Friday, April 25, 2008

How to Respond to ProfNet, PRLeads, and Helpareporter.com Queries, Part 2


Yesterday's post addressed the wrong way to respond to ProfNet/PRLeads/Helpareporter.com media queries. Today's commentary is about how to do it right.

The following format certainly isn't the only way to respond to queries, but it's one that helps me decide if a responder is an appropriate source for my needs. It's also one that I use when responding to queries as an author -- one that often generates interviews about my book topics, so I know it has value. It's not the only way to respond, of course, but it can be a good starting point for you.
  • Copy and paste the query title into your e-mail subject line. That's especially helpful for the journalist with more than one query.
  • Start with your credentials. What makes you qualified to contribute to this article or segment?
  • Take one or two sentences to offer your perspective. Maybe it's your opinion, something counter-intuitive, or information that validates the article premise.
  • If I'm looking for an expert, offer advice in three or four bullet points. This will help me see your perspective and determine if you'll be telling me something I haven't gotten from anyone else yet. Note that while I don't quote from these bullet points, many other writers do, so be aware that what you write might appear later in print. I personally prefer to do telephone interviews, but I realize that many just pull comments from the responses of experts without a direct conversation or even acknowledgement that the information will be used.
  • If I'm looking for an anecdote to illustrate a point rather than an expert, and you represent that anecdote, offer it in just a few sentences.
  • If you're an expert, provide a link to an online bio or copy and paste it into the response. If you have a Web site, include the URL.
  • Include contact information I can use to schedule an interview.

Ttry not to ramble and avoid attachments. If you think in terms of what you'd want to know about an expert source for that article, I'm sure you'll respond appropriately.

Finally, let me know how I can help you with this. If you've got questions, ask. Want somebody to look over your response? Send it along. Reach me at sbATsandrabeckwith.com. I'm here to help.

7 comments:

Jen A. Miller said...

Thanks, Sandra, for doing this. I use profnet and HARO and couldn't tell you how many untargeted and "I have the perfect person for you -- call me" replies I get.

Another thing to note is that sometimes I won't be able to use a pitched source for one story but will keep that expert on file for another. Even if the person doing the pitching doesn't hear back from me right away -- if it's a good pitch -- they might down the line.

Akinol said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Very good info here - I didn't realize that a reporter would want so many details on the first reply. Thanks for the tips, I'll be using them on my next HARO response!

Anonymous said...

I do all of the above and have been quoted in many national publications through HARO.

One other thing: I usually say at the end of the email, "If you choose to use my comments, please try to mention one of my book."

This makes the nice quid pro quo explicit: the reporter gets useful content, & I get exposure for my books. I find it annoying when I take the time to respond to a query, and the reporter only mentions my name and not a book title. I'm doing this to keep my books alive, not because I love seeing my name in print.

I say "try" because sometimes things get cut by editors.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Regarding that last comment, you bring up a good point. Writers like using authors as resources and more often than not will use the book title as the expert's credential. It gets tricky, though, when the expert unwittingly presents us with many options for how we identify them in the article. This happens with long "about me" bios, etc. So...if you focus on your book as your credential, it's more likely that the book is the credential that will be used.

Also, when interviewed by phone or in pesron, it's OK to say, "I think the best way to identify me for this piece is as the author of XYZ -- it seems to be the most relevant option."

Thanks,
Sandy

Vivian Kirkfield said...

Hi Sandy,
I've signed up for HARO again...because of the success I had with Reporter Connection. :) But now I know why I discontinued using Haro in the first place...perhaps I am doing something wrong...but it is almost impossible to send the email. Unlike Reporter Connection, where you click on a link and it takes you to a form that you fill out and submit, Haro's links don't work (for me at least) and I have to copy and paste the addres...it almost always comes back undeliverable...and that is after I have spent time composing the answer. I think I have to send them an email, asking if there is a trick to replying. :)

Sandra Beckwith said...

Vivian, when I click on the link to use to respond to a query, my Outlook software opens up. The same thing happens when I try it from my web-based option.

I would definitely send them an e-mail that includes the software or platform you're using to respond. They should be able to help you. (And I think it's worth the follow-up.)

Good luck!