New research reveals how PRs can tap into social media to reach journalists

Written by Emily K

As the digital age continues to impact our way of working, journalists are increasingly embracing social media platforms to achieve maximum exposure, and get the latest scoop on a story. So, does this leave PR agencies that provide media with vital information out of a job?

A recent Cision webinar titled: ‘How social media is changing the way journalists work and communicate,’ reassured us that UK journalists still feel that PR professionals are the most reliable source of material. However, there are ways that agencies and in-house Public Relations teams can work with social media to tailor and deliver content to journalists in a more personalised way.

A survey reported that three out of four journalists use social media daily, with the majority having a minimum of five social platforms each. Use of Twitter has declined slightly, with the site now being predominantly used for breaking news stories, whereas Facebook and Instagram are being used to maximise coverage of online content. Some journalists are developing content purely for social use, perhaps a cover-worthy image for Instagram, or a Facebook Live interview, which could be advertised online for national and international viewers.

Cision’s Philip Smith explains that there are six key groups of journalists, categorised by their use of social media. The newest group are the ‘Messengers’. He explains: “They use a variety of platforms, particularly using messaging functions, to reach their audience and publish and promote content. They also reported that they’re more engaged with their audience, and that social media has changed their role as a journalist,” Phillip said.

Another group are the ‘Architects’ – the most active type of journalist on social media. They often work in online journalism and broadcasting, and believe social media has made a positive impact on the industry. However, they cite fake news as a problem inherent to the growth of social media. This group is very happy with their relationship with PR professionals, and would tend to use social media as a way to maintain and create new partnerships, as well as finding stories.

While these two groups having a positive take on social, the ‘Sceptics’ and ‘Observers’ are less convinced that social media is positive for the press, and will avoid interacting online or using it as a resource for news stories. 10-15% of those polled admitted to never using social media.

For the PR industry, the conclusion from the research is that communication techniques are ever-changing, but use of different platforms is very much a personal choice.

Although email remains the most preferred method of receiving story leads, an increasing body of reporters are keen to use Twitter and Instagram to hear from PR contacts. One reason given was that social media sites feel a more personal form of contact, and PR specialists are more likely to have done their research to find a journalist, and identify what they post about on their personal pages.

Unsurprisingly, the least favoured way to pitch stories is via telephone, with most journalists reporting that this isn’t a helpful way of contacting them, and is an unwelcome distraction when the pressures of deadlines are looming. Criticism formed around calls that often aren’t personal to them, but simply a follow up to see if an email has landed in their inbox.

So, is it time to ditch the calls, lay off the emails, and drop a direct message here and there? The research concludes that media are divided on whether reaching out to them via social would be a good option for getting a pitch seen.

While it’s always valuable to gain an insight into how the media are using emerging communications platforms, at The Tonic we know that the key to good media relations is always making your pitch relevant, time-sensitive and engaging. If a story isn’t any of those things, it’s unlikely to gain traction, regardless of how it is pitched.

If you’re looking for an award-winning agency who can offer national and regional media relations expertise across a range of sectors, please get in touch with us.

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