How To Use Twitter To Build Your Media Contacts

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Want to secure yourself or your business some media coverage? Putting together a press release and shooting it out to your list of media contacts is certainly one approach, but Twitter is also a tool that should definitely not be over-looked as part of your next PR campaign.

WHY THE MEDIA LOVE TWITTER

More and more journalists and media outlets use Twitter. After all, contacts are central to a journalist’s work and Twitter makes it easy for them to find the contacts they need and to trusted community of people who will lead them to news sources, comment on a story and help them spread their stories. And let’s face it, most journalists like an audience too, and Twitter helps them grab a bigger one!

Twitter is also perfect for reporters who are on the run. Given a tweet is effectively a text online, they can provide live updates of developments at a breaking news site, and also aggregate news as it happens through hashtags and other media outlets.

HOW TO USE TWITTER TO TARGET JOURNALISTS

Your media database in its traditional form i.e. a contact name, publication, email and phone number is only as good as your last campaign. Like any industry contacts date quickly as people go on maternity leave, switch publications, or like I once did, make the shift from being a journalist getting crap pay but great perks, to a PR person getting great pay but greasing up to journalists for a living.

You can also of course go out and buy a media directory such as Margaret Gee’s Australian Media Guide, The Australian Writer’s Marketplace which I prefer over Margaret Gee’s any day (see a sample of this publication here) or medianet.com.au but these all cost money and are only as good as the person updating them. Often they only offer a generic [email protected] or [email protected] email contact which is as vanilla as it comes and isn’t any kind of guarantee your message will cut through.

Twitter on the other hand allows you to search for both people, publications and stations quickly and easily and to contact someone directly with a little bit of background information on what stories they are interested in thanks to their Twitter bio (if written well). You will of course however have to be succinct in your pitch to them via Twitter. After all, you only have 140 characters to utilise (but including a link will increase your communication capacity).

Twitter’s very own advanced search (https://twitter.com/#!/search-advanced) is pretty helpful on that front. Or you could of course always revert to trusty Google and search “journalist name on Twitter” or “station name on Twitter” which generally will lead you to who you are after pretty quickly.

HOW TO GET GREAT MEDIA CONTACTS USING TWITTER LISTS

Even better than using the manual searches, you can find groups of media contacts by going to the publication or station’ss twitter handle i.e @couriermail, then click on ‘lists’.

If the media outlet in question understands and uses lists, you’ll find a long list of their journalists in there.

Here’s an easy guide to step you through it:

1) Once inside Twitter (you’ll need an account which you can set up at twitter.com), locate the publication/station i.e. twitter.com/couriermail
2) Once on their Twitter profile click on lists (to the left)
3) Once in lists click on relevant items i.e. in this case ‘NewsQLDjournos’ is pretty relevant if you were looking for Queensland journalists on Twitter.
4) Now on the left hand side click on ‘list members’
5) Now scroll down and read the journalists attempts at being Twitter-cool i.e. combining their day job with a pinch of their hobbies, with a dash of humour inside the 160 characters it gives you for your bio. That in itself is worth completing this exercise for a bit of a giggle, and perhaps inspiration on how you could further refine your own Twitter account’s bio.

In addition to finding journalists on Twitter lists, you’ll notice many publications and stations are now featuring the respective journalist’s Twitter handles with any news piece i.e. First name Last name and twitter handle overlay on the screen at the start of the news piece. One only has to watch Nine News to see the reporter on screen’s Twitter handle come up on screen ready to tweet to. I’m all for this, and think those publications and stations who haven’t moved this way yet should get into it. The ones who don’t could be missing out on valuable story ideas and sources.

Additionally some publications are featuring the twitter handles as part of their ‘contact us’ or ‘meet the team page, thus making their reporters as accessible as possible. For instance on this page of the Courier Mail’s website: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/ourstaff you’ll note all staff list their Twitter handle.

WHERE WILL IT ALL GO NEXT?

Around 10 years ago email was introduced as a way to make the journalists appear more approachable however once tour emails filled to a point of no going back, that offering was suddenly not so attractive.

Only time will tell if Twitter handles will also go the way of the email address, but for the meantime they are very much in vogue.

Mine by the way are @creativecollect (company), @awardshub (other company) and @yradams (individual). Tweet you later!

Have you ever tweeted a journalist? Did they tweet back? Did it result in coverage? Have you ever secured yourself media coverage from seeing the opportunity as a tweet? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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