When you have a product, service, or client you want to pitch to the media, you may rely on traditional methods of cold calling or emailing a press release. But there’s a huge chance you will get radio silence, and it’s hard to tell if your PR pitches are relevant, especially if nobody responds.
It’s time to turn the tables and be there for journalists when they need you. Many people seeking promotion have better luck with online tools that connect you with reporters when they’re proactively seeking sources for stories rather than when you have info to share with them. Read on to learn about some of the best, low-cost tools you can use to position yourself as an expert, either in addition to your in-house PR efforts or on your own if you don’t have a PR team.
Help a Reporter Out
Commonly known as HARO, this website has become an increasingly popular tool for PRs and journos alike. Here’s how it works: A journalist who’s seeking sources for a story posts a query soliciting experts on a given topic. They usually give a brief summary of the story, where it’s running and what type of expertise they’re seeking. Then PR reps scan through the queries and send pitches for any relevant opportunities.
The easiest way to use HARO as a PR source is to sign up for the query emails. HARO offers a daily digest of pitches on all topics, or you can sign up for industry-specific digests on topics such as finance or travel. You can also follow HARO’s Twitter feed (@helpareporter), which posts urgent queries from journalists looking for sources ASAP.
Cost of Service: A basic membership is currently free on the PR side, which includes PR opportunities delivered via email three times a day, plus email support. There are three paid options ranging from $19 to $149 per month, each with increasing perks such as keyword alerts, multiple profiles, earlier responses than free members and so on.
This source connection service is run by mega press release distribution network PR Newswire, and it has around for many years. It’s a more formal version of HARO, and one of the main differences is that in order to pitch, you must also be a member of PR Newswire. This helps journalists using the service ensure that all sources are legit.
Much like HARO, you can receive queries and expert requests via email and filtered by topic, plus other criteria like geography or type of organization. Additionally, there’s a nifty tool called ProfNet Connect that allows you to create a searchable profile for reporters, allowing them to proactively find you without even submitting a formal query. Also like HARO, there is a Twitter feed with urgent queries (@profnet).
Cost of Service: According to ProfNet, “Fees are assigned on a sliding scale depending on number of users, type of organization and number of industry categories you choose.”
While Twitter wasn’t created as a tool for connecting reporters and potential sources, it can work beautifully for this purpose. Spend some time finding and following journalists on Twitter who cover your industry. Check your feed on occasion to see if any request experts or sources. You may also want to try some Twitter searches to see if you can find any journalists seeking experts.
Cost of Service: Free
Other PR Services to Try
While these are some of the most tried and true ways to connect with journalists, many other online tools exist for the same purpose. Some sites you may want to experiment with include Muck Rack, Source Bottle and Pitching Notes.
Tips for Responding to Queries
If you do use HARO, ProfNet or another one of these tools for reaching journalists, be sure to follow these tips for better chances of getting a response:
• Respond to relevant queries as fast as possible. Journalists work on deadline, and many reporters will use the sources that get back to them first.
• Stay on topic. Don’t pitch an irrelevant product or service just because you have a reporter’s attention; only respond if you have something to offer on that topic.
• Don’t be self-serving. Reporters are wary of sources that seem too self-promotional. Yes, you want to get quoted, but focus on being helpful rather than selling yourself or your company.
• Be brief and clear. Your pitch doesn’t need to be too lengthy; just provide succinct, easily digestible information about who you are, why you’re an expert in this arena and how you can help them with this topic. Bullet points are helpful!
• Consider answering the query in your email. If it’s very clear what the journalist is looking for, you may want to save time and include your answers or insight in your response. This reduces the need for follow-up and can help busy journalists who need a few quick quotes, though be aware it can be time-consuming to do this for every pitch. You may only want to do this for larger outlets with more potential pay-off for your time.
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Photo courtesy of Niuton May