Hoteliers often think about Twitter as a tool to engage with guests, tackle their demands or problems, provide them with handy local information or hype amenities and deals. But besides helping hotels improve their guests’ experiences and boost their online presence and reputation, Twitter is also a great ally to connect with journalists.
It’s not as risky as you think, especially in the age of online hotel reviews that publicly air your property’s issues.
If you’re new to Twitter, first understand that the world of Twitter is primarily a positive one, which makes it relatively easy to establish a relationship that can increase your odds of getting your message conveyed – and possibly highlighted in some way in the media. (There are never any guarantees!)
You might be surprised by the number of general managers, directors of sales and marketing, senior brand executives, e-commerce directors, revenue managers and other hotel folks around the world who I’ve gotten to know over the years via Twitter during my tenure covering hotels at USA TODAY between 2009 and early 2013. If news broke about their market, hotel or chain, I sometimes contacted them for information that sometimes showed up in stories.
If you never thought of Twitter in this way, it’s a good time to start now. Why? New studies and stats pop up seemingly every month about the pace at which journalists are flocking to Twitter. Some rely on it to learn about breaking news, while others use it to search relevant topics and discussions. Some use it to broadcast inquiries. (Of course, some use it sparingly and reluctantly because their superior told them to create an account – but that’s another story!)
One fresh example: The Oriella PR Network recently released its 6th annual digital journalism study, based on a survey of about 500 journalists in 14 countries such as Brazil, Germany, India, France, China, the UK and the USA. Highlights:
- 59% of journalists worldwide say they use Twitter vs. 47% last year,
- 51% of journalists worldwide say they use Twitter, Facebook, Weibo and other channels to gather new stories, vs. 25% when the source is unknown.
With these few tips, you can ease into – or even master – the art of communicating with influential reporters who are using Twitter on a regular basis as a reporting and networking tool. Here they are:
- Identify influencers: You probably have a good idea of who you’d like to get to know. To expand that list, look up certain words on Twitter, HootSuite, TweetDeck or another Twitter tool so you can see which writers mention your key words (and, potentially, hashtag) such as #hotels. Also in a recent piece on this subject, CEO of Ragan Communications Mark Ragan recommended using Twitter directories such as Twellow, wefollow or Muck Rack to find others you may not know.
- Assume most journalists on Twitter want to connect: If a journalist is (a) on Twitter and (b) using it regularly, odds are high that they want to interact with people familiar with their beat, take in new information and expand their source list. The exception: If a reporter has a small number of followers – I’d rather not generalize, but if I must, I’d say less than 100 – this could be a sign that their employer told them that they had to create an account, but they consider it a chore. Review their past tweets to get a feel for their past interactions.
- First steps – Retweet: Like any good PR professional knows, you can’t build a relationship around “asking for something.” So, it’s wise to introduce yourself via Twitter by simply retweeting their tweets. The journalist will likely notice that there is someone following them and reading their stuff. Ragan’s advice: “Don’t ask them for anything.”
- Reply to a journalist’s requests: If a journalist shares story ideas and inquiries on Twitter, follow up! Don’t reply with another question asking, “Is there still time to reply?” By the time it takes you to type those words, the journalist will likely have moved on and consider your question late at best – and, at worst, annoying. Of course, there’s risk associated with these scenarios since few reporters will follow up with every reply received while reporting; they’ll likely follow up only with the best. But if you’re in the “higher risk = higher reward” camp, then this strategy is for you.
- Help a journalist build their Twitter following: Don’t ever expect anything in return, but helping build a person’s following most likely won’t hurt a budding relationship – and more likely will help move it along. Besides retweets, you can include them on #TravelTuesday and #FollowFriday tweets and/or other roundups. As Ragan says, “Give. Give. Give.”
- Remember, journalists are human: You’re in the hospitality business for a reason, right? So don’t forget to occasionally recognize the journalist as a person even if they offer little personal information. If they mention they’re going to a certain beach and you happen to know the best gelato spot, tell them about it. Are they volunteering that they’re running a marathon? Wish them good luck. No need to go further than that – and don’t do this often when you’re getting to know them, although it depends on the personalities of both people involved. Also, it goes without saying that you should strictly adhere to sharing business-culture-appropriate information; that means no political tirades, etc…
- Read a journalist’s Tweets: As veteran PR pro Vivian Deuschl has said for years, reading a journalist’s work is a priority – and it’s no different in our newfangled digital world. You’ll quickly find that you’re familiar with that person’s likes and dislikes, their preferred news sources and their preferred topics. While chatting about this with a reporter friend at National Public Radio, she mentioned that she can’t stand it when she’s pitched something that has nothing to do with her beat; can you blame her? Be sure to show respect for a reporter’s time.
“The best thing to do to cultivate journalist relationships, whether traditionally or online, is to read what they are putting on Twitter and offer some suggestions on other resources they may wish to speak to on the subject,” says Deuschl, who for years led public relations efforts at the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel chain as it grew from a few hotels to about 60. “Gain credibility with the journalist by showing you are not just trying to promote your client/company, but want to help them reach out to other information sources.”
Deuschl makes a great point about becoming a resource. A good reporter, for instance, will expect you to share names – including those of competitors – when discussing potential story ideas. Journalists usually appreciate the information and will be more willing to listen to you.
My last tip is that you keep in mind that some journalists put themselves “out there” more than others. Anyone who has followed my Tweets, for instance, knows how old my kids are, and that I love good food, strong coffee, gymnastics, certain kinds of music and, of course, travel and meeting new people. Even a fraction of that information would give you dozens of ways to start a conversation. You’ll never know what you might have in common with a journalist unless you read their digital trail.
By conducting a frequent, engaging and multidirectional communication with key journalists, savvy hoteliers will be able to communicate more effectively and with better results their stories and accolades, besides increasing and improving their media following through social media platforms.
To learn more about how to use Twitter for you hotel:
Download: Guide Twitter for Hotels