Two tools of all public relations professionals is the phone and email, but in recent times PRs are turning more and more to using Twitter. At a party, I met Kate Russell (@katerussell), a journalist for BBC Click’s Webscape show, and we got to talking about how she is using Twitter. She told me that many of her stories are sourced from tweets, and she often asks people to send her story ideas in 140 characters, or less. She told me that Twitter is the best thing that has happened to journalism in many years.
Following meeting her, I tweeted her with an idea for a story about a client I am working with (on behalf of the agency PR Savvy) called Blue Badge Style. In one tweet, I explained to her how it is an app offering a disability access guide to stylish venues. It caught her attention and she asked me further questions via Twitter, and let me know it would be proposed to the editorial planning team.
Come a few days later, I got a tweet from Russell saying Blue Badge Style would be featured on BBC Click, and that she needed video. We coordinated the whole process of getting her video content via Twitter – with me pointing her to links on YouTube where she could find footage.
In all the sell-in, and set-up for this story, we never used email and never spoke on the phone. The process also took place at 9:30 PM one evening, which may be a benefit of Twitter’s 24/7 nature. Russell didn’t need to wait for me to get into the office the next day to set up the story.
Russell aired the story to an impressive 120 million homes globally, and Blue Badge Style received thousands of visitors to their website, and many downloads of the app. Russell may be the exception in how she uses Twitter to source and set-up stories, as after all, she is an expert in how to use the web for business. By the way, her first book is coming out in February 2013 “Working the Cloud”, an ultimate guide to making the Internet work for you and your business, from Crimson Publishing.
Asking around among my PR associates, I’m hearing similar experiences of how Twitter is changing the way they do their jobs.
Rob Shoesmith (@shoesmith81), a PR who promotes apps for Medl Mobile, reports that Twitter is a tool for building relationships with journalists around the world. He is able to drive a conversation around the apps he promotes, among bloggers, journalists and influencers. He also uses Twitter to get to know a journalist better and do his homework about what they have recently been writing about. He gets immediate feedback about new apps through Twitter and in one example was able to secure a full review of an app from a leading technology website after sending a link to the app to a key industry influencer. The coverage generated thousands of downloads for the app.
“From experience, I have found the media tend to respond a lot more to my requests on Twitter, rather than in a traditional email,” he said. “I tend to follow a journalist and see what makes them tick. I like to monitor the types of stories they share, which helps in crafting the perfect pitch. Twitter helps me tremendously with relationship building!”
Kate Warwick (@KateWarwickPRS), founder of PR Savvy (a client I work with), spoke of similar experiences to Shoesmith, especially noting that Twitter is a great way to contact journalists rather than having to cold call them. Both Shoesmith and
Warwick reported getting more feedback by Twitter than email or phone calls. Warwick did warn that you don’t want to overwhelm the journalist with being too friendly, too early. If you follow someone on Twitter you may feel you know them really well, but they may not know you.
In working in planning a launch party for the client Blue Badge Style, Warwick discovered that Twitter is a powerful tool for getting out invites and igniting buzz about an event. She invited influencers and a few politicians and celebrities to the event via Twitter, and A-list paralympian Sophie Christiansen came along with her three gold medals.
Warwick suggests these three tips in using Twitter for PR:
1) Introduce yourself gently, such as retweeting a journalist’s tweet, responding to a question they have proposed or mentioning an article they wrote.
2) As with all PR, make it appropriate and don’t launch in with a cut-down version of your press release. Make the content relevant to Twitter and to the journalist.
3) Remember it is a public forum, so switch to email or phone if you want to discuss the client in details.
From my own experience I’ve learned a few things about how to use Twitter, and here is insight I can offer:
1) Include that you are a PR in your Twitter profile, to be transparent.
2) Build a Twitter list of all the journalists you follow. This helps the journalists see that they are being followed by you, and it allows you to pop onto the list when you have time, and see what all the journalists are saying.
3) Engage with journalists beyond just pitching them stories. Respond to questions they ask, comment to them about tweets and retweet their tweets.
Are you a PR using Twitter to do your job? Please share tips in the comments here.
You can follow me on Twitter @lisadevaney