Social media has made a PR rep’s job harder.
Should you ask before following a reporter on Twitter? Is it OK to respond to a HARO request even though the expert you represent only kinda sorta knows about the issue? Is it ever OK to just pick up the phone and call someone?
No, no and no.
I don’t claim to be the Emily Post of PR-reporter netiquette. But I’ve spent enough time on the news side of that particular fence and been online since the dawn of email to have formed strong opinions as a result, opinions that based on my conversations with other reporters and freelancers, are widely shared.
If you represent a company or organization dealing with news media and wonder how email and social media fit in, here are some pointers:
* Email your press release – But don’t follow up to find out if I got it, read it, like it, want to use it. If I do, I’ll be in touch.
* Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn – So when I am looking for sources you’ll know right away.
* Respond to my tweet, LinkedIn question or HARO request – If the professor, company, non-profit or other source you represent fits my need as I’ve outlined it.
* Cover yourself – If the organization you represent makes a huge announcement and you’re not going to be around to handle reporters’ calls.
* Promptly follow up interviews – With any additional facts or materials your organization’s source promises to get to me.
* Tweet me to pitch a story idea – Or at least to see if I’m interested. Love the 140-character cut off – it keeps pitches from running on and on. If I like it, I’ll ask for more details in an email.
* Call me – That’s why email was invented.
* Futz around making press releases arty or pretty – All I need are facts, contact information and links to pertinent websites.
* Ask what I’m working on – Chances are I can’t or won’t tell you.
* Respond to HARO requests with sources that aren’t related to the topic – FAIL. Don’t expect a quick reply either. A single HARO request can elicit dozens of replies. I try to answer all of them, even if it’s just to say thanks but no thanks. But if I’m on deadline I might not have the time. I will, however, save them for the next time I’m writing on that topic.
* Ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement – Been there, done that, got burned, won’t get burned again.
* Ask me to send you a link to the story when it comes out – I’ll say yes because I’m polite that way, but by the time it does come out I’ll have forgotten or will be on another deadline.
* Invite me for coffee or lunch to hear about what I do – Unless it’s something I’m actively working on I can’t take that much time out of my day. If I want a F2F interview with your client, I’ll let you know. Or go to national or local meetings for the industries or subjects I write about – I’ll be in networking mode and will be happy to meet you and talk about your client.
* Friend me on Facebook – It’s the one social network I reserve for friends and family.