getting great buzz in news outlets ranging from local newspapers to national magazines, keep some of these ideas in mind:
KISS: remember the KISS principle? When you reach out on social media, economize the use of your language as much as possible. In the case of Twitter, a popular micro-blogging platform used extensively by media professionals, you have to keep your pitch to 140 characters or fewer.
Research: use your search engine to discover what media outlets and which journalists, bloggers and producers are covering your industry and/or geographic market. If you derive 99% of our business from a 50-mile radius, then focus on media outlets in your immediate vicinity. Some journalists list their email and phone numbers but many more fly under the radar so the only way to reach out to them is through social media.
Make a list: create a hit-list of the media professionals you plan to target and note the date and social media platform used when pitching them. For example, say you email a journalist; you could follow up the email later the same day with a tweet saying you emailed a pitch about something of value and hope to hear back soon.
Protocol: journalists are very busy people and not observing some basic rules-of-the-game could land you in the doghouse. Be sure not to over pitch a reporter (more than 3-5 touches per campaign) or use what might be perceived as aggressive language. If you receive a rejection graciously then thank the journalist for his or her time. Your politeness will leave a good impression and make it easier to pitch your business in the future.
Follow-share-pitch: when attempting to win the attention of a busy journalist on social media it helps to do some stalking first. Read the posts a journalist makes, the articles he or she writes and share them liberally through your social media platforms – namely Twitter. If a journalist posts a lot on Tumblr, a microblogging platform owned by Yahoo, then following and commenting on posts is a great way to begin developing a “virtual relationship” that could make pitching him or her easier at a later time.
Facebook: before using Facebook to pitch your story idea, make sure a journalist actually has a public-facing professional account. Many TV news reporters have Facebook profiles to increase their reach and win followers. Many print and online journalists, however, tend to keep a strict separation of their personal and professional lives. You can always pitch a media outlet’s Facebook page but you may end up getting lost in the shuffle as editors and reporters typically aren’t tasked with monitoring the Facebook page.
Twitter: it bears mentioning that Twitter is the go-to social media platform for media research and outreach. Adhere to the “follow-share-pitch” guidance above and you can’t go wrong. When following journalists, don’t expect to be followed back as many have 1000s of followers just by virtue of their very public position. Use Twitter to get the initial attention of a journalist; if you get a bite, then ask if you can email more details.
Final note: using social media is a great way to augment a traditional approach to pitching a journalist, which involves email and phone calls. Stay engaged with journalists on social media by becoming a resource to them – share different kinds of news of interest, not always your own. Over time, you will be a valued partner in their discovery and coverage of newsworthy topics, some of which could be about you!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.