The popularity of Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out (affectionately known as HARO) proves many of you, your company or clients want to get in the spotlight. Occasionally, Peter kicks folks off the list because they can’t follow one simple rule:
By joining this list, just promise me and yourself that you’ll ask yourself before you send a response: Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter? If you have to think for more than three seconds, chances are, you shouldn’t send the response.
I use the mailing list from both sides: as a journalist and as an expert. Thank goodness I am a journalist because it helps me do better on the other side of things. I often put in my requests to use “HARO Subject” in Subject. You’d be surprised how many fail to do that. Based on this, it’s no wonder people disobey Peter’s numero uno rule. Furthermore, people embarrass themselves by sending a press release (PR) to media that have nothing to do with that industry, topic or anything. OK, I admit — sometimes we reporters don’t make ourselves clear (me, too).
So what are these simple, common sense rules that too many fail to follow? My top 8:
- Read the publication: Businesses and PR pros send me PR regarding video and audio apps. It doesn’t take much to figure out I don’t do video or audio unless it has captions.
- Contact the right reporter: You’re not going to send a company’s new computer product story to the sports reporter unless it’s about sports statistics.
- Copy the column style: Many publications have regular columns and features based on businesses and people. When submitting for these regulars, copy the style to improve your chances of getting in.
- Provide story ideas: Rather than tooting your company’s latest award (whoopee dee do), help the reporter by offering story ideas. Awards are best left on the company’s site and distributed in online PR sites rather than sent to reporters. I’m sure there are a few exceptions.
- Share trends: Noticing a trend in your industry or business that few know about yet? Help the reporter jump on it (remember to contact the right publication and the right reporter so it doesn’t go to waste).
- Select a few publications: Rather than trying to befriend everyone — pick a handful of publications and build those relationships. Simply contact the reporter to introduce yourself and ask if he/she is working on anything and needs resources.
- Follow the reporter’s request to a tee: I often provide what I need from folks, yet some people respond with the “John Doe is an author of such-n-such and speaks on this topics. Call me to set up an interview.” Hello? The questions are right there — answer ’em or kiss the opportunity good-bye.
- Respect the reporter’s preferred communication method: I always put “No phone calls” in my requests. However, I know that some think it applies to the initial contact and that I’ll call ’em. When it’s in my control, I skip the calls. If your expert doesn’t have time to email, I know others who do.
Bonus points: Research the reporter before making contact. Here’s a challenge. What can you find out about me? Both personal and professional?
My favorite story: I received a book about adopting cats to review. The only time I’ve ever mentioned cats was a few years ago when there was a internet cat joke floating around. I’m a dog person and I don’t review books about animals unless the title just happens to have an animal in the name such as Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? (it’s NOT about cats!).
If you have a product or book, you can send it to the publication, blogger or web site. But contacting them first ensures a better chance of seeing the item get reviewed. Besides, why waste a copy of Taking Care of Your Adopted Cat on me? I just donate it and hope someone can use it.
FYI: I don’t make a big deal out of those who can’t follow the simple “Subject” instructions — just giving you an example of something that’s easy to follow.
What other ways do you build your relationship with the media and get publicity?