On Ragan.com today, Lindsey Miller reports that PR pros now have a third service to use to get their clients in front of the media. Newly launched Reporter Connection joins Help Out A Reporter (HARO) and Profnet as the newest online resource providing a deadline-intensive window into the world of breaking news. All three connect reporters to PR people, who want to position their experts for stories. Knowing about these leads is only part of the battle; you have to come up with thoughtful, well written and persuasive pitches that stand out. Only then can you convince the journalist that your source has a unique take on the trend and is quote-worthy.
I have used both Profnet (as a paid subscriber through PR Newswire) and HARO, a free service run since 2008 by Peter Shankman). A nice attribute Profnet offers is being able to post a short bio on your expert that subscribers can access anytime. Both HARO and Profnet organize leads by category and push out digests of these new leads to their subscriber base daily (sometimes more often). I love the breadth and scope of HARO’s base of journalists and the fact that it is a free service. Anytime you can position a client as a resource to the media and help them make their story better is a win-win for you as a PR professional and for the reporter.
The journalist-PR pro exchange is always a delicate (and sometimes tense) dance of give and take, where the reporter needs sources, but he or she doesn’t always have time to make nice with PR folks, especially if in return they will find their inbox flooded with press releases. On the other hand, public relations professionals are paid to raise their clients’ profile, but they need to do it with the long-term picture in mind. It’s unreasonable to expect a steady stream of in-depth profiles. Clients need to know that they must invest their time and their knowledge without the immediate expectation that they will be the article’s main attraction. More likely, they may get a well-placed quote in the context of a larger trend story. When working with journalists, it’s critical to find out what their hot buttons are and educate clients on how the news cycle works. Put simply, it’s not about us.
“What I like about Profnet and HARO is they do give you a chance to see a story in progress and decide if you have an expert who can help with that story, which as a good PR person, you want your clients to be resources for stories,” says Mitch Leff, owner of Atlanta-based Mitch’s Media Match.com, the local Atlanta equivalent of these national services.
Mitch started his service a few years ago after local media told him they wanted local sources for stories. His service has 150 experts, representing a diverse range of industries, including education, economics, real estate, sports and healthcare.”One interesting thing I found after I launched the service is there are a lot of media requests for a general reaction, so I created a separate category of ‘man-on-the-street’ type queries. The AJC does a lot of stories about jobs and employment and they like to quote real people who have recently lost or got a job, for example.”
Building a relationship with reporters is key. “If you want to be a part of a story, you want to pitch how your expert can be part of that story. Not every story is going to be about your company,” Mitch says.
Clearly, as newspaper pages (and the number of papers) continue to shrink, it’s becoming more and more important to build a relationship with reporters, Mitch says.
Some PR pros I spoke with disagree, noting that the relationship building, while nice, may be challenging given that there are fewer journalists to reach, and those who are on a news desk today could be reassigned or riffed tomorrow. In addition, these media workers have less time to build rapport than ever before, given that many are writing for multiple beats and are expected to produce content for both print and online channels. Your story angle and the quality of your source are king.
“It’s nice to build relationships, but you have to come to a reporter with something real; they don’t have time to just relationship build,” notes Dan Marcus, president of Marcus Associates LLC., a 10-year communications and marketing consulting firm based in Connecticut. Dan ran PR for PanAmSat prior to starting his own company. Before that, he was a journalist.”I’ve worked a lot with financial columnists and I always approach them in the context of what they’re writing about.”
Everyone agrees that a great starting point is to know what the reporters want to talk about. Check out the resources above and tell me what you think.