PR “news tip” services you can’t live without

We all know that marketers are being asked to do more with less — but if we’re squeezed for time and staff, consider the plight of the average editor, producer, or content manager. While marketing departments were trimmed during the last few years, newsrooms across the country were slashed.

They were already struggling to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle.  Now the increasing demands of electronic and social media have placed on them to deliver fresh content faster are hitting at a time when staff levels are at an all time low and freelance budgets are, too.

Enter a new kind of entrepreneur whose focus is connecting source-hungry reporters with subject matter experts who are interested in media exposure.  The best known of these is Peter Shankman, whose HARO service uses the motto, “Everyone’s an expert at something.”  It’s true — whether you’re a lawyer, blogger, entrepreneur, or corporate marketer, if you look at the “news tip” services regularly, you’re sure to spot a reporter who’s looking for information on your area of expertise.

Here are the six services that marketers need to monitor regularly.

  • HARO – “Help a Reporter Out” is Peter Shankman’s 3X daily email newsletter that connects writers (bloggers, journalists, broadcasters) to sources.  It’s free to sources and journalists, and paid for by advertisers with products to sell to one or both.
  • ProfNet — A subscription-based service that distributes daily emails featuring expert requests from reporters, academic researchers, authors, bloggers, financial analysts and government officials.
  • NewsBasis— A service that allows users to connect with reporters within a virtual community setting. The New York-based company was founded by former Wired magazine reporter, Darryl Siry.
  • SourceYourCity— A new service that is unique in its focus on making local connections. SourceYourCity focuses on engaging local reporters with local sources, but can also serve as a resource for national reporters looking to source particular local or regional markets.
  • Media Kitty — Focusing on a single vertical, travel tourism, Media Kitty connects travel-tourism writers with relevant sources.
  • Reporter Connection — A free daily email service connecting journalists with experts available for interviews.

Each service has its own rules for contacting reporters, but the truth is that there are four things you need to remember when you make your pitch.

  1. The reporter is looking for a source because he or she has already decided what they are going to write about, and they are on a deadline.  So a pitch that says, “I’m an expert on pink elephants, please call me to discuss” isn’t likely to get a response.  Sure, it’s short, but it isn’t compelling. 
  2. You don’t need to be Hemingway to write a short, compelling response to a reporter’s query.  But you do need to sound intelligent — so spelling, grammar, and (above all) relevance matter. 
  3. Answer the reporter’s question in the body of your email response.  If he says, “What do pink elephants eat?” tell him what you feed your pink elephant — don’t say, “Check out my great website/blog on pink elephants.”
  4. Remember, it’s a numbers game for the reporter.  Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a response to your first (or 21st) pitch.  Do your best to provide timely, concise, relevant, interesting information, and you’ll get results over time.

A lot of my friends are technology journalists, and last week their tweets and Facebook posts were filled with complaints about the truly awful pitches they were getting from PR people desperate to piggyback on the big news story of the week (Steve Job’s resignation as Apple’s CEO, in case you were busy diving the Sardine Run and missed it) with far-fetched pitches.  “What Steve Job’s resignation means to the metal fabrication industry” and “My day with Steve Jobs” (circa 1988) were two that stand out in the stream of grumbles that flashed by. 

Don’t make that mistake.  You can afford to wait for an opportunity that’s really relevant to your business — because if you can’t, then you’re missing the point of PR.  It’s just one tool in the toolkit.  If it’s not relevant to your business, it’s not good PR.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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