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Blog post
June 24, 2019

How to use Twitter to approach journalists

As traditional media continues to transition to the digital domain, more journalists are using online platforms like Twitter to share their news stories, find sources and provide real-time updates.

A report in 2013 showed that nearly 60 per cent of journalists worldwide were using Twitter, and they also make up the largest and most active verified group on the social media platform. It’s an important part of connecting with journalists as part of a wider media relations contact strategy.

Journalism is no longer a monologue accompanied by ‘letters to the editor’. Instead, journalists are increasingly engaging in public, two-way communication with decision-makers, businesses and citizens- whether that means seeking out new stories, finding sources for an existing report or taking part in some lively debate.

Build a base of journalists to follow

There are countless journalists out there, and keeping up with them can be difficult – especially if they’re not the only users you follow on Twitter. Media lists, such as in Mediaportal Connect, now include Twitter handles as well as email contacts, so it’s worth looking out for these. Twitter lists, and tools like TweetDeck, also play an integral role.

Create a Twitter list for all the journalists relevant for your business so you can keep an eye on what they are reporting and see if there are any opportunities to connect. If you have multiple types of journalists you are looking to approach – for example, technology journalists or business journalists – then multiple Twitter lists will serve you well. Add each list as an individual column on TweetDeck and you’ll have your finger on the pulse for potential story opportunities.

Lend a helping hand

One of the main reasons journalists are on Twitter is for information, and the best way to build rapport is to provide them with it. Keep an eye on your feed and try to assist whenever possible, whether it’s answering a question they have about a story, sharing images on breaking news or volunteering as a source.

Needless to say, don’t spam them. But if you can be of assistance to them now, it will go a long way in getting your business on the journalist’s radar. Hashtags like #journorequest and #PRrequest are also useful for creating opportunities and building relationships with journalists in order to get your business featured in their stories.

Be an expert

If you’re planning to pitch to a journalist on Twitter, make sure your business or personal profile shows you know what you’re talking about. Journalists want thought leaders in their respective fields, and your Twitter profile should reflect that – retweet stories you find interesting, share the latest posts from your business’s blog and engage in dialogue around key topics in your industry.

Longevity in your Twitter profile also helps, because what journalist would accept a story from a business that last tweeted in 2010?

It comes down to 140 characters

You’ve created lists on Twitter, you use TweetDeck to follow them, you’ve helped your target journalists in abundance and your profile screams “expert” – but pitching is an art form, particularly on Twitter.

Nothing ruins your hard work like a pitch that says “Hi @reporter, I have a good story for you – please DM me” or having the same pitch appear 100 times in your Twitter feed. When it comes to pitching journalists, keep it short, sweet and follow up on email.

If you can relate your pitch to #trending or breaking news in a clear way, all the better – this gives your pitch extra relevance.

Lastly, don’t be discouraged. If your pitch doesn’t gain traction, wait a while, adjust your approach and try again.

“Pitching is an art, and in this case, practice (and experience) makes perfect.”

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IIt was just a week ago when I was asked to travel to Canberra to assist the Isentia Canberra team with the 2022-23 Budget. The team was preparing to provide our clients with a range of Parliamentary Services to support them throughout the Budget announcement and plethora of reactions, resulting in the most significant media day of the year. 

Isentia has an office right in the middle of the Parliamentary press gallery, above the House of Representatives, alongside the ABC, The Conversation, 9 News, 7 News and SBS had my head reeling. We are in the thick of the Budget conversation at Parliament House and have access to the Budget papers during lock-up. I am not going to lie, I would have loved to have gotten my hands and eyes on what lay inside the mass that is the Budget, but I was just as excited to be a part of Isentia’s first live stream of the conga line to deliver immediate stakeholder perspectives.

Lock-up team Whitney and Crystal ready to unpack the 2022 Budget for clients, pictured with Account Executives Melvic (right) and Nikhar (left)

This is my first time in Canberra and walking into Parliament House. It may sound ridiculous to some, but I felt the magnitude of decisions and words within this space as soon as I arrived. This could be due to the physical size of the building, the maze of corridors (I did get lost), or that Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, passes by you, or Laura Tingle, ABC political journo heavyweight, is standing inside the courtyard cafe – no longer just a revered top news journalist on my TV screen. I am tempted to approach her and ask her thoughts on any Budget revelations, but professionalism nips that one in the bud.

The live stream is my main priority and ensuring we capture stakeholder responses as soon as lock-up ends. With the cool, calm, and collected Melvic (Canberra Account Executive) by my side, I felt we were prepared to capture all the opinions and critical commentary on Frydenberg’s latest Budget. But as Melvic had said to me plenty of times over the past couple of days while in Canberra, “you can’t exactly prepare for Budget night.” Speeches can go on for longer, lock-up can be delayed, and elevators can stop working. It was 7.30pm, and we (Melvic and myself) could not get to the second floor, where the press gallery and the conga line were to be. After semi-frantically looking for a way to get there – the elevator wouldn’t go to floor two, and the staircase was blocked off – our prayers were answered in the presence of a former staffer who took pity and showed us to an elevator that could get us there. The doors opened, and we were awkwardly confronted by a crowd of diners enjoying a catered event, but after casually walking by, we were able to get to the gallery and stream the conga line.

I staked my claim on a small footprint of space to set up Isentia’s nimble streaming equipment among tall, solid guys supporting big TV broadcast cameras. As speakers were changing over, we had to pause for one of them to change their camera battery. The speakers were unfazed by the background buzzing of phones, regular triggering of Parliament House clocks and adrenaline-pumped chatter of people in the corridors. I was particularly moved by the words of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director at the United Workers Union and a team of aged care workers who felt a lack of respect for what the Budget provided them. I wondered how journalists could keep it together when they were listening to the stories and concerns of people who really feel impacted by the decisions made here. These are comments and opinions that matter to our clients, and providing this service allows them to better inform their operations and objectives. After the last speaker, Melissa Donnelly, National President of the Community & Public Sector Union, had finished, the live stream was done. But the active alerts team weren’t.

Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)
Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)

The team, rapid-firing live alerts to clients after lock-up release, are able to provide clients near-immediate knowledge of key topics concerning their organisation. This being my crash course introduction to the chaos of a Budget night, I was not expecting the personal understanding and touch that went into the live active alerting process for clients. I pictured images of machines whirring and topics automatically ticking through Budget content, machines that made a detached decision about what was relevant to clients and made blanket sends without consideration. How our Account Executives, Crystal and Whitney, understood the ins and outs of the needs held by our clients does make a real difference to accuracy and content relevancy.

With the speed and focus they applied to this product offering (active alerts), you would have thought they were machines anyway. But a machine is not going to have their ongoing long-term client relationship and understanding of client development.

 It’s a wrap! Budget 2022 Isentia team, (from left) Crystal (Account Executive) Loren (Marketing Executive ANZ), Whitney (Account Executive), Melvic (Account Executive), Nikhar (Account Executive), Russ (Chief Commercial Officer). 

After the last active alert was sent, you could still feel the adrenaline. The pace and unpredictable circumstances that this team worked under were staggering, but we made it in the end. After a justified amount of snacking, we packed up the Isentia Parliament office and found our way to the car park, where everyone there that night was in a state of buzzed debriefing as they crouched into their Ubers home. I doubt anyone there got more than 5 hours of sleep that night, but it was amazing to be a part of how Isentia offers a unique service to clients. We look forward to giving the same level of tailored content to clients during the election coverage.

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Isentia bringing the 2022-23 Budget to Clients

Our Marketing Executive gets a crash course in Budget night at Isentia. We provide tailored media intelligence offerings. Discover the Isentia difference!

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