No matter how you look at it, you can’t deny that in many respects social is the new norm. Consider the fact that most businesses have made social media a major focus for their broader marketing efforts. In fact, 91 percent of retail brands use at least two social media channels today. Think about that: only nine percent of retail businesses do not use two or more forms of social media. Social is huge! So it makes sense that public relations norms have shifted to keep up with this trend as well. 

Some reporters welcome receiving pitches on their social channels – but it’s important to acknowledge that others hate it. As always, your PR efforts should be strategic, well-thought-out and tailored to your audience. How you engage with your favorite reporters on social media is no exception.

There is no rule book to navigating social PR today – and there shouldn’t be, considering how quickly things can change in this space. But without setting hard and fast rules, here are some best practices we’ve found as we’ve observed and participated in this shift towards social PR:

Get to know your targets with social
Twitter can be a great resource for PR pros. Not only can it give you a better idea of what topics are trending in the media, but it also enables you to see what your reporters of interest are covering. Always be sure to read up on their feeds to see what they’ve covered recently, whether they’re actively looking for sources, when they tweet about attending industry trade shows and conferences, and more.

It’s also worth noting that some reporters have taken to expressing their frustrations with PR folks over Twitter. Has a reporter you’re planning on pitching recently tweeted about a pitch that annoyed them? Look out for that and strategically shift your approach so you’re not sending pitches they’ll cast off – or worse, become one of these tweets! Rather, you can ensure you’re sending them something thoughtful that they’re likely to be interested in.

Moreover, knowing whether your targets like to be pitched on social is just as important as knowing what they cover. Have they engaged with tweeted pitches in the past? If so, great! Feel free to pitch them via social media. However, if they’ve made it clear that they prefer email pitches, you need to respect that too and leverage their social channels as informational resources instead of a means of communication.

Timing is everything
If your favorite reporters are engaging on social media, you need to act fast when they ask for content. Work with your clients to have approved “sound bites” you can send as soon as you see that tweet asking for commentary on a relevant trend in your industry. If you have to wait days – or even hours – you’re too late: they’re most likely going to use the content someone sent them within minutes. Why would a reporter be sourcing content on a channel characterized by real-time updates if they were looking to get your thoughts for an article they’re writing next week?

Don’t be a PR robot
Getting your name in a reporters’ list of notifications is a great way to work on building a digital relationship. If they tweet an article they recently wrote – or even asked for commentary on something you can’t help with – it doesn’t hurt to show that you’re reading what they’re writing. Give it a like. Don’t just engage when you are hoping to get something from them.

Most importantly, remember that reporters are people too! They’re going to tweet about their dogs, sports teams, and lives outside of work – and you shouldn’t feel like engaging on these non-work-related posts is off limits. After all, you never know when you’ll find a common interest you both share.

Social media has permeated the lives of PR pros, and many of us rely on these channels every day. Don’t get left behind – but make sure you’re thoughtful before you dive into social PR. When leveraged properly, social channels like Twitter can help make you a better expert not only on your clients’ industries but also on your key reporters, making you a valuable asset to your teams and clients. Social PR also has the possibility to open doors to real-time opportunities while also allowing you to build friendly relationships (and gain knowledge) over longer periods of time that may help your media relations efforts in the long run.

How are you engaging on social?