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How to Monitor Journalists & Find PR Opportunities Using Twitter Lists

Monitor Journalists with Twitter ListsOne of the most valuable yet underused tools for landing PR placements using social media are Twitter lists. I love, love, LOVE them.

Here’s why:

  1. Lists can be public or completely private – nobody sees it, nobody knows you put them in a list.
  2. You can monitor people in a list without actually following them.  Complete stealth mode!
  3. Lists are an easy way to filter information out of your overall stream. You can cluster by topic, location, type of media – however you want.

The February #PRprochat was one of the most lively yet, reaching almost six million timelines (whoot!). It was a blur of fantastic tweets and very fun. Here is a quick recap of what we talked about. PR isn’t the only way to use Twitter lists, of course, but it happened to be the focus of this particular chat.

The Basics of List Building

  • Twitter lists are a great way to learn what your journalists are focused on – their articles, interests and needs – before you engage with them.
  • How do you make a list? Look to the right of the follow/following button, click “more actions” then “add or remove from lists.”
  • Once you’ve built your list, you can find the “subscribed to” lists and the “member of” lists under the “me” tab, then click on “lists over on the left hand sidebar.
  • You can also create lists directly from the “me” tab using the “create list” button on the top right.
  • Lists are incredibly valuable for PR – one of my top three social tools!
  • Some useful resources:

What Tools, Tricks or Tactics Do You Use When Building Your List?

  • I love using Cision to build my Twitter lists – but you can also do it manually, finding handles on websites, Twitter searches, etc.
  • I also make specific lists for clients, if I’m using lists to follow journalists and identify story opportunities
  • Consider using a tool like HootSuite to set up private journalists lists as columns under a client-specific tab – it makes for easier monitoring
  • I might have one list for trade publications, one for local, one for national – lists by beat, topic or category – even break them out by television, print, etc. It depends on the client and the need.
  • Don’t build more lists than you have time to monitor.
  • The point of a Twitter list is to be  valuable and, from a PR perspective, land editorial opportunities – not just to build them.
  • You may have quite a bit of junk in your Twitter lists – but one good editorial opportunity can make it well worth the time invested. I landed a Sunday cover story in the Arizona Republic newspaper by a simple response to a tweet. My thirty-second tweet that netted the story was only noticed because of the time invested in building lists.
  • Journalists with last-minute needs are best for PR lists – breaking news, television, newspaper, interview-based media that need a fast source.
  • Trade publications dependent on bylined articles are less likely to tweet for sources.
  • The more targeted your list, the more value you’ll get from it. Have a specific goal for each list you build.
  • Many people use Twitter lists to separate who they want to follow from a larger, sometimes un-targeted stream.

I personally don’t believe in following anyone who doesn’t fit into my strategic targeted audience, so my Twitter stream tends to be reasonably clean.

If your stream is so cluttered that you need lists to find anything useful, then it is time to start unfollowing those who don’t bring value. But followers are a different conversation than building Twitter lists. With lists, YOU have total control.

  • A useful resource –> The PR Pro’s Guide to Twitter –  via @mashable
  • Build out who you follow based on strategy, then you won’t have to weed out so much garbage. Be intentional, selective, strategic!
  • While it’s not necessarily useful for identifying journalists, because of how their bios are typically written, one of my favorite tools to search bios by keyword and/or location is Followerwonk by @Moz. VERY, very useful free tool!
  • If your Twitter lists are not useful – clean them out or delete them and start over.
  • I prefer to build lists directly in Twitter, but monitor and use them in HootSuite.
  • Look at the journalists tweet history before you add them to your list. How are they using Twitter? Is it the best social platform to reach them? Do they ask for sources and engage?
  • Rule of thumb: never make your media-related lists public – keep them private unless they are only a news feed.
  • I use Twitter to respond to source queries far more than straight pitching, but it truly depends on the situation and need, too. When I do pitch on Twitter, I move it over to email as quickly as possible.
  • Twitter lists are perfect ofr listening to what your journalists need, especially last minute sources – but you must react fast. If you don’t catch an editorial opportunity until hours or days later, odds are good someone beat you to it.

Enough of me blathering on – to see a full transcript of the chat with everyone’s fabulous tips plus a few details on Twitter pitching best practices – head over to Storify.

And be sure and mark your calendar for the next #PRprochat on March 6th at noon MST (2pm EST). We’ll be talking about PR metrics with guest Shonali Burke!


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