The pros/cons of pitching biz reporters through social media
At public relations firms specializing in financial services, it’s a good rule of thumb — and often suggested — that PR practitioners also start following relevant business reporters for their clients on Twitter. New PR pros thus glean insight into the daily activity of reporters, including their drinking habits, hobbies, when they ace a Buzzfeed quiz, and what news they’re currently covering.
So is it helpful to contact reporters via social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook)?
When asked if he’d been pitched via social media, Joseph Adinolfi, a reporter covering the markets, responded:
“I haven’t — but I would not be receptive to that. Call me, or email me. I feel like those are the only two acceptable forums for pitches.”
Another reporter covering stocks at an international news agency had a similar reaction when asked if he would like pitches via social media: “Absolutely not…that’d be super annoying.” But, the same reporter mentioned that “a dude who followed me on Twitter contacted me through the platform and we began communicating about a pretty big scoop I later wrote.”
Regarding LinkedIn, the same reporter responded:
“When I get a pitch that’s not from a call or email I just start under the assumption the person doesn’t really know what they’re doing. I mean sure a pitch through LinkedIn isn’t terrible but if you’re worth your salt you’ll be able to find my email and communicate through more efficient channels.”
But it wasn’t all bad for flaks keen on using social media. Kelsey Butler, a financial journalist, responded:
“I’m definitely open to it! I’ve had sources reach out to me on Twitter that I’ve interviewed for future stories though! I feel like if it’s a good, targeted pitch, I would definitely follow up regardless of where it comes from.”
“(I) have a lot of PR contacts connect with me on LinkedIn, which I like because I can see posts of their company’s articles/blog posts or potential clients that I’d like to chat with! I try my best to reply to every relevant pitch…sorry to those folks pitching me about farming or pickles or other random things…That said, I check LinkedIn the least of all my social media accounts, so my response time there is the slowest.”
Katie Kuehner-Herbert, an award winning business journalist who has written for publications such as Chief Executive, CFO.com and American Banker, was also receptive to pitches via LinkedIn:
“I don’t mind getting private LinkedIn messages from PR professionals on LinkedIn…but just in a strategic way, perhaps to announce something really significant, or to quickly introduce themselves and their clients to me….I have one PR professional who I believe introduced himself via LinkedIn and is actually now one of my best go-to people! About once a month, he emails me with just a subject headline – “What are you working on next?”…So I’m glad that LinkedIn provided him the opportunity to introduce himself!”
But overzealous Facebook-frienders beware, warns Kuehner-Herbert:
“Now about Facebook, I try not to ask or accept friendships from sources or editors because I like posting very opinionated comments about political issues and I don’t want them to be turned off – I try to stay as objective as I can during interviews and will only let my guard down in off-the-record comments if they say similar comments first…”
Based on the reporter feedback, LinkedIn could be useful, but the consensus was that a tailored email is still the preferred pitching method. On Twitter, tweeting may garner the reporter’s attention, but they’re just as likely to respond via email if the pitch material is relevant, punchy, and persuasive. And per previous posts, it’s always a good idea to strive for in-person meetings over coffee or drinks to get to know a reporter and their beat. Whatever the communication channel, business reporters don’t want to be pitched stories on pickles or farming.
Bill C. Smith (@BillCSmith87) is an account supervisor at Makovsky Integrated Communications in New York.