Public Relations Digital + Social Media

Using Twitter as a Media Relations Resource

By Caroline Harvey

There are over 500 million tweets sent a day, and 80% of users access the platform via mobile device. The way people gather, seek, and share information is changing. Let’s dig into what that means for us as PR professionals.

Media relations is rooted in being helpful and sharing resources that are valuable for both the reporter and their readers. That fundamental objective doesn’t change, but as newsrooms shrink and news cycles continue to accelerate, Twitter can help us accommodate those shifts without sacrificing the value we provide. Since 73% of journalists note Twitter is the most valuable social network, it also allows you to meet reporters where they are and adapt to the fast-paced, agile nature of today’s media landscape.

Below we’ve outlined how Twitter can serve as a media relations resource and allow you to monitor for information and opportunities, conduct outreach, and foster reporter relationships.

Curate Your Media Twitter Feed

To set yourself up to use Twitter as a media resource, start by identifying what (and who) you want to keep tabs on. Follow the outlets and reporters that are relevant to your industry and company. Go beyond your regular targets, too. Ask yourself: “Whose coverage do I personally like to read?”, “Is there a “dream” outlet I’d like to secure coverage in?”, or “Where are our competitors being written about?”

If you work across industries or markets, Twitter Lists are also a helpful tool. This allows you to quickly scan through a stream of tweets from accounts that you’ve grouped together. Curating a feed that’s tailored to the topics you’re focused on will save you time in the long run and keep you aligned with your media goals.

Monitor for Breaking News   

Once you’ve refined your feed, it’s important to know when something is worth looking at and what to do with that information. The main update to be on the lookout for is breaking news. This can be national news, like approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, or industry-related news, like a major product launch. If it’s big enough to monopolize media attention, pause before you reach out to a reporter. If your pitch is not related to what’s happening, you may be better suited to wait until that story dies down.

Alternatively, if your company can provide insight or a unique perspective on the news, reach out to reporters who will likely be covering the story to provide commentary. Twitter is one of the fastest ways to source news, so you’ll be able to act more quickly than others who are scanning traditional news sites. How fast you share a relevant insight with media is often the deciding factor between what makes it in their article, and what is too late.

Stay Tuned in to Reporter Updates

Twitter is a great way to keep a pulse on what reporters are working on. They may tweet a request for sources or about a new column they’re working on. Responding to these asks provides immediate value to the reporter, helps you better understand what interests them, and often results in quick coverage wins.

The other insight to be on the lookout for is personal updates from reporters. Media often turn to Twitter to share when they moved to a different outlet, developed a new project, or were impacted by the layoffs that continue to hit newsrooms. Keeping tabs on what reporters are up to at any point in time can help you better understand when to pitch them, when to adjust what you’re sending, and when to hold off.

Keep it Short and Message Directly

When it comes to reaching out, pitching on Twitter is a lot like pitching by email. Or at least it should be. Skip the unneeded context and figure out what you want to say in a couple of sentences. (On Twitter, you’re limited to a character count.) Briefly and clearly offering to share data or connect them with an expert is much more likely to get a response than proposing a long, complicated story angle. If what you’re sharing is helpful and relevant, you don’t need anything else. 

Our other Twitter media relations must? Prioritize the direct message over a regular tweet. Most reporters who prefer to be pitched via Twitter will usually either open their DMs (so even people they don’t follow can reach out) or will state their preference in their bio. If their DMs are closed and they don’t include any relevant information on their profile, you’re better off contacting them via email than sending a tweet that will get buried in their mentions.

Put the Person First

Even the most helpful of pitches won’t resonate if the timing is off. The last year was tumultuous to say the least, and it impacted media in a lot of the same ways it did PR pros. It can be hard to step away from news when that’s part of your job, so look to Twitter for cues that the relationship with the reporter needs to take precedence over earning coverage for your company. Maybe they’re distracted with a major event, like an election, or their outlet just went through a round of salary cuts. Twitter allows us to know our media targets better, so it’s important we use that information in an empathetic, thoughtful way.

It’s safe to assume that media will continue to evolve in the months to come. While we may not know exactly what the next evolution looks like, we do know to navigate these shifts by staying engaged, informed, and agile. Look to Twitter as a streamlined, effective way to adapt your media relations style to the changing landscape.