Using Twitter for PR

Using Twitter for PR - #TwitterSmarter chat with Sarah Evans - February 20, 2020

When it comes to public relations, we consider it separate from our everyday social media activities. Is it though? We hardly realize it, but people in the media are also people just like you and me. They also have a social life, and more often than not, social media is the best way to engage with them. How?

We invited Sarah Evans, Social Media Strategist and founder of Sevens Digital PR agency, to help us decode the mysteries of using Twitter as a channel to grow our PR activities. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Sarah Evans
Topic: Using Twitter for PR
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: What are some of the under-utilized features in Twitter?

The Lists feature is one of the least appreciated for sure. It’s a great way to curate users—your target audience, influencers, competitors—and so much more. It’s the easiest way to bring all information together in one place.

What’s more, you can also export your list as a .csv file for further analysis and promotions. If you manage the social media handle of a company, you can even create and maintain a list of all employees so that customers have a backup resource they can turn to.

Another great feature, as Gretchen pointed out, is Moments. For a long time now, Twitter has been trying to get people to use the feature more, and it’s slowly gaining the traction it deserves.

Moments are also a good way to compile tweets to tell a story. While threads are for your own tweets, Moments can be a curation of tweets from anyone. That’s why it works so well for our #TwitterSmarter summaries. It’s such and easy way to consume overwhelming information.

Sarah also talked about Advanced Search. It’s a handy tool, not only for looking through old chats to create summary blogs, but also for research—like finding quotes and identifying journalists who covered a certain piece of news.

Q2: Can you use Twitter Lists to generate media exposure?

Of course you can, and we all knew that. What we didn’t know was how. Sarah told us that exactly. You can create a list for every story you want to pitch. For instance, if you’re pitching a product announcement, create a list of people who tweet about the industry or the pain point that the product directly caters to. Then create another list of people who usually respond to such questions about in industry. That way, not only do you get a range of ideas and content, but you also involve people from various backgrounds.

Think about it this way: Lists can be a great starting point for conversation. For instance, as Rachel mentioned, when you create a list and add journalists and media personnel to your list, they get a notification as well. That’s a way for you to get them to notice you. Use that exposure to initiate discussions and widen your reach. Of course, you can also create a private list if you want to be discreet.

All that said, you still have to follow the rules of social media: engage genuinely. If you’re obviously trying to glean monetary success without offering value to your audience, you’re on your way to failure. Sarah put it well: practice servant leadership and gracious support.

Q3: What are some other ways to build media relationships on Twitter?

Using lists is one way, and another way is to do basic social media right. Twitter is a source of news for so many people, and that’s why it’s important to make sure what you share is valuable and trustworthy.

Building relationships with the media is the same. Help them do their job without expecting anything in return. Focus on communication and developing a relationship. You can send them sources, appreciate their schedules, treat them like you would any member of your community, and genuinely show interest in what they do.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that for media personnel, no matter how active they are on social media, Twitter isn’t their primary job. They also have other deadlines they need to keep, and finding the middle ground in a story can be stressful. Understand what they’re going through and don’t be too pushy with your pitches.

Chris made another good point as well. If you’re sharing news articles or industry matters, make sure you credit the author and the people who worked on that piece. Not only is it the decent thing to do, but it also shows them how much you value their work and opens up a window for interaction.

Q4: Share some best practices for engaging with media personnel on Twitter.

Firstly, be practical. Media people don’t work the same way as conventional corporate offices. Their roles, targets, and hierarchy are all completely different. There also a lot of middle-persons involved in getting a story out to the public. Know who you’re talking to and who they’ll be talking to. If you want to effectively communicate with a media person, you need to understand how they work.

Also, don’t forget that even within media, they’re a various categories that follow various procedures. Contacting TV reporters isn’t the same as contacting newspaper editors, or even online publications. It’s worth spending time to study media procedures before you dive headfirst.

On a simpler note, there’re other things you can do to establish good relationships with the media. As Hannah suggested, share their work and thank them for the efforts, appreciate any previous coverage they’ve given your business, and respect them at all times, because they can also hurt your reputation. If you’d like to get in touch, follow proper protocol. Don’t send them an unwelcome direct message and expect a response right away. Enable them to initiate conversations and when they do, respect their time.

Q5: How does Twitter fit into a brand’s PR strategy?

Twitter can become the backbone of many of your marketing and outreach activities. For example, it’s an ideal way to support your customer service team. So many people take to Twitter nowadays, just to complain about a brand. Use Twitter to respond to enraged customers and help them overcome issues.

Like our guest pointed out, Twitter is also a good way to build up your relationships—whether it’s with the media, with your community, or with other business stakeholders.

Of course, just like with customer support, Twitter can also be highly effective in controlling rumours and unwanted attention. Because so many people discuss a myriad of topics on Twitter, it’s worth dipping your toes in, even if only for crisis management.

That’s what Joana also said. Some businesses don’t have a dedicated Twitter handle. And that’s fine if their audience is elsewhere. However, you’ll still come across people discussing your brand or your industry news on Twitter. You can listen to those conversations and analyze your strategy accordingly—without even being on Twitter.

Like with anything social, you Twitter PR strategy will also evolve with time. For instance, for some sorries, you might just share it a few times on your profile, but for other more important ones, you’ll want to compliment a story with paid promotion to amplify its reach.

Q6: Can Twitter videos help with a brand’s PR activities?

Of course. Check out this article Sarah shared about a study conducted among small businesses to identify their use of video marketing.

Madalyn is also a huge proponent of video on Twitter. Your videos can be up to 2:20 minutes and even though that doesn’t seem like much, you’ll need less than that to communicate your message. When you’re using Twitter videos in your marketing, use the Media Studio. As Madalyn pointed out, you can take an image from your video and set up a call to action (like the play button and a link) on it so that it looks more realistic for the viewer to click through.

And if you’re still not convinced about Twitter videos, here are some interesting stats Sarah shared. Twitter users watch 2 billion videos per day!

Q7: Share some tips to identifying top media personnel in an industry.

Read like the world’s ending. The more articles you read across industries, the more easily you’ll identify the top writers and media reporters for that industry. Once you’ve identified the regulars, add them to a list or, like Sarah does, a mobile alert.

For instance, as an experienced PR person, Sarah regularly shares industry events, speaking opportunities, media queries, and several other PR-related news. She could be on your list.

And like Jim said, combine that with consistent engagement with media personnel, you’ll soon find the largest influencers or though leaders in the industry.

And of course, you can also look up the top Twitter users in your industry and look through their lists! (Thanks for that clever tip, Madalyn!)

Q8: What tools can help brands manage their social media communications?

Well, if you haven’t already, take a look at Sarah’s #UltimateDigitalPRToolkit. It’s a dedicated list of tools for PR.

But she did name a few. If you’re not sure where to start in the world of social media management tools, try Turbine Labs, Muck Rack, Agorapulse, or Lately.

Our friends at PCMA also shared some other tools like Sprout Social, SEMRush, Zoho Social, Hoosuite, and Sprinklr.

If you’re only starting out and feeling overwhelmed by these recommendations, take a deep breath. All of these tools are so popular and we’ve had multiple #TwitterSmarter users vouch for each of them. The truth is, there’s no one tool that works for everyone. Feel free to trial all of these suggestions and find out what works for you. Evaluation and trial are an unescapable part of choosing a reliable social media management tool.

Well, folks, that’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading and for more insights from our chat with Sarah, take a look at this Twitter Moment that Joana put together. And if you’ve got time on Thursday, join us for the next #TwitterSmarter chat at 1pm ET.


About me, Narmadhaa:

I’m a writer of all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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