By deadline, there were just four responses to the query, which has posted a day or so prior. The query was intended to gauge reaction to a survey published earlier in the week and asked simple questions:
- Do the survey results reflect your perspective?
- What advice would you offer?
Three of the responses ignored the questions and pitched interviews instead – an absent a strong point of view. The one respondent that answered the actual questions subsequently looked me up online and sent the same pitch to a personal email account.
Good Pitches have a Long Shelf Life
More often than not, I’m on the opposite side of the query in Help a Reporter Out, or HARO as the service is commonly known. Usually, I’m answering such queries, but on a few sparing occasions, I’ve used it to solicit responses for blogs or contributed articles.
In the past, I’ve been pretty happy with the queries from a “reporting” standpoint and strive hard to be impartial. For example, I once received some excellent responses for a contributed article I was working on from one marketing director. Consequently, I’ve kept his information on file and have gone back to that person with questions two or three more times – outside of the HARO community and for other publications.
It is the last point that underscores why thoughtful answers are far more valuable than a hurried, if not careless response. As a PR professional, I can tell you there have been innumerable times where a useful response to a query did not yield an immediate story, but the blogger or reporter came back, often months later with another opportunity.
Core Service Remains Elegantly Simple and Free
In spite of changing hands at least three times in the last five years, that HARO continues to thrive speaks volumes to the value of the core service: five days a week, HARO sends three emails a day, with queries from reporters and bloggers seeking sources.
Any registered member of the HARO community can respond. While premium options exist, the foundational service remains free so long as users stick to the five basic rules.
At the time of this writing, there are some 43,000 journalists (which probably also includes bloggers) and 280,000 sources according to the company. I have received HARO emails with upwards of 80 queries from bloggers and reporters. Everyone needs a little help sometimes and to borrow on an old Shankman-ism, everyone is an expert in something.
34 Million HARO Tips
There are some 34 million results for the search terms “tips for help a reporter” in Google. Even for a venerable service like HARO, the volume of enthusiasm is truly amazing. Examples include:
- 10 Tips for Getting Press as a HARO Source
- The 5 Reasons You’re Being Ignored On HARO
- How to Answer a HARO Journalist Query
In my experience, all of this advice boils down to three key points – which are useful in media relations aside from HARO too:
1. Timing matters. Being first usually counts for a lot, especially if the query comes from a top tier outlet. However, it’s not worth sacrificing quality. Sending an ill-conceived (or irrelevant) email in an effort to be first isn’t likely to produce the desired result. As the saying goes, fast is smooth, smooth is fast.
2. Attention to detail. Reporters and bloggers on deadline know what they want and have articulated it in the query. Provide the best answer you can give for the specific query. Sometimes an interview is desired, but other times it’s a succinct answer.
3. Brevity. You don’t need to write a book. Certainly, there’s a place for longer pitches, but HARO generally isn’t that place. If a blogger or reporter finds what you have to say interesting enough, they will follow up. As Shakespeare (allegedly) said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
HARO Hacks for Flacks and Hacks
There are two HARO-like life hacks I’ve found useful from both sides of the inbox:
a) HARO hack for PR pros. I use the automation features in Microsoft Outlook to automatically move HARO emails into a dedicated folder on the email server. Then at the end of the day, or sometimes even the week, I’ll use the search feature to sort through the email with key words in an effort to surface those queries that might be relevant. Sure, I sacrifice speed, but those queries I can typically answer tend to fall into a unique niche. The technique saves me time and assures relevancy.
b) HARO hack for journalists. Deadlines are unforgiving and can easily be shortened. Whatever you think your deadline for responses might be, delineate it a day or two earlier when you submit your inquiry to HARO. Otherwise, the responses you get might prove too late.
* * *
None of those sources were part of the final story, though I did follow up with all of them – and a fifth one that came in late – on a whim that I might write another piece from a different perspective. It remains to be seen if I’m going to get solid answers fit for publication this time, but at least one PR person has a pitch with a shelf life.
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Photo credit: Flickr, sari_dennise (CC BY 2.0)