Pitching media – Email is still the way to go

As a PR pro, I’m always aiming to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of social media, and how it relates to what I do as a communicator. That’s why I have spent a lot of time debating (with myself, for the most part) whether or not I could effectively pitch a journalist through Twitter – a one-liner explaining the angle/why it’s a story, and a link to the presser, in essence.

I’ve never actually tried it, though I had been slanting toward the side of “yes, this could be very effective” – especially for pitching a journalist who uses Twitter frequently and as more than a story distribution channel.

While this may not be frowned on, per se, I got the answer from a journalist who is very engaging on Twitter – and that answer, in short, was “no”.

Matt Hartley, AKA @TheHartley, FP Tech Desk Editor at the National Post, spoke on a panel hosted by Business Wire on October 25 – “National Post Editorial Briefing Session – Press Release Optimization for Newspapers.” He, along with Hollie Shaw, AKA@FPhollisha, Marketing Editor and Retailing Reporter, Financial Post, and Grant Ellis, Managing Editor, National Post, provided some great insight on how to grab their attention and get your story covered, in an age where they are bombarded with literally hundreds of pitches in their inboxes and on their answering machines every day. How to stand out from the pack, if you will. You can view the session here, and if you are looking to hone your pitching skills it is a very worthwhile watch.

At the end of the panel session, there was some time for Q&A, so I jumped on the opportunity to ask Matt how he felt about being pitched over Twitter. My question was posed simply as “Matt, you mentioned getting pitches through Twitter – I was just wondering, how do you feel about that? Is it effective at all?”

During the panel he had mentioned that he receives pitches through a wide variety of mediums, from LinkedIn to Twitter, to even the odd Facebook message – so getting pitched through Twitter is clearly something he has experience with.

His answer, put simply, was that Twitter is a great way to connect with him – start, build, and maintain a relationship with him – which, in my mind, could very well help when it comes to pitching him using more traditional methods. However, he is not a fan of receiving pitches through Twitter as it puts him in a bit of an awkward position where he either has to publicly reply telling the person he’s not interested, or ignore the tweet, which he is even less a fan of.

Here’s Matt in his own words:
“Twitter’s a really good place to reach me sort of first off; I don’t tend to conduct a lot of business over Twitter is what I tend to say. I hate when people send me something in the public on Twitter and say ‘hey, let’s meet up for a coffee, I’d love to tell you about my company’, because then if I write back and say no, everyone can read it and I look like a jerk. So, I always try to tell people to email me if they can. My email is at the bottom of every story that I write, and it’s also on the website – it’s really easy to find…”

He goes on to say:
“Twitter is usually a good place to sort of get introduced to me – it’s also a good place to see what interests me because we obviously tweet every story that we write, so it has a good feed of everything from the Tech Desk…”

So, the moral of the story is: Twitter can be a great way to connect with journalists and foster a relationship with them, but when it comes to sending pitches, email is your best option. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and my advice would be to simply ask a journalist you’re pitching what their preference is for receiving pitches. I’ve found that asking a journalist simple things like that can go a long way in getting on their good side ;).

You can view the entire Business Wire briefing session here (note: you will have to enter some basic information to get in, but it takes seconds, literally). There is some great information to be pulled from it so it’s worth the watch if you’re looking to hone your media relations skills and hear what’s what right from the editors themselves.

Have you ever used Twitter to effectively pitch a story? What other ways do you use Twitter in your media relations efforts? Please share in the comments!