How are journalists using social media?

As a PR professional, one thing I’m always interested in is the mind of a journalist. As someone who believes that social media is a valuable business tool, I’m constantly preaching to my fellow PR professionals about how social media can be used to connect with journalists (sorry guys, I’ll get off my soapbox eventually). 

I know some of them are on board, but there are still quite a few that aren’t sold on it yet.

Well, yesterday the topic came up in a Twitter conversation I was having with a freelance journalist: Matt Lindner. Currently, Matt writes sports feature stories for ESPN, so he and I don’t work together professionally but we do enjoy a good sports conversation. 

Yesterday, though, Matt and I were talking about social media and PR. More specifically, how the two tie together. I was very interested to hear his point of view as a journalist. Because I was so interested, we followed up the conversation via email where Matt was able to expand beyond 140 characters. 

So what did I learn (right from the horse’s mouth) about how journalists are using social media?

They’re seeking out relevant story ideas:

“As a feature writer, I’m constantly looking for the stories that are going to get people talking. Part of my job is keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of sports, asking questions the fan would ask if they had the platform that I do,” Matt said. 

Where is he looking for these ideas? 

“The people and organizations that I follow on Twitter are those that I feel are relevant—relevant to me, my readers, and to the conversation that I’m hoping to further in both the world of sports and pop culture.” 

An example from Matt: “I’ve got another pitch to my editors in the works right now that I learned about after an old professional acquaintance that I met last summer and kept in touch with on Facebook posted something on her page.” 


They’re listening to what you’re saying :

Who/and what do they listen to?

“The biggest ‘secret’ to getting my attention is to have an active account,” said Matt. “If you’re talking, engaging, humorous without pandering, I’m going to listen.” 

He also added: “The problem a lot of organizations run into is that they have social media accounts and they want to have a lot of followers, but they don’t want to share. Or if they do share, they only post messages that are blatantly promotional, serving only to further their own interests without acknowledging the needs or wants of their digital fan base as it were.”

They’re doing research: 

Matt told me: “In my previous life as a local television news reporter and in my current one as a national freelance sports writer, social media was an integral and indispensable tool in my toolbox. I cannot tell you how many times one of the influencers I followed tweeted about something cool they were doing, or some random nugget of information which caused me to think more about them. I’d investigate it further and work with my editors to see if there was a story there.”


They’re building relationships:

This is a huge one for PR pros to keep in mind. I read some great tips about this recently: Fifteen Ways to Use Twitter to Build an Army of Adoring Journalists.

Matt explained to me why relationship-building (rather than just blinding reaching out) via social media is so crucial to the PR-journalist relationship: 

“If I’ve had prior contact with you and you’ve got a story idea that you think I might be interested in, by all means pass it along and I’ll see what I can do. But if I’ve never heard of you, and then I get a tweet like ‘Hey @mattlindner, have you heard about our widgets and gadgets? You should totally write about them’ you will get blocked in a shorter period of time than it took me to type that sentence.”

I’ll leave you with one last comment from Matt to sum up the bottom line of the role social media plays in the PR-journalist relationship:

“Media is constantly changing. And an increasing number of journalists are on Twitter and Facebook, using them to listen to what the public is talking about. I’ve used social media to reach out to sources that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get ahold of through traditional means.”

So there you have it. If you weren’t sold on it yet, I hope this post helped you realize yet another opportunity that social media provides to us.