Social networking has completely changed the way companies and public relations practitioners engage with media.
This evolution of technology has enabled faster communication and, in turn, the news cycle has now become instantaneous.
Many traditional journalists have also become bloggers, using their own social media channels as key communications outlets to share their stories and opinions.
But much more than this, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have created essential forums on which to build greater relationships between PR practitioners and journalists, and more insight in advance about what is being written.
Reporters always talk about how often they get pitched. On an average day, a journalist will receive hundreds of news releases, e-mails and phone calls from PR professionals and companies trying to place a story.
Reporters are completely inundated and there is no way to sift through all of the information and respond to every request. The result: A lot of story ideas never make it to the news.
The other challenge is that the pitches are not always relevant to the reporter. Companies often take a shotgun approach, blasting news releases and e-mail pitches to a broad list of reporters who would never be interested in the story.
Smart companies are turning to social media tools to follow, monitor and respond to reporters in more meaningful and targeted ways.
We see it happening all the time: Reporters will ask a question on Twitter, seeking expert sources for a particular article they are working on.
They will tweet their opinion of how a CEO is doing at a press conference, in real time, before the event is even over.
News updates will be posted as a print story is being written, giving companies insight into the overall tone or angle a reporter will be taking for the story.
This is all valuable insight. And it is works for both sides.
Reporters get better information, more tailored to their beat and readers, and PR professionals get better insight into what the reporter is focusing on.
It is better to make your company part of a natural news cycle than try to pitch a story on its own.
At the end of the day, reporters are looking to provide great stories to their readers and viewers and the better a PR professional understands what that means, the better the relationship will be over the long term.
Before picking up the phone, or pressing send on an e-mail, here are a few tips on how to ensure your story idea gets noticed by reporters.
1. Following a journalist on Twitter or Facebook can allow you access to their personal and professional interests, making you more aware of the types of stories they may be interested in covering.
This can be an important factor in developing a relationship, as you are able to connect with them on a more personal level and provide story ideas that resonate.
2. In addition to posting links to their stories through social media channels, many journalists post questions or polls for upcoming story content.
This can give you an inside track on future story ideas or topics they may be currently researching; you might spot a good fit for your business.
Let the journalist know that you can offer assistance – like providing a great quote from your company expert or a unique product for their gift guide round-up.
Interact on the social media platforms so your story ideas don’t get lost in e-mail.
3. It can be tricky at the best of times to stay up to date on which outlets or beats a journalist is writing for, but following them on social media will provide you with that insight.
Add journalists to your LinkedIn connections and keep an eye on updates indicating changes in media outlets, beats and locations. There can be a lot of movement even within one media outlet, with staff journalists reassigned to cover new topics quickly.
4. Be helpful. If a reporter tweets about needing something for a story, and it is not tied to your company and products, but you have a contact, set it up.
Good media relationships are based on trust and value. The more helpful you can be in providing sources and spokespeople when you do not have an agenda, the more receptive a reporter will be to your story ideas when your company has something to say.
Social media are changing the way PR practitioners build relationships and interact with reporters. Pay attention to what they are posting and tweeting. Their time is valuable and, the more targeted and insightful your “pitches are, the more likely your story will get picked up.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.
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