Of all the emails you receive per day, how many do you ignore?

If you’re like most people, chances are you ignore more than half of what reaches your inbox. Journalists, as you might assume, are in the same boat. If they read and responded to every single email they received, there’d be no time to actually write.

So to get a journalist to read your pitch, it needs to stand out. Cold outreach may have worked in the past but now securing coverage from target outlets requires a more intentional approach.

That’s where your media relations strategy comes in. There’s an art to forming successful, mutually beneficial relationships with outlets and journalists. It relies on keeping your efforts compelling, creative and personal. You don’t need to be well connected or have access to a fancy database to pull this off. You just need to spend more time on social media.

Social can take your media relations efforts and elevate them so your brand becomes impossible to miss. Keep reading to find out how social is changing the media relations game and for tips on how you can use it in your strategy.

What is media relations?

Media relations is the art of developing and managing relationships with reporters and media outlets. These contacts are a crucial link between your brand message and the public that you’re trying to reach. Making sure these relationships are healthy and mutually beneficial can help your pitches stand out in inboxes and DMs.

To create a mutually beneficial media relations strategy, aim to make reporters’ lives easier. Scrap anything that’s too self-serving and focus on crafting interesting, culturally relevant pitches. As you continue to build relationships with reporters, you’ll be able to refine your outreach strategy for more success.

Why social media needs to play a role in your media relations strategy

Social has become a center point of people’s daily lives. It’s where they go for information, entertainment or to share what’s on their mind.

To put it simply, social is where culture happens.

It’s also the secret sauce that can take your media relations strategy from good to great. In a 24-hour news cycle, stories have a shorter shelf life than ever before. Social can help you keep your pitches relevant and newsworthy. It can also help you build and maintain more personal relationships with reporters. The opportunities are endless.

3 media relations examples with a social media spin

Now that we’ve covered some basics, let’s see how three brands have used social to complement their existing media relations practices.

1. NAACP’s Tweetments

The NAACP may have been founded in 1909, but their approach to media relations is as modern as they come.

After attempting to navigate the pandemic and a surge of Jim Crow-era racism, their team quickly realized that traditional approaches to social media and public relations weren’t working anymore. Vanessa Mbonu, the NAACP’s Vice President of Digital Marketing & Communications, calls the new strategy “social media relations.”

This combined approach helps the NAACP communications team amplify their message to as many people as possible. Social helps leaders at the organization move quickly and boldly, creating messages that stand out to journalists and supporters alike.

“Like me and my team, reporters spend a lot of their time online, so in a sense, we’re meeting them where they are,” says Mbuno.  “Instead of a reporter reaching out to ask what the official statement from the NAACP is, or relying on them checking their crowded inbox, it’s on Twitter, right where they needed it.”

2. Duolingo’s IPO

By now, you’re probably aware of Duolingo’s stellar TikTok strategy. Their hilarious short-form video content has made a huge impact on the company’s brand awareness, but that’s not the only network they’re using to create buzz.

Take their recent IPO for example. On Twitter, Duolingo made the event into a full-day affair complete with custom video content, animations and an event hashtag.

This steady drumbeat of content offered quite a few different angles reporters could use to cover the IPO, from the company’s overall mission to founder’s perspectives on why going public made sense for the company. Their team turned what could have been a simple announcement post into something more interesting and perfectly primed for media pick-up.

3. Patagonia’s statement on voting rights

Patagonia is no stranger to making a statement. Their approach to values-driven innovation has kept them going above and beyond in the name of corporate social responsibility. Whether they’re trying to reduce environmental harm or calling on politicians to make systemic changes for equality, they’re used to speaking up and speaking out.

Recently, the brand shared a statement from their CEO on Twitter urging senators to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. The goals of the bill, which supports equitable access to ballot boxes, and its meaning to the brand are clearly explained in a screenshot of the CEO’s full statement.

Patagonia has over 550,000 followers on Twitter alone. By sharing the statement directly to their social profiles, they give their audience a chance to hear directly from the brand rather than through sound bites.

4 ways to boost your media relations strategy with social

1. Build better relationships with journalists

Building a relationship with a media contact is a lot like building a relationship with a new friend. If you wanted to make a new friend, you wouldn’t only reach out when you need a favor, right?

Apply the same logic to potential media connections. Take the time to get to know who you’re pitching to. Read their work, get to know what they like to write about and engage with their content regularly.

Social media is the key to passively building these relationships over time, in a way that’s not overtly sales-focused or insincere. Journalists use social as a tool to connect with sources and to promote their work. This is your opportunity to better understand what catches their eye so you can catch theirs.

Start on Twitter. The network is an indispensable research and promotional tool for many journalists, so it’s a great spot to focus your efforts. Here are some tasks you can build into your daily routine to start building your media contact list:

  • Use Twitter Lists: Twitter Lists allow you to organize and prioritize the Tweets you see in your timeline. Make a List of priority media contacts so you can easily keep track of their posts and work.
  • Engage with their content: With Twitter’s character count, you won’t feel pressured to write any lengthy responses to their work. A simple “nice work” or a comment on something that stood out to you will do. Bonus points if you Retweet it for extra exposure.
  • Offer help: Journalists often use Twitter to put out feelers for sources or additional information. Use this as an opportunity to offer ideas or to connect them with someone who might be able to help.

2. Vet potential media outlets

Not all media coverage is created equal. Some publications have larger followings or followings that are more aligned with your target audience. The only way to validate whether or not a media outlet is a good fit for your brand is to do research.

You could look to see what topics they cover and how often, or you could try to dig up their circulation numbers. But, if you want a more data-backed media relations process, social should be your go-to.

Using a social listening tool (like Sprout) helps you gather audience and sentiment data. All you need to do is create a Listening Topic on the outlet. From there, you’ll be able to tap into all the social conversations that are happening around their brand, from high-level conversation themes to demographic data broken down by age, gender and location.

3. Identify and validate creative pitch angles

Coming up with an interesting angle is by far the hardest part of the media relations process. You only get a few lines to grab someone’s interest. Finding that in a story that also furthers your brand presence can be tricky.

You’re probably already scanning daily news updates to find stories with potential brand alignment, but are you scanning social? Countless stories and trends break on social media every single day. If it’s not a major player in your news feed, you’re missing out.

Follow influencers in your industry across platforms to keep up with what people are talking about. Once you find an angle that shows promise, you can use social data to see if it’s worth pursuing.

Think of social listening as your one-stop shop for idea validation, whether that be for potential outlets or angles. In this case, you can set up a Listening Topic to determine conversation volume and identify high-profile individuals actively posting about the topic. If you spot any impressive numbers, work them into your pitch. That way, outlets can see the social impression potential they stand to gain by covering the topic.

4. Share press releases with a wider audience

Press releases aren’t only for the old newswire service anymore. Repurposing them for social is an excellent way to let your creativity shine. Let’s look at this example from DocuSign for inspiration.

DocuSign was recently named one of Glassdoor’s 2022 Best Places to Work. To celebrate, they put out a press release sharing details about the award, their employee feedback and their career opportunities. This formal statement works perfectly as a press release but on social, it would have been too dense to generate much engagement.

The DocuSign team used this as an opportunity to infuse some personality into the release. By sharing a link to the release alongside a video and punchier copy, they were able to promote the win in a way that creates additional buzz.

Next time you’re crafting a release, collaborate with your colleagues in social to see how it can be repurposed. Here are key things to consider:

  • The audience: Your message might be better suited to specific networks depending on your target audience. For example, news about your company’s work culture might be best suited for LinkedIn.
  • The tone: Social is a great channel for having some fun with your message. However, if you’re sharing news about serious topics (such as statements on political activities or current events), it’s best to err on the side of caution.
  • The message: If you have any extra sound bites, images or video clips that didn’t make it into your media pitch or press release, they might find a second life on social.

The dawn of social media relations is upon us

If work always stayed the same, it’d be way less interesting. Incorporating social media into your media relations strategy can revitalize your approach and help get your brand bigger and more impactful media placements.

If you’re new to the wild world of social data, don’t worry—the learning curve isn’t too steep. Use this social listening map for a crash course in building strategies around specific questions and goals. It will help you understand what kind of questions you can answer with your social data so you can better understand what information can support your work.