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Walker Sands Tip of the Week: Engaging Reporters on Twitter

For a burgeoning startup, a mention of your company in a news article alongside big names can help build your reputation and increase awareness. However, securing media coverage requires more than sending your company sales deck to a reporter. Like any other ask in the business world, garnering media attention is often the result of building relationships with the right reporters.

If you’re a new player in the industry or are building a PR program from the ground up, Twitter is great place to start to build foundational media relationships. Twitter is flooded with inside jokes and story ideas that you can capitalize on

But, it’s critical to keep these tips in mind when reaching out to reporters via Twitter:

Do your research. You wouldn’t walk into a meeting with a VC without researching the people you’re about to meet with, so why would this “pitch” be any different? In fact, you should approach reporters just as diligently. Identify a handful of publications and reporters that are the most relevant to your industry and company. Publications often create public Twitter lists of their active reporters, which is a great place to start! You can also look to the competition’s news coverage. What reporters have taken interest in their story? These journalists should already have knowledge of the space and interest in how the industry is progressing.

Use your real account. While tweeting from the company account may make sense for customer service complaints, it doesn’t work well for building reporter relationships. Reporters are on the hunt for vendor-neutral, non-promotional human sources. No matter the content of your tweet, it will always read as promotional if it comes from the company handle. That’s why company leaders should have professional Twitter profiles they use for this exact occasion. With proper mention of your company role in the bio, you’ll gain immediate street credibility. Bonus tip: Before you begin engaging with reporters, be sure to have at least 100 hundred followers and a variety of tweets posted. You’ll want to build your own Twitter presence so reporters see you’re engaged in the community.

Engage, share, and retweet on a regular basis. When you see a story you like, share it! You can add a personal anecdote, your take on the news or mention another relevant story. When reading the article on the publication’s website, there is often a Twitter share icon. Click it for a canned post that you can easily customize and share, without leaving the outlet’s website. Alternatively, if you saw the article on Twitter, you can retweet that and add your own comment. Don’t forget to tag the reporter too. When you simply retweet a story they posted, it’s easy for your notification to get lost among the others. By adding your own comment and tagging the journalist, you start a conversation and generate a notification that will stand out on the reporter’s account.

Ask permission and be a tease. Reporters sometimes complain about bad sources or mention needing a quote on Twitter. If your company and source are truly relevant, you may be tempted to tweet them your entire marketing plan. Don’t. Rather, ask the reporter if they’d be interested in hearing from you as a source. It’s better to keep things simple and tease your information when making the first move. You want to pique the reporter’s interest but be descriptive enough so that you aren’t misleading them. Once you’ve gone back and forth a few times, move the conversation to email.

Forget what you heard about DMs. Though it’s technically true that you can reach reporters via direct messages, they need to have DMs open and check them frequently for this tactic to be successful. Unlike tweets, DMs don’t have a word count. For that reason, however, many reporters ignore them. On occasion, a reporter may ask you to DM them. If that’s the case, take their advice, but never creep into their private messages out of your own volition.

As inboxes are inundated with irrelevant press releases and pitches, Twitter can be a direct route to a target journalist. While Twitter can be a great place to build reporter relationships, it’s not a one-stop shop. If you’d like help executing a media relations program, reach out to our team here.


  • Annie Gudorf

    Annie Gudorf is a senior account director and partner in Walker Sands’ Seattle office, where she manages a talented team in the agency’s professional services and enterprise software practice areas.

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