By Dave Levy, @levydr
I have at least one or two media contacts with whom I rarely, if ever, email. It’s not that I’m not doing my job; it’s that whenever I have a pitch or want to soft-sound a story idea, I have to shrink the thought into way-less than 160 characters so I can direct message them on Twitter.
It will not surprise you to learn that most of these “Tweet First” contacts are bloggers. A few years ago, blogger engagement was a separate category from traditional media activities. In fact, during the growth of digital PR back six or seven years ago, we had two distinct teams with their own tasks related to either traditional pitching or blogger engagement. I was working in the latter camp, and by way of talking to people who blog, and who were some of the first on Twitter, it was kind of a natural progression to stop emailing each other and then just tweet.
Blogging looks a lot more like mainstream news these days (or mainstream news looks more like blogging, that’s a chicken or egg post for another day). Along with that, the space between what I’ve been doing in my career around online news sources and what colleagues who have filled more traditional media roles has gotten really, really small. Sure, my leading example here talked about how bloggers and I talked through Twitter direct messaging. But it isn’t only bloggers who rely on Twitter for everything from news to getting leads from sources. There are even reporters who have grown in their careers to join traditional outlets by way of being active online bloggers (and, again, plenty of writers who once wrote for large organizations have jumped to independent, online outlets).
When I got into this business, it felt different to be talking to a blogger, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I don’t know if I’m ruining some big secret, but there really isn’t that much that’s different in terms of what we do when we reach out to an online-only reporter. Journalists and bloggers alike are writing stories, and sometimes we as PR professionals have – or think we have – a tip that will help them create content. Ultimately, we have to take the time to get to know the writer, what they consider relevant and the best ways to reach them. That process doesn’t change on the basis of reaching out to either a blogger or a traditional journalist.
As a final bit of homework, I’ll challenge you to think about what pitching a story in a direct message is like. It’s really, really good practice to take your pitch and try and get all the important parts into less than a sentence. If you can do that, you’ll have a better sense of your story and what you are trying to say – no matter who you are reaching out to.