Using Social Media to Connect with Journalists

Digital PR
journalist 28.01.19

These days, it seems like social media is standing in as an assignment editor for many different media outlets. Tune in to just about any cable show and, sooner than later, you will hear or see Twitter or Facebook or Instagram mentioned. But, does that mean the rules for contacting media sources on social media have shifted? Have we entered an era in which connecting with a journalist on social media is acceptable as a best practice?

The answer to that question is “yes and no.” While, yes, it can be acceptable to communicate with a journalist on social media, there are a few guidelines that you may want to consider if you want to be more effective in your efforts.

Try Another Method First

In most cases, you probably should not introduce yourself to a journalist over social media. Unless the journalist has specifically requested that people pitch them on social media, initiating a meeting on that forum can feel a bit invasive.

In many cases, people still separate their public and private lives, even on social media. While some journalists would be fine with a source reaching out on Twitter or Facebook, others would not, so every time you try without knowing for sure, you’re rolling the dice.

Instead, work through standard channels first. Email and call. Submit a release, or show up and ask for an appointment. These are better ways to initiate the relationship. However, there could be exceptions to this rule. If you are working on a time-sensitive story in this journalist’s wheelhouse, they may see a social media message as beneficial. But, remember, this is on an extremely case by case basis in a specific context.

Options Shift as Trust Grows

Once you have established a working connection with the journalist, you can broach the question of media preferences in good faith. They are more likely to give you a nuanced answer if they already trust you as a valuable and reliable source. Once through those initial contacts, you may find that the journalist will establish more varied preferences. But, again, let them take the lead on this. Don’t make assumptions, or your message may be missed or discarded.

Be Casual but Careful

Social media is, by its very nature, a more casual communication environment. But that doesn’t mean there are no expectations. Study how the journalist interacts on the forum and match their style, always striving to err on the side of professional rather than casual. That said, social media can be a forum for boldness and warmth. Go for safe humor. Study the journalist’s feed or page and look for communication connection points.

Don’t Forget the Fundamentals

In the end, remember, that any contact with a journalist or other opinion maker is not just about a single story or only one release. It’s about nurturing a relationship and building trust. Respect and tact, professionalism, go a long way toward establishing that connection and making it work for both of the parties involved.

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