Media Relations: Three Social Media Hacks to Find Media Opportunities

Over the years I have worked in media relations and later also in freelance journalism. Now I have realized that one of the best ways to understand how a journalist works is to try it for yourself, and doing freelance work I have discovered some tricks that will be useful for anyone in media relations who hasn't tried it yet.

Many journalists today rely on social media and social networking sites to some degree, even if it just to find sources. By being present on these sites you have an advantage over those that don't. But apart from that there are some techniques you can use to make sure that your company is more likely to get coverage. Some are pretty obvious -- like following journalists that work in your field -- but some are not so obvious. Here are three of them.

1. SCAN TWITTER FOR KEYWORDS AND HASHTAGS. Like many others I often tweet when I am writing about a subject.  If you work in that field you might see this tweet, respond to it and soon you will be setting up an interview. So, for example, I tweeted once that I was writing about how tablet computers are used in hotels. A social media savvy PR person at a company called Intelity responded to this tweet, set up an interview and they were mentioned in the piece. In other cases people have seen my tweets and forwarded them to people in their network that they knew would be interested.

2. ANSWER QUESTIONS ON QUORA. Some journalists now use the question and answer site Quora to find information and, perhaps more often, to identify sources for interview. Some of these questions will be clearly labelled as being media questions, but many more are not. You will see questions where a journalist asks if anyone knows an expert on a certain topic, or they might just ask a question and then wait to see who provides an interesting answer. That person will then be contacted by private message for an interview. In some other cases the journalist doesn't ask any questions but scans the answers to existing questions, looking for experts who are good at explaining  Answering questions related to your competence or the business of your company can thus lead to media contacts later. It is not certain but it costs little and boosts your reputation.

3. POST USEFUL IMAGES ON PHOTO SHARING SITES. Another way to get your company or product into an article is to make sure that good photos can be found easily using image search engines like Google Images . It would be very useful if your company's own website had well-labelled photos that could be easily extracted by image search engines, but most likely if you are in media relations you have little say in how the website is made. What you can control, though, is the company account on Flickr and other photo sharing sites. A good picture, clearly identified and labelled and with a Creative Commons license might get at least your photo into an article and probably get you a mention, too. If someone has to choose between two otherwise equal companies and one provides good photos they are more likely to be picked.

These techniques can actually be more useful than just following a list of journalists because most people write about many different subjects and the next person to write about your business is maybe someone you have never heard of. They are also especially useful for smaller companies. If I were to write about electric vehicle technology I would think of contacting Tesla Motors, but maybe you have a small startup I haven't heard of yet but you can still make it into the article if you know how to use social sites effectively.

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