Using Social Media for Media Relations

Media relations is now social media relations.

The conversations on social media usually focus on direct-to-consumer marketing or on one-on-one customer service.  One area often neglected is how to use social media to influence the mainstream press.

Remember the mainstream press?  You know – ABC News, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the thousands of newspapers, trade and industry journals and magazines.

Yes, they still exist and, yes, they still pack a ton of influence.

The five largest newspapers in the U.S. have a combined circulation of more than six million readers and the top five magazines a combined circulation of more than 69 million.  Those are hefty numbers.  And they don’t take into consideration a recent study by Pew Research Center showing that 99 percent of blog links reference mainstream media sources.

That said there is no doubt that mainstream media is on a downward slide.  Circulation and revenue numbers continue to decline.  More than 14,000 journalists were laid off in 2009 and more than 1,800 have been cut loose in 2010.

As a result, there are fewer journalists to pitch stories to and the journalists who remain are overworked.  So for companies and PR agencies looking to connect with the press, the old-fashioned email and telephone pitches are less effective.

Journalists are looking for value.  They need stories that are compelling for their readers, but also fit within their beats and coverage areas.  Weeding through dozens of pitches a day – most of which need to be deleted because they are outside of their coverage or interest areas – wastes valuable time.  They also need new and dynamic content for their own web sites and blogs.

As a former journalist, I can tell you that the majority of reporters and editors don’t dislike PR people.  They dislike sloppy and unprofessional PR people.  PR people who provide value and help them get their jobs done are considered go-to sources.

Here are three ways that social media can help.


Follow every journalist and publication that covers your industry (use services like Muck Rack to find journalists on Twitter).  You can use TweetDeck or another desktop or mobile application to help you segment the journalists into manageable groups.  Twitter gives PR people a real-time view into what stories, ideas and content are captivating the journalists they want to pitch.  Journalists often use Twitter to help them research and write articles and blog posts.

This observation is backed up by recent studies.  A survey of journalists by Cision/GSPM found that 52 percent of reporters now use Twitter as part of their jobs.  And a study by PRWeek found that 37 percent of journalists are required by their publications to maintain Twitter accounts.

Simply following the journalists will give any PR person insightful information for pitching.  But take it a step further.  Talk with the journalists on Twitter.  Retweet their articles and blog posts, ask questions on the content, participate in discussions, make observations or just say hello.  This type of engagement strengthens the relationship and shows the journalist that you are interested in the industry and have something of value to add.


Many journalists use Facebook to connect with sources and do research for stories. In fact, the Cision/GSPM study found 65 percent of journalists use Facebook for their work. Connecting with a journalist via Facebook is a terrific way to build a better relationship – and also a more efficient way to communicate with them.  Rather than email, you can now post information on their wall, direct message or send a private message to their inbox.

And like Twitter, journalists will often reach out to Facebook friends for help and information for stories.


Corporations have missed the boat on blogging – meaning that too many don’t do it.  Not only is blogging one of the most powerful ways to connect directly with customers, but it is another avenue to connect with the mainstream press. Blogging ideas, news, observations and tips about the industry is an effective way to connect with journalists covering the same market.

The PRWeek study noted that 39 percent of journalists are now required to blog for their publications.  The Cision/GSPM study said that 89 percent of journalist cite blogs and use information from them in their news stories.  Journalists are blogging – so why aren’t more corporations and PR people? Commenting back and forth and linking to material on blogs is the way many people know connect via the web.

Blogging is also different than writing an article.  Journalists need both kinds of stories now – stories for the print publications and stories for their blogs.  Help them in both channels.


List of largest U.S. Newspapers (via Wikipedia)

Largest Magazines in the U.S.

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism study

Journalist lay-offs in U.S. (via Papercuts)

Muck Rack


Social Media’s Staggering Influence on Journalists

Photo by Webtreats (via Flickr)

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One Response to “Using Social Media for Media Relations”

  1. Excellent post! The mainstream media is still an important segment in impacting audiences and getting messages out. You are spot on in regards to becoming a valuable partner with these outlets offering relevant and quality content in an effort to make their job easier. The process of becoming a resource in our interest areas is vital.

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