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Building Relationships with Journalists via Social Media

July 10, 2015

Prezi-JournlRelationshipsNonprofits use social media for many reasons: activism, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, affecting policy change,”brand raising”, etc. It’s undoubtedly become an integral part of your organization’s communications. But how are you using it to build stronger relationships with local journalists? Sure you can create your own networks to communicate directly with supporters but broadcast journalists often have greater reach. At the same time, you can help journalists do their job more effectively by connecting them to more information for their stories.

I recently developed a checklist for nonprofits, particularly those working on immigration issues. You can see my presentation on Prezi here or read my suggestions below.


It’s important to follow local journalists on social media to keep up with their work. Here’s how:

  1. Check out your local news sources (TV, radio and print) and see who’s covering the issues that intersect with the work of your nonprofit organization.
  2. Search for these outlets and individuals journalists on Facebook. You can easily like and follow organizational pages of media outlets. Some individuals set their profile so anyone can “follow” them without “friending” them. If “Follow” appears next to the journalist’s name of their profile, click to follow them. Don’t send a friend request to a journalist unless you really know him/her.
  3. Search for the journalist’s Twitter handle and follow them.
  4. Use directories like the Association of Independent’s in Radio or even LinkedIn to find more local journalists.
  5. Set up Google Alerts to tell you whenever the journalist publishes something new. Use quotes around their name plus the topic they write about that interests you: i.e. “[First name] [Last name]” immigration. You can have Google Alerts sent to you by email but I like using Feedly RSS Reader. That way, I can see updates from the websites I follow along with Google Alerts without clogging my inbox.


In 2016, journalists need all the help they can get to distribute their work. Many editors are watching the analytics on their websites to see how their staff’s reporting is doing. Often times, they use this information to access what to report on next. They also use the information to attract advertising dollars. Here’s how you can help them continue reporting on the issues you care about:

  1. For Facebook sharing, use the “social share” button on articles, video or audio posts to share them on your organization’s Facebook page and your personal profile. Make sure the thumbnail images appears just before you post. If it doesn’t show up, use another browser or try again later. Don’t post without an image.
  2. Share the journalist’s work with your networks via email. For articles, it’s important that you only share the title and link. Don’t copy/paste the entire article. Otherwise you’re redirecting web traffic that the media outlet will lose out on.
  3. For Twitter, you can also use the “social share” button but you often need to go one step further. Copy/paste the author or producer’s personal Twitter handle. That way the journalist is aware of the fact that you’re sharing his/her work. Also add a hashtag that’s important to your organization’s network. And if there’s room in the 140 characters, upload any image from the media post.
  4. If you share images from broadcast media on Tumblr or Instagram, it’s important to credit the photographer or illustrator. Also use a URL shortener like bitly to add the link in the description. I think it’s best to customize the link to something easy to remember that’s all lowercase letters. That makes it easier to remember and retype since links aren’t clickable on Instagram.


Journalists like to hear when they’re doing a good job (since they often hear from critics and haters the most).

  1. Comment on their work. If you read their article, listen to their radio story or watch their video, let the journalist know what you thought of it. But more than anything, thank them for covering the topic, particularly if it’s an issue that your organization works on.
  2. Tweet a thank you and then follow up. Like I mentioned above, include the journalist’s Twitter handle and thank them for the story they produced. If there’s room, include the link to the piece so others can go check it out.
  3. If you can find their email easily on the outlet’s site, email them and thank them for the reporting on the issue you care about. Don’t expect a response. No email response = only that you didn’t get response (not that they don’t like you, etc.)


Once you’ve done some of the things above, you can connect with a journalist to help with their beat.

  1. Invite them to community events, not just press conferences. For example, if you have their email, you can invite them through Facebook.
  2. Offer them referrals or information sources. Remember since you work on the issue, you’re probably an expert and can help them better understand.
  3. Take your own “stock photos” and “b-roll” (action footage) and offer to it to journalists for their stories if no staff photographer or videographer has been assigned.
  4. Share story ideas (not topics). Be able to answer: “So what? Why now? Why me?” (i.e. why should that journalist report the story). I like to use the “Story of Self” from Marshall Ganz to conceptualize stories: Challenge > Choice > Outcome = Moral (Advocacy Goal). For example, when did someone in the community you serve face a challenge, make a choice in response, that resulted in an outcome.

But remember…

Journalists may have reach and experience but you have tools to report too. With the media nonprofits make ourselves, we should aspire to create our own “Driveway Moments”: Stories so good that people stay in their cars to hear the end of a story on the radio. You can study and learn from how journalists report with resources like Transom, HowSound podcast, WITNESS and On the Media.

Check out my presentation on Prezi here. Let me know what you think of these suggestions above by leaving a comment.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2016 4:53 pm

    Very useful suggestions. Thanks, Will!

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