PR Tips For Using HARO, Qwoted and ProfNet

For PR teams, the most common way to secure media coverage involves announcements, data and proactive pitches. Yet there are always times when proactive pitching doesn’t work, or when announcements and data are relatively light. It’s times like these when PR folks must figure out how to supplement their planned pitching to continue to drive media interest at a good pace. And there are a number of tools – both free and subscription-based – that help generate a steady stream of opportunities. Examples of these include HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and Qwoted, which are both free, and ProfNet, which requires a subscription for those wishing to respond. 

For those unfamiliar, these platforms allow reporters to post requests for commentary from sources they can use for a specific story. PR folks can sign up for e-newsletters that are usually delivered multiple times a day with more information about the requests, including contact info, story description and deadline. Taking a few minutes to browse these lists is a good practice for identifying story ideas and interview opportunities.

While they’re a great tool for PR people, it’s easy for your submission to be overlooked. With that in mind, there are ways to increase the likelihood that the reporter will see (and hopefully use) your client’s comments. 

Pick your spots

The number of inquiries served up by these platforms, especially when you subscribe to several, can be overwhelming, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to respond to all of them. Nor should you try. When reviewing them, you want to be selective and pick the ones that are the best fit. Since each receives so many responses (anywhere from 10 to nearly 100, depending on the topic or publication), you might think that submitting for as many as possible will increase your chances of inclusion. In reality, it’s likely a waste of time. A better strategy for sifting through the dozens of requests in each newsletter is to search for topics and keywords that you know are relevant to the stories you want to tell. 

Be first to the punch

Queries on these sites are all given deadlines that presumably coincide with the reporter’s editorial deadline for each piece. If you think one of the brands you represent is right for a given opportunity, submit as soon as possible. Waiting means the reporter may have everything they need for the story before they get to your submission. Being first to the punch is one of the easiest ways to improve the chances of being included in the piece. 

Offer a unique perspective 

If your spokesperson has an original or contrarian point of view or an unexpected take in response to the query, by all means submit it. With reporters receiving so many replies, sharing something you think could be different will help it stand out in the crowd. Also, feel free to bring suggestions or guide your spokesperson’s responses in a direction that works for the story. Most PR people spend lots of time reading and researching stories, so chances are they have ideas about the commentary that can improve a story. Use this knowledge to make your submissions as strong and insightful as possible.  

Keep responses tight

Reporters aren’t looking for you to write the story for them, but rather for help enhancing it. They’re on deadline, so they can’t spend time reading pages of insights from a single company. So when submitting, it’s best practice to keep your responses short, punchy and no longer than a paragraph or two. When you bring a journalist query to an expert spokesperson they might look at it as a time to show off everything they know about the topic. Help them trim the fat and figure out what’s most important to include in their response to make it less overwhelming. 

Manage expectations

Just because you submit something doesn’t mean it will be used. In fact, it would be reasonable to assume that more submissions will be skipped than not. When bringing the opportunity to a spokesperson or client, it’s a good idea to use words like “potential” and “consider” so they understand that the reporter is collecting responses from many people to consider for inclusion in their piece. It’s okay if it doesn’t get used! 

Repurpose commentary

It’s smart to limit the time you spend responding to reporter queries through these services by being short and selective. But don’t assume that submissions that aren’t used are wasted. Many can be repurposed into another pitch or byline, or they can spark another idea. Save your pitches for adaptation to your media story calendar, reactive response pitching, or bylined content.

While these platforms will never replace PR plans, they can bring opportunities. Focus on a fresh take, then be short, selective, simple, and swift, and you will see a better ROI for the time spent. 

8 Ways To Make Your PR Program More Social

Social media is like a “secret sauce” for marketing communications. It isn’t always strong enough on its own, but it adds flavor and power to a traditional program. The key is integration.  Here are some simple steps for “socializing” a PR campaign, even if it’s a DIY (do it yourself) variety.

Set clear goals. Many companies feel pressure to make a deeper commitment to social media, yet they haven’t defined their objectives.  Do you want to drive traffic to a commerce site? Enhance reputation?  Target influencers?  Change sentiment?  Each will, of course, inform a different set of metrics, as detailed by measurement expert K.D. Paine.

Start by listening. If your brand or business is being discussed online, you’re probably already using tools to monitor the conversation. But, even if you’re off the social radar, there are relevant industry issues, trends or competitive activity that can help inform a strategy. Sometimes what you learn can even translate into quick visibility. A simple Google Alerts for your industry’s hot topics can help identify bloggers and media who cover those subjects. It might also let you jump on breaking news with your own commentary or content.

Use social platforms to build relationships. Twitter, with its liberal follow model, is unbeatable as a social tool for reaching influential media and analysts.  This is particularly valuable when more and more reporters hide behind voicemail or email. Check out Muck Rack, which organizes all journalists on Twitter into “beats,” build your own lists, or join relevant Twibes to engage users. You can also check out relevant LinkedIn discussion groups, or start your own.

Take advantage of socialized PR tools. ProfNet, or its free counterpart, HARO, are powerful ways to match media needs and interests with experts. And there’s an entire online world of press release distribution sites and engines for announcements. Check out PR Web, pitchengine, and mynewsdesk, to name just a few.

Create content. Of course, creating content is where many programs stall. If a corporate opinion blog is too much to take on, consider aggregating industry trends or issues once a week, linking and giving credit to other sources. Or, set a goal of commenting weekly on industry blogs. If that’s too much, arrange to guest blog for a trade publication or content site on a regular basis.

Reuse, recycle, repurpose.  Remember that an industry speech can be easily converted to a bylined article for a trade or business publication, which can then be republished as a blog post. In some cases, all you need do is shorten or reformat, and add a topical lead.

Optimize your PR content. Don’t forget to enhance press releases. Consider using multimedia; it serves two needs by being more searchable and more compelling to journalists and bloggers.

Anticipate feedback.  Clearly, the “command and control” messaging days are gone. Socialized news announcements and content will seek – and in many cases provide response mechanisms for – public feedback.  Have a plan for responding to engaged users, and be ready with a fully “socialized” issues and crisis plan if your brand is vulnerable.

This post recently appeared on the Marketing Executives Networking Group’s MENGBlend blog.

HARO And ProfNet Dos And Don’ts

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and ProfNet are great sources for PR professionals to get daily inquiries from reporters looking for content, interviews, experts and insight to help them complete a story. The sources typically send requests on a tight deadline, and the requests need to be treated with urgency. If the story being discussed isn’t a fit for your client now, no worries, this contact becomes someone you can  add to your media list.

Here at Crenshaw, we check HARO and ProfNet hourly and try to be the first ones to reach out to reporters to get the best results. Keep in mind that you’re not the only responder, so you’ll have to make your pitch stand out by getting to the point quickly with a pithy response.

Dos and Don’ts of HARO and ProfNet responses:

DO read the post carefully – Does the reporter want a response to a question at this point are they seeking leads on appropriate sources to interview? Read and respond accordingly.

DO provide your own contact information, not your client’s. Be the first point of contact and then put the two together, but DON’T be hard to reach. Leave all the ways you can be contacted with your most up-to-date information so you are easily accessible.

DO shamelessly use HARO and ProfNet as a “trend-indicator” to develop some pitches of your own. These sources often presage what’s timely and trendy just before it makes the airwaves.

DO provide examples of previous relevant media and press, when providing an expert. It’s always helpful to demonstrate prior experience and media successes.

DON’T describe your client in excruciating detail. Give as much relevant information as you can but not their entire story. A reporter will respond to you if they are interested, then you can provide more.

DON’T let clients answer queries on their own unless you have edited their response or they have a true knack for PR-type writing.

DON’T try to “force-fit” your client into a story pitch that they are just not right for. But if they are “close” – DO contact that reporter for another pitch at another time. The reporter knows exactly what they’re writing about for this particular story. Scour the queries for interesting reporters and beats to add to your own media list for the future.

What are your most successful (or most horrific) HARO/ProfNet stories? Do you read and respond regularly?