How to build relationships with media through social channels

How to build relationships with media through social channels

Pitching via social media can happen anywhere.

Just as there are right and wrong ways to connect with media via email or phone, the same holds true for social media.

Social channels have become an accepted medium for establishing and strengthening relationships with media, but what’s the best way to build relationships with media through these platforms? And – which channels do media prefer PR pros use for relationship building purposes?

Cision’s State of the Media Survey 2015 found that 62% of reporters use Twitter to build relationships, compared with 65% using Facebook for relationship purposes. Similarly, 15% use Twitter and 16% use Facebook to receive story pitches. Anyone else surprised to not see LinkedIn included for relationship building? I certainly am.

Another interesting finding from the study: 66% of respondents consider pageviews their most important metric.

The findings from this survey are insightful, but I wanted to hear more from those in the media world who are actively using social. Tying into the above statistic about the emphasis on pageviews, I also wanted to find out how PR professionals can help increase pageviews on stories about their clients or company.

Here’s what three media professionals had to share:

Dan Berthiaume, senior editor at Chain Store Age: 

"The best way to build social relationships is to repost stories I write about your clients or areas of expertise, follow me on social networks where I conduct business and post links to items that relate to my areas of coverage.”

“In terms of direct relationship building, LinkedIn is probably the best social site. Also, email still remains the best direct communication medium, with Twitter OK for brief direct messages once a relationship has been established.”

“I would expect a PR pro/firm I work with to help amplify a story I write about one of their clients through social. This is the best way I can think of for PR pros to help me obtain traffic and shares.”

What does Dan feel PR pros should avoid doing?

“Don’t send social messages before a relationship is established, and don’t use social for anything overly personal or sensitive when tweeting with a reporter.”

Kelly Wallace, CNN digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life:

“I think social media can be a very effective way to connect with reporters. In fact, a social media pitch is often more likely to get my attention over email, especially because I currently have thousands of emails in my inbox. That is not something I’m proud of!”

“But to get my attention, the social media pitch needs to be on target, meaning it has to fall into the portfolio of issues I might cover. A quick turn-off is a pitch for a story, let’s say a product review, when that is not something I would report on in my role at CNN.”

“Another turn-off would be a repeated tweet at me for the same story. No response to repeated tweets likely means I am not interested and just didn’t have a chance to respond.”

“As for building relationships via social, when I work on a project with a PR professional, an effort to spread the story – in an authentic way – via social goes a long way in my book. It shows that there’s a joint commitment to getting the story in front of the most people as possible and increases the likelihood for a follow-up story in the future. The key, though, in spreading the story socially is that there is less of an emphasis on the brand and more of a focus on the issue covered.”

Kristin Bull, web editor at Crain’s Detroit Business:

“I think liking, sharing retweeting and tagging all go a long way. Social media is a conversation – think of it as such.”

“I don’t expect PR professionals to amplify our stories on social, but it’s refreshing when it happens. I always appreciate when I post a story on a company’s Facebook wall and that company’s social team then re-posts the story on the company’s timeline.”  

Unlike Dan and Kelly, Kristin has a different take on PR pros reaching out on social with story ideas.

“It’s frustrating to get pitched a story via Twitter/Facebook. It’s not the right platform. Email is still preferred.”

Moral of the story? Social media has changed the way journalists and PR pros connect and communicate, but it’s still important to respect a journalist’s communications preference. If a reporter is very clear about not wanting to receive pitches through social, make sure you’re sticking with email and phone. Use social media to share the reporter’s stories and have casual conversation in an effort to build/strengthen the relationship.

Journalists – what other advice would you add? PR pros – how do you build relationships with media through social channels?

Nikki Little is an account director on the social media team at Identity, an integrated public relations firm based in metro Detroit.

Photo: Smartphone via Shutterstock

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