If You are Going to Help a Reporter, Remember to be helpful

Help a Reporter, as it says was designed to be helpful to both the PR pro and the reporter. I know that as a PR pro I have scored many cool PR opportunities for my clients by answering queries. As a contributing writer for PR Breakfast Club, I have often used this service to get quotes and answer topics for stories that I am writing.

Being the recipient of pitches has been very interesting to say the least. I have quickly learned that there is a huge difference between the helpful query response and the annoying query response. I would say that the majority of people who answer my queries are from agencies. They stick out like a sore thumb as opposed to the in house practitioner responding to a query. The answers are often quick and generic from the agency rep.

Having been on both sides of the HARO query table I wanted to offer some recommendations and tips that PR pros can use to more successfully craft those pitches. I know that based on my experience as a recipient I have changed my query responses dramatically. We all want to land placement opportunities for our companies and clients, so here are my recommendations for the PR pro in responding to a HARO query.

  • Pay attention to what the query says. The query includes the details such as the deadline and the first steps that the reporter is asking you to do. Often times I include the questions I need answered in the query. You would not believe the number of people who respond to the query with “pitches” on how they are qualified to answer my questions and to please send them what they can answer. This automatically throws up a red flag that you have not read the query in its entirety and creates an extra step for the reporter to resend you the questions, if they resend them at all.
  • Make the expert respond. PR pros often respond with the answer that their boss is available to me to get any answers I need or here is such and such client who can answer my questions. That is great but if my query listed what I am looking for, you should be proactive and provide the reporter with the specifics as outlined in the query. Skip the middle man and go straight to the source. You can even respond to the query on their behalf including their answer but eliminate the middle man pitch.
  • Don’t respond to the query with a question. If your initial response to the query is, “Where will this run?” Just save the time in even responding. If the reporter wanted you to know they would have included it in the query. Besides that, are you qualifying media outlets to see if they are worth your time to respond? How rude.
  • Have a helpful email signature. When I receive a response that is on target and I want to use it or quote it in my story, I should not have to hunt down your name and company. A PR pro should provide all pertinent information in the pitch. We are all so good about getting our clients properly documented as spokespeople but it is surprising how many responses I get where the practitioner forgets to even include their name. Don’t forget the details.
  • You are not alone. Remember that hundreds if not thousands respond to just one single query. You need to make your response as comprehensive as it can be because if you don’t the reporter can easily delete yours and move on to another response that makes it easy for them. Remember to K.I.S.S.
  • Save the bio. PR pros often respond to me with the bio of who can answer my questions. Sometimes it is a client other times it is a supervisor, usually the bios are several paragraphs and name names of companies or people that I have no idea of who they are. I am sure it is relevant in that market but it is not on a national level. Make sure your entire pitch is not a copy and pasted bio. Be personable and tell the reporter what makes your query response stand out from the oodles of others they have received.
  • The article is what it is. I do my best to let my experts know that they will be quoted in advance. I know it is exciting to see your name and a great PR tool for your company to use. The experts I quote often times email asking if I can change the story to mention a client, add a link to their company website or blog or anything else they forgot to include in their original query response after the story has run. Remember it is generated media and not ad placement. What is used from your HARO query response is at the discretion of the reporter.

Help a Reporter is great resource for PR pros to have and it presents opportunities not found elsewhere. Stay focused and don’t get sloppy just because you’re emailing a reporter you don’t know. Remember, it is easy to spot a quality PR pro in the batch of query responses by the time that was taken to craft the answer.

Happy pitching!