How an elected official should interact with the media via social media

When I interviewed John Micek, Opinion Editor for PennLive of Central PA, I asked him how many political reporters don’t use Twitter.  His response:  “None who are currently working.”  My experience has confirmed this – the vast majority of reporters, and particularly political ones, are active Twitter users.  This presents an opportunity for elected officials to use Twitter to communicate with the media, and specifically with these reporters.  Personally, I know I’ve strengthened my relationship with many reporters based on our conversations on Twitter.  Here are a few thoughts on the best way to have those conversations:

1) Be nice and don’t complain: Keep an interaction with a reporter on Twitter or Facebook positive.  Why?  Because you will lose.  Even if you win an argument, you will lose, because you never go out of your way to tick a reporter off in a public arena.  Similarly, don’t complain about their coverage, or local coverage that you’ve gotten, via social media.

2) Share their articles: You like it when someone retweets or shares your link, right?  Reporters are the same way – they are human and like having their content shared and spread.  Don’t get me wrong – do not reflexively retweet everything they send out.  But, if they have a good, relevant article or other useful information, don’t hesitate to share it.

3) Don’t spam – but don’t hesitate to reach out: If you put out a press release via Twitter and mention a reporter in it, I’d call that spam.  You can Email a reporter your press release – using a mention to try and get their attention is tacky.  However, if you have a story and you know a reporter is a Twitter user, I don’t think there is anything wrong with, “Hi @politicalreporter, I had something I wanted to run by you, do you mind if I shoot you an Email or DM?”

4) Pay attention: Relationship building with anyone is a two way street – of course you talk, but it’s far more valuable to listen.  To that end, keep track of what reporters that you follow are talking about, work related or otherwise.  It’s great conversation fodder for when you interact with a reporter in the real world, but it also gives you an idea of what kind of information and stories that reporter likes.  Remember, reporters are paying attention to what you tweet as an elected official.  You should absolutely do the same.

5) Understand that everything is fair game:  I’ve had reporters call me based on Facebook and Twitter posts I’ve made, looking for more information or for follow-up.  It’s never been on anything I’ve been uncomfortable talking about, of course.  That’s because I never make a Facebook or Twitter post on an item unless I would be comfortable talking about it with reporters.  Facebook and Twitter are fair game because they are public, so don’t be surprised or offended if a reporter calls you up and asks for more information based on one of your social media posts.

Anything else to add?  Let me know in the comments!

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