Most journalists receive hundreds of story ideas each week. So if you're looking to get coverage for your small business, being able to write a compelling "pitch" is a must. While pitching via email or over the phone is mandatory for larger organisations, many small businesses are now turning to Twitter to earn their slice of the media pie.
A study by leading global media intelligence provider, Cision, has found that over two thirds of journalists use social media everyday, making it the perfect platform for media outreach. Additionally, Twitter timelines give you a sense of journalists’ interests and beat, helping you construct a well-informed pitch and raise the likelihood of media coverage. Best thing yet – it’s free and easy to use!
Here are some tips to help you perfect the art of pitching to journalists via Twitter:
- Never send out mass tweet pitches. Remember that Twitter is a public sphere and a scattergun approach is never the answer. Unlike pitches sent via email and made over the phone, the platform allows journalists to click on your profile and check the tweets you’ve posted and sent to others. If they see that your last 30 tweets are identical to the one you’ve sent them, they’ll more than likely lose interest.
- Ask yourself, “is my story really a story?” – Before you even attempt to draft your tweet, make sure your story is newsworthy. Journalists are generally interested in things that are new, unexpected or will resonate with their readers in some way. So spend time researching the journalist, publication and/or programme you want to pitch to. By following individual journalists on Twitter, you can learn more about what they’re covering and the topics they are interested in. This will make it easier to start conversations with journalists and will provide you with a lead in when pitching. The more you understand a journalist’s audience and the kind of stories she typically features, the more likely your pitch is to be successful.
- Double check if they actually want to be pitched to - Simply scrolling through journalists’ tweets will give you an indication of the type of dialogue that is acceptable to the individual. If you find that a journalist typically uses their Twitter profile more as a distribution channel than a research tool, you might be better off making your initial pitch through email.
- Interact regularly to show that you’re familiar with the journalist and his/her beat - Scroll through Twitter timelines to see what reporters are up to. If they share an interesting article or update, favourite or retweet it, or better yet, reply with a casual, yet professional comment to strike up a conversation. Once you’ve built up this rapport, don’t stop. Continue to interact on a regular basis so your name becomes familiar to them. Saying something like, "I noticed you mentioned you’re looking for information on this topic. I think this could work." lets them know that you’ve done your research.
- Develop a killer one-liner - While Twitter’s 140-character count makes it less likely that you’ll wear out your welcome with a time-constrained writer, it is still important to be mindful of your first approach due to the number of tweets journalists receive daily. Keep your pitches related to the topic and try to link them to one of the journalists’ own tweets. Try not to get bogged down with jargon or technical language. Instead, imagine you're telling a friend (one who doesn't work in your sector or industry) about your story by summarising it in 15-20 words (or fewer). If journalists are interested in what you share, they’ll be more likely to reply.
- Be prepared for knockbacks - Don't be surprised if journalists don't reply to your tweets. Most only respond to stories they want to cover. But good ideas do sometimes get missed, so there's no harm in following up. Just don't overdo it. Following up twice is overkill, any more is spam.
Above all, don't be too hard on yourself. It takes time to develop expertise in media relations, so try not to take knockbacks personally or let them dent your confidence. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you will start hearing "yes" more often than "no".