How Twitter helps PR

Twitter is not just for the Donald Trumps of this world who like to broadcast their latest ‘genius’ thoughts, it is a powerful tool for PR whether it is used as a source of information and breaking news; to connect with journalists and engage conversations with them; or to improve crisis communications. Here lovers of the site offer top tips for using it for PR purposes.

1. Build relationships
Will Hobson, PR manager at marketing agency Edit: “Twitter is a great outlet to create conversations with different people. This can either be people in the PR industry or journalists. It’s always great to use Twitter as a source of knowledge, almost like your very own survey to find out what not only journalists want, but what fellow PROs think on media relations and common campaign challenges and successes.”

2. Find Inspiration
Will Hobson: “Twitter is a useful source of inspiration if you’re planning a future campaign. Make sure you follow relevant client competitors and PR industry sites/blogs. This will enable you to keep up to date with what’s going on in the industry and allow you to draw inspiration from past campaigns to add to your strategy.”

3. Connect, connect, connect
Amanda Tran, managing director of comms agency JIN: “Connect with thought leaders and influencers in your industry and start nurturing the relationship with them. Follow relevant accounts – you can use Twitter's advanced search console to add more keywords and filter out the noise. Show genuine interest in their content and engage conversations with them: like, comment and retweet their posts.”

4. Use the Lists feature
Amanda Tran: “Create your own lists composed of brands, influencers, journalists who you want to target or keep updated on their activity. Twitter is an excellent resource for looking for journalists and monitoring their stories. This is helpful for ensuring personalised pitches to the right people and the right time. Follow other Twitter user's Lists.”

5. Follow and use relevant hashtags
Amanda Tran: “Always make sure your hashtags are short and sweet. Tweets with hashtags gain 100% more engagements than tweets without them.”

6. Focus on journalists
Kelly McDaid, head of content partnerships at Vouchercloud: “The best advice for any PR person is to go where your audience is if you want to engage with them. In the case of journalists, the ‘where’ is Twitter. It’s a platform that, in my opinion, outperforms any other for active journalist usage.

“The first benefit of using Twitter for PR is getting into the mindset of the journalist you’re looking to work with. You can identify, in many cases, how they communicate, the nuances of their ‘beat’ and in many cases, how they prefer to be pitched to.

“In broader terms, there’s also the hashtag #journorequest. While some in the PR industry discount it as ineffective due to the amount of spam, it becomes a remarkably useful free tool for press outreach with a little time investment and a lot of curation. Due to the amount of spam, serious users need to be judicious with the block and report buttons.

“For journalist relations, Twitter is unparalleled. In many ways, PROs can get a feel for the news cycle before things go to print if the platform is used correctly. The fact that, as an outreach tool, it can be recommended in the same sentence as some paid-for services is a testament to just how useful Twitter is.”

7. Use team effort
Ben Court, senior account executive at agency Refresh PR: “The breadth of possibilities and features, as rich as they are, can create issues around how the platform is managed. Take for example #journorequest. Whilst this is without doubt a real plus of the platform, the downside is that you need to spend a lot of your day monitoring it, which can suck time from other tasks at hand. To address this, team effort is critical, with responsibility being shared collectively by the team from top to bottom to ensure nothing is missed.“

8. Don’t rush in
Ben Court: “Twitter is brilliant for monitoring trends, breaking news and so much more. However, the instant nature of the platform can often cause PR people to ‘keep up’ with the pace which can lead to mistakes. This is particularly true when it comes to what is fake news and what isn’t. This means that it’s easy to make a very public mistake, both when tweeting on behalf of yourself but also clients.

“As such it is important to resist the temptation to act quickly and pause for thought before publishing or retweeting. By taking a breath and analysing or fact checking first, it becomes easier to offer an appropriate response that is on message, and that makes a couple of minutes of being slightly behind the curve a price worth paying to avoid the mishaps that can so easily occur.”

9. Set up keyword searches
Andy Barr, founder of PR agency 10 Yetis: “Twitter is the epitome of living in the moment, but can also be a massive accidental time-drain for PROs. I get the most of out the platform by often having keyword searches set up and being shown on my second screen (I know, I am doing alright for myself, two screens!) so that I can spot emerging stories and industry-affecting moments.”

10. Create private lists of journalists

Andy Barr: “In terms of the PR benefits, #journorequest is the most obvious, but having private lists with key freelance journalists is something that I find to be super handy and growing in importance.”

11. Retweet articles and give credit to journalists
Madalina Grigorie, PR and communications manager at computer software firm Foundry: "Retweeting or distributing an article covering your company, whilst also making sure to credit the journalist who wrote the piece is a nice way to show appreciation and share news with your customers. As PR is about working with publics, depending on the publication, social media could be a mutually-beneficial tool for both publics: your customers might get acquainted with the media outlet and become avid readers of that publication or you might get prospects interested in your business because they are readers of the publication, or perhaps you shared the article on Twitter with a particular hashtag!"

12. Pitch clients as thought leaders
Tom Chapman, publishing specialist at digital agency CandidSky: “I use Twitter to pitch clients as thought leaders. There are a variety of hashtags you can use for this purpose, but I’m particularly fond of #journorequest.

“This hashtag is typically used by journalists to help them identify interviewees. If you can supply someone who fulfils their criteria, then it’s a great way to get some quick coverage. For example, I’ve used #journorequest to gain publicity on mediums ranging from trade magazines to live BBC television.

“This hashtag is used extensively and, as sorting through these can be a pain to say the least, it is worth including a couple of modifiers and checking back every so often. For example, for a digital agency such as CandidSky, I would include general terms as well as some services, such as “marketing”, “SEO”, and “PPC”. Furthermore, I would cover a few company policies, such as “work from home”.

“However, your use of #journorequest doesn’t have to be passive. You can directly promote your clients by enquiring if reporters are writing about a particular topic. If so, you can provide them with expert comments.”

13. Monitor trends
Harriet King, senior client executive at agency Milk and Honey PR: The ‘trends’ column listing popular hashtags helps me keep an eye on what big stories are being widely covered by the media. Monitoring what is trending on Twitter can help determine if a story we plan to sell-in that day would be worth it, or if it would be overshadowed by a bigger piece of news. For instance, the morning Theresa May announced she was stepping down as prime minister was sure to be front page news. I have even witnessed journalists tweeting to say if PROs are sending stories that aren’t related to Brexit, then they are simply wasting their time.”

14. Learn from journalist complaints
Harriet King: “There are now six PR people to every journalist. It is safe to say their inboxes are consistently clogged because we are all fighting for the same space. Journalists therefore love to voice their PR complaints on Twitter – especially when they have received an awful press release that is unrelated to their news beat. It is also a great way to keep an eye out for PR errors, understand how journalists prefer to be pitched to and learn what not to pitch to them. Or you can expect to be called out for it!”

15. Don’t neglect your own feed
Hayley Coleby, senior social media director at PR agency PHA Group: “Whilst looking at other people’s feeds is important, don’t neglect your own. Tweet regularly using industry-specific hashtags and document things such as events and client coverage. Always try to include an image with each tweet and stay part of the conversation that is relevant to your industry or PR in general. This is will increase your reach and encourage users to follow you and interact with your content.”

16. Experiment and break some rules
David Clare, partner and head of content and digital at PR agency Tyto: Experiment. Break the rules. Get suspended once or twice. Have a play around. Be a bit naughty. Only by experimenting like this will you find what works and what doesn’t. Sure, you could always read others’ case studies, but nothing beats getting your hands dirty. Plus, if you do get suspended, you’ll gain the knowledge of how to fix such a problem in future.

“Experiments are easy too. Want to test the perceived wisdom that pictures perform best? Run the same tweets at the same time and same day, but one with an image upload, the other with the auto-generated image from the link. Prove everyone wrong. Or back them up. Want to see the impact of followers on reach? Run a follow campaign to see if followers really don’t matter, just as you’ve been telling your clients, or learn that maybe they do.

“Only by treating Twitter as a playground will you truly understand the nuts and bolts of the medium. Just – and hopefully it goes without saying – make sure you’re experimenting with your own channels and not a client’s.”

#journorequest is obviously very popular with PR folk, I really must use it, despite the risk of getting deluged. First I just have to check out what everyone is saying about Love Island – 44K people are tweeting about this as I write apparently...