National media give advice on Twitter

Courtesy of a PRSA teleconference, four members of the national news media weighed in about Twitter. The panelists ranged from a technology reporter from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a business columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, and the digital audio manager for ABC News. About 10 PRSA members from Boise came over to Drake Cooper agency to participate in the discussion.

A blogger once described Twitter as “the latest Silicon Valley play thing” or “instant messaging for adults.” Approximately 4 million people are using it now, a 440 percent increase from this time last year. Between 250,000 to 500,000 new people are jumping on board each month. This compares to 41 million unique visitors who frequent Facebook per month. Twitter is growing, but it’s certainly not the only social media tool out there. Even so, because million of people are using it, it has become a marketing tool, it’s a great way to pass on information to your friends and associates, it’s being used by journalists to find sources for stories, and it’s being used by PR people to pitch stories to journalists.

So, Twitter is another conduit that PR people can use to reach journalists who may have blocked their email inbox from unsolicited queries. How do we find these folks through Twitter? There are several lists out there online. Click here to see a pretty inclusive list of twittering journalists. This is great intelligence for the PR professional.

BUT … the journalists on the panel warned us that sending them a story pitch via Twitter may not be the best way to pitch a story. Some of them prefer to receive a pitch via email, and some of them suggest getting to know them first by following them on Twitter, and then pitching them later.

They also reminded us that the same rules apply for pitching stories to them:

1. Research their bio and know what topics they cover.
2. Research the media outlet they work for and make sure they haven’t already covered that story.
3. Get to the point quickly.

On the last point, Twitter requires you to be succinct because a “tweet” can not exceed 140 characters. Some journalists in the high-tech field prefer to be pitched on Twitter so they don’t have to wade through a lengthy email to find the crux of the story pitch, if one exists at all.

The journalists also suggested hooking up with them via Facebook. The techie reporter for the St. Paul paper said he loves Twitter and hates Facebook. He also just finished a book about Twitter titled, “Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company.”

The other journalists on the panel liked Facebook, and see that service providing a lot more information and bells and whistles than Twitter.

Ultimately, we should know that Twitter is a unique social media tool, and it should be used accordingly. Figure out your goals, and use whatever communication tools are best suited to reach your goal. None of the tools are the end-all be-all by themselves.

But as new tools emerge, the Drake Cooper PR team believes that it is prudent to learn more about them and know how to use them.

A couple of Twitter resources:

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