Do you hate media relations? Do cold calls make you feel like a telemarketer during dinnertime?

Then it’s time to stop calling strangers—it’s time get social.

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PR professionals’ beloved media databases allow us to find and email hundreds reporters and editors with a few clicks. And according to recent surveys and articles, we don’t even have to call them for follow ups! Just blast those suckers off and sit back and wait for your top tier hits.

If only it were that easy.

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But I’m not here to take a stand on calling versus emailing (PICK UP THE PHONE!) when it comes to media relations. What I want to discuss is the personalized pitch. Yes, we all know it’s the way to go—but who has the time?

Researching individual contacts and reading all of their recent stories can burn through a budget (or a workday) very quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to stalk look up a reporter and find out key information in under a minute? Wouldn’t it be even better if it’s on a platform so seamless and familiar to you that it barely feels like work?

It’s called Twitter. In under a minute, you can use it to find out:

  • Whether your target still works at the outlet Cision/Vocus said they do
  • What their top five most recent stories were on, typically complete with links
  • For freelancers- an easy way to find their personal site with contact information (you know, the way they actually want to be reached versus whatever Cision/Vocus gave you)
  • Other reporters that run in their circles and may be interested in your pitch
  • Their tone, their interests and whether they are truly a good target for your pitch

This doesn’t mean you have to learn how to pitch via Twitter (YOU SHOULD), you can get a lot of helpful insight in full-on lurker mode. If you want to take it a step further you can follow them, re-tweet stories they wrote, congratulate them on stories you loved and just plain humanize yourself.

Find reporters writing about topics that are interesting to you, and to your client. After all, you’re pitching a particular outlet because your target audience reads it. When it comes to a pitch, the reporter is your target. Meet them where they are—which BTW, is not scrolling through your novel-sized pitch on their smartphone.

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Reporters’ use of Twitter based on research by the University of Indiana School of Journalism

The more you do this in your particularly industry (or industries if you are in agency life), the faster you will learn the names of the people who matter most. You will recognize their bylines when you’re reading for pleasure, and you’ll reach out to them because you actually care about what they wrote—not just because you hope it earns brownie points for your next pitch.

Spend a while doing this and you’ll soon find you feel—if not part of the conversation—at least an avid listener. Reporters, in a sense, are your coworkers. Don’t treat them like a line on an endless excel grid. Tweet them.

Need some practice? Tweet your roommate. Tweet a celebrity. Tweet a condiment. (I heart you @TonyChacheres)

Do you have social media tips for pitching? Share them below!