Working with the media can be seem frightening to some people and it need not be. Reporters are like everyone else who have a job to do and are constantly looking for sources to complete stories. Once you realize you’re an expert or have something of value to offer, it makes reaching out to them that much easier.
Services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) make it simple to find reporters specifically working on stories and actively looking for sources. The FREE service sends you three emails per day (morning, mid-day and afternoon) containing requests by reporters seeking experts on everything on green living to product requests.
There can be days or weeks when I might not see a good fit between a reporter’s needs and my clients but other times the fit is so perfect that writing a pitch to that reporter is simple. Have I received responses from reporters? Absolutely. In fact, I probably estimate an 80% response rate particularly because I’m pretty targeted with my pitches / responses and I make sure my source or information is spot on or else I’m wasting my time and theirs. The key here is not to be “off-pitch” for several reasons:
1) Reporters may report you to the administrator who may choose to block you from future emails.
2) Reporters don’t like their time wasted and they don’t soon forget you’ve wasted their time so if you ever pitch again, you may not get their attention, no matter how perfect a source you may be the second time around.
3) You’re wasting your own time. If you’re not an appropriate source, don’t try to be something you’re not. It won’t benefit you or the reporter.
How do you respond to a query?
Here are some pointers you’ll want to keep in mind when responding to any media query:
- Respond prior to the deadline (this is key – if you miss the deadline, your window of opportunity is lost).
- Include “HARO” in the subject line so the reporter will know your email is in response to their HARO query and not spam.
- Be succinct — Keep it short and on topic. Depending on what the reporter is asking, this could be anything between a few sentences to a couple of paragraphs.
- Do not send attachments as HARO won’t include them when forwarding your response to the reporter. If you have a link, include the link. Or if the attachment is crucial (ie a hi-res jpg image), let the reporter know you have it and can send and if the reporter can use it, trust me, she or he will be in contact with you to get it. Reporters are not shy.
HARO is just one source and I like it because it’s free. There are other free ones like Reporter Connection and PitchRate but you’ll find their queries tend to focus around specific categories or types of reporters – and those may work for you better than HARO so do your research and see what you feel is worth your time. I wouldn’t recommend subscribing to all of them because you’ll see some duplication and you’ll be wasting your time. If you want to pay for a service, you’ll want to consider ProfNet which is very similar to HARO.
Have you used a service like HARO successfully? What advise would you offer others who have not tried it yet?
Megy Karydes is principal of Karydes Consulting, a boutique marketing and communications firm that specializes in working with both for profit and not-for-profit organizations. HARO is a key part of her PR plan and especially enjoys the service when she finds a reporter who is seeking experts like her clients and she can develop a long term relationship with that reporter.