Being on Twitter isn’t even an option for journalists today. It’s a necessity for business. Jonathan Kay, The Walrus editor and founding member of the National Post’s editorial board, put it like this:

“If someone says to me they don’t tweet or don’t like social media, then they are saying that they don’t like this thing that helps get thousands of hits on my website.”

Prior to taking the reigns of The Walrus, Kay was the managing editor of the National Post’s Editorial, Letters and Comments sections and was part of the team that oversaw the paper’s transition to a more digitally engaged product.

Like Kay’s reporters, we as PR and marketing professionals have a responsibility to our clients to engage and promote them on social as vigorously as we can. We spoke with Kay recently to discuss his social strategy and how you can apply the journalists’ mentality to your own.

Break your news on Twitter.

It is now the norm to release exciting news on Twitter in conjunction with an article or release. Even this year’s Pulitzer Prize announced its winners through the tool.

Kay’s relationship with Twitter started slowly. He shared a few tweets about a timely political story he found interesting to an overwhelming response. “It was a minor scoop but all of a sudden I was getting hundreds of new followers,” said Kay. Since then he’s grown his following exponentially and uses the medium to debate public policy and to highlight great content.

Reach out to influencers.

The key to online pitches, says Kay, is to make them personable and targeted. Share their content and get to know them before you pitch. This exercise secured Kay’s attendance at a launch party for McDonalds’ Chicken Bacon and Onion sandwich back in January.

“I could tell the person was familiar with my tweets and my writing. Most of all I didn’t feel like I was being spun,” said Kay.

Conversations build credibility.

On Twitter, and in life, it is often more valuable to have someone say something about you, than saying something yourself. Retweets allow users to do this quickly and efficiently with the tap of a screen, allowing your message to reach an exponentially wider audience.

 “I want my magazine and my writers to be tied to public debate. Twitter is a marketplace for ideas,” said Kay. He added that when notable authors like Paul Wells or Andrew Coyne retweet his journalists’ work, it shows the public that The Walrus is tapped into the mainstream conversation.

“About 10 per cent of the public have read the Walrus, but 40 per cent of the public have read Coyne. When we are part of the dialogue we’re reaching a giant new audience.”

Field test ideas.

You can use Twitter to gauge the interest the public holds on a topic or idea via hashtags. Share articles that are relevant to a proposed study or release and measure the reach and engagement those articles gain from your audience. You can even split test these ideas using sponsored tweets targeted to your desired market.

Live tweet but avoid the echo chamber.

Whether it is a stockholders meeting or sponsored event, tweeting live can be a great way to share your brand’s voice while demonstrating your connectivity to your target market. Twitter even has a section on its website dedicated to media professionals with  best practices guidelines for live tweeting.

For media professionals Twitter conversations and the hashtags users follow, can build a sense of community around an event or topic. “You can use it as a messaging service between 50 or 60 journalists you know. It is like we are all on the same couch watching the same thing,” said Kay.

He warned though that group conversations can get catty. “If you are watching a political debate and a few influencers say it was a blunder then that becomes the accepted fact.” When you are tweeting live, be mindful of the conversations you join and its tone to avoid a potential PR crisis by association.

Social media is a valuable tool that is grounded in content and conversations – that’s PR’s wheel house. For more tips or if you have any questions contact us on Twitter @Cision_Canada.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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