I’ve just done something I’ve never done before. I just pitched to an editor on Twitter. This shouldn’t really be surprising. Public relations professionals do it. In fact, I advocate it in social media courses I do for PR professionals. Perhaps I have been lucky, but in the freelance journalism world I have always followed the tried and true method of sending a pitch via email and then following up with a phone call. This has worked for me. I tend to always manage to get hold of the editor, discuss and the majority of times get a commission. That is until recently. Perhaps it’s that those editors who I had a personal relationship with are moving on or perhaps my ideas aren’t as good. Whatever it is, I’m struggling to get hold of editors. I send emails. I make follow up phone calls. I send follow up emails and still nothing. It’s frustrating because I never do a multi-pitch. That is, I only ever tailor a pitch to a specific publication. I don’t just send it out pro-forma to everyone. So when I don’t hear a ‘yay’ or a ‘nay’ I am left in limbo for longer than I should probably let myself be.
Enter Twitter. On Twitter I can see if an editor is available. Are they commenting on news of the day or other tweets? Can I join a conversation that they are in? Perhaps offer some interesting insight or information on a topic that they are following? By doing this, I can make them at least recognise I exist and perhaps if the opportunity presents itself (i.e. they actually follow me in return) I can send a 140 character pitch via a direct message. Now this method has some new and interesting considerations. A complex story will be difficult to some up in 140 characters, but if you have managed to develop a Twitter relationship they might be more willing to consider your email. Importantly, this approach all hinges on establishing yourself within the Twitter community that the editor operates. I can”t imagine any editor reacting favourably to a freelancer that approaches directly with a pitch. But then the idea of engaging in a community prior to asking something from it in the social media sphere is nothing new. A core component of using a social media tool to find sources or stories is always to join the community in a meaningful way first, before asking something of that community. I might add this to my previous list of points on the benefits of social media for freelancers. Of course I am still awaiting a response from the aforementioned editor…. so maybe I’ll see how this one plays out first.