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Pitfalls to Avoid When Pitching Journalists on Twitter

Of all the technologies available to help enhance media efforts, my favorite and most utilized is Twitter. It’s free. It’s extremely versatile. And it gives insight into how various topics are being covered (and by whom) in a way I find superior to media databases and even Google searches.
Yet, while I love Twitter and use it constantly for things like staying up to date on breaking and industry news, researching topics and journalist interests, and building relationships, I’m much more selective about how and when I use it for pitching.
When it comes to pitching via Twitter, I prefer to proceed with caution. There are cases where it works and there are journalists who favor it, but it needs to be executed cleanly—and just like traditional pitching, it works best if you’ve already done the research and relationship building work first.
If you choose to pitch reporters via Twitter, here are some pitfalls to avoid.

  • Be careful not to scoop a reporter’s story. If you’re not restricting your activity to Direct Messages, others may be able to see what you’ve posted. So, if you’ve heard through a medium other than Twitter that a reporter is working on a particular story and you have a source to offer, stick to email, or if you’re following each other on Twitter, send a DM. Remember that journalists like to keep their stories close and may not appreciate details about what they’re working on being shared with the Twitterverse.
  • Avoid the Twitter equivalent of SPAM. If you are reaching out to multiple reporters with the same story pitch through standard tweets (and not DMs), you might as well be CCing a long list of reporters in an email. In this case, not only is the likelihood of your news getting covered very slim, you’ve probably burned some bridges with outlets, which will make subsequent placements all the more difficult.
  • Remember that Twitter isn’t a shortcut. Yes, the brevity required on Twitter is one of the reasons why busy people like journalists and PR professionals love it, but I’d caution against viewing it as a timesaver. I recently noticed a media relations representative Tweeting to various media outlets asking them which journalists covered a specific beat. She probably thought it’d be a quick way to get information, but I couldn’t find any responses, so in reality, she wasted her time and potentially jeopardized her reputation. Resist the temptation to turn to Twitter before you’ve thoroughly researched your story, how your topic/issue is being covered, and which outlets and reporters it’s most appropriate for. The same research and personalization you do for traditional pitches should be done for Twitter pitches.

In my experience, the most successful pitches on Twitter happen through DMs to reporters you have taken the time to get to know and interact with over a period of time. I’d love to know more about others’ experiences, what works and what doesn’t. Please share comments here—or on Twitter. I’m @kristinemaloney.