While the new year prompts personal resolutions – like getting in shape, saving more money or sharing fewer pictures of your dog on social media (a personal struggle of mine) – many overlook the opportunities to improve the way we work as PR professionals. As proven by the turbulent year 2020 was, the media landscape is everchanging; so too are the ways that we interact with it. These changes pushed me to think outside of the box to uncover new ways to use the tools that I currently have as a resource for media monitoring and pitching. One of the tools? Social media.
Now, I know that leveraging social media as a communications professional isn’t exactly an epiphany – some may say it is table stakes. However, it seems to me that social media tends to be an underused source filled with journalist’s life updates, recent articles and calls for sources. One could consider it a gold mine! Accordingly, I have uncovered a few tips and tricks that can help PR professionals keep tabs on their media targets in order to uncover new opportunities for clients and boost target relations.
Follow and Create Twitter Lists
A List is a curated group of Twitter accounts that you can either create on your own or follow ones created by others. While your main Twitter feed includes posts from all the accounts you follow, it has an algorithm baked into it that is programmed to bring “popular” posts to the top. As a result, scrolling through your main Twitter feed might cause you to miss valuable posts from reporters.
For someone just getting started on their Twitter account, following a previously curated List is a great place to start. Luckily, publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Bloomberg all have curated Lists that compile the Twitter handles of their staff. For example, the WSJ Tech List compiles posts from the global news and personal technology team behind the technology desk at the Wall Street Journal.
Scrolling is the New Scanning
Each morning, I block off time to scan the news to get in front of the morning’s trending stories. As many journalists have had to drop their usual beats to support the everchanging news cycle this year, many have turned to social media to hold open conversations about the latest trends, especially as they relate to the coronavirus. So, what better way to find out what is top of mind to journalists than scanning Twitter? I keep an eye out for the following:
- Personal news: Journalists will often share their career moves, beat changes and latest projects. Keep an eye out for these posts as they will be helpful in updating your internal records and potentially opening up doors to new media opportunities. You should also look into following the PR handles of larger publications, like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. These handles often announce organizational news like new hires, exits and beat changes.
- Source requests: Sometimes journalists will seek out sources for an upcoming article via social media. While many PR professionals get these types of source requests sent to them daily through services like HARO and ProfNet, some journalists prefer to gather their sources directly. For example, Forbes’s Amy Feldman tweeted out looking for small business sources who performed well despite the pandemic. I reached out to her through direct message with the information she was looking for and ended up collaborating on two articles for a client.
- New publication announcements: Sometimes new podcasts, newsletters and columns will be announced on social media.
Live and Learn
You will notice that some reporters use Twitter to talk negatively about PR pitches – DO NOT get discouraged! Use this as a learning tool to determine what reporters are looking for and make those mental notes for when you are pitching them. Not all pitching best practices are set in stone – we can and should adapt to become a better partner for our clients and, arguably just as important, a trusted source for journalists.
As you step on that treadmill for the first time in a year or delete the hundredth photo of your dog’s new haircut (still working on that), remember that there are ways we can be resolute as PR professionals that don’t involve completely changing our daily rituals. Social media can open new doors and can potentially change the way you monitor your media targets. Remember, when it comes to pitching journalists, it can make a difference to reference what they wrote about in their last article, but it means even more if you are aware of what they already have in mind for their next story.