Pitching Roadblocks and the Social Media Savior

Posted by on January 20th, 2012

If you’re in PR, you’ve probably hit the pitching wall: these reporters aren’t answering their phones, no one is responding to my emails, are there even live people who work at The New York Times? How am I supposed to get coverage when I can’t even get through the main switchboard?

When it’s gotten so frustrating that you feel like you want to go all Fatal Attraction and scream “I’m not going to be ignored!” onto a reporter’s voicemail, take a step back. One of the benefits of social media tools – Twitter and LinkedIn in particular – is that they give you a very direct way to engage with reporters and outlets that you may have trouble getting the attention of otherwise.

Several months ago we were pitching a consumer product – The Kate Middleton Engagement Doll – during the royal wedding; there was a lot of buzz on the Twitter-sphere about Kate and William, the wedding of the century, but who was going to cover this? Retail reporters weren’t jumping on the bandwagon and there wasn’t a beat in Vocus for “Royal Wedding.” After some background research (which, keep in mind, should go into all of your pitching efforts when you’re trying to identify the correct reporter to reach out to) – I found a reporter who wrote for CNN.com. She was posting up to date coverage of the royal wedding and seemed like the perfect person to reach out to.

Using the Twitter handle created specifically for this product, we reached out to the reporter, saying we’d love to send her a prototype or some images if she’d be interested. After exchanging a few DMs and then introducing myself over email, the product ended up being featured on CNN.com as part of a royal wedding round-up.

What happened next? Since CNN.com is read by reporters at so many other outlets, reporters started reaching out in droves to cover the product as part of their wedding round-ups. Suddenly, outlets like People Magazine, US Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today, pretty much every outlet on your dream pitching list, were on board to cover the Kate doll.

This is just one example of how locating a reporter on Twitter (or LinkedIn) can pay dividends. It gives direct access via a (somewhat) unconventional channel. Whether reaching out on a client’s handle or your own personal handle, here’s a few tips:

o Make sure the message goes directly the reporter you’re targeting (be careful when DMing –make sure it’s ACTUALLY a DM – need we remind you of this and this?). Your tweet to a reporter should be very specific and not come across as “spammy.” “Hey @ReporterX, saw that you’ve been covering the royal wedding, any interest in…”

o If you’re asking a reporter to DM you, make sure you’re following his or her handle otherwise that person won’t be able to send you a direct message.

o Make sure your client’s Twitter profile is up to date and not only has the Company’s logo, but also a link to its website and a brief description of what it does. This is a quick way a reporter can verify if you’re legit. Similarly, on your personal Twitter handle, include in your bio that you work in the PR industry so they know you’re not some random Spam-bot sending them links.

In general, where there’s a will, there’s a way to get coverage. Happy pitching!