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."