Posts Tagged ‘media’

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

November 17, 2015 by Kay Paumier


haro_197x78I’ve used HARO (Help a Reporter Out) for years and think it is one of the best PR services out there. This free service, which is provided by Cision, helps reporters quickly and easily connect with sources for their stories.

At this point, more than 30,000 journalists have quoted HARO sources in their articles. I have successfully arranged interviews for clients with major general and trade media, and a colleague was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to HARO postings.

Here’s how it works. Three times a day HARO emails or tweets inquiries from reporters looking for sources for their stories. The inquiries are divided into topics including business and finance, health, technology and travel.

The inquiries are all different, and generally include this information:

  • The type of person the reporter is looking for (e.g., experts in child care, accountants, people who eat lunch at their desks)
  • The topic (e.g., front-yard vegetable gardens, cloud computing, time-management tips)
  • The deadline (some are quite short.)
  • The contact information.

Urgent requests are also posted on Twitter.

PR people and other interested parties respond explaining how they can help. The result: the reporters get a better story and organizations get media coverage.

Of course, there are some caveats. HARO has become incredibly popular and competitive. As of this writing, more than 350,000 people subscribe to HARO, scanning inquiries from almost 30,000 journalists.

So I was glad that Cision published a tip sheet on HARO Best Practices. Here is my summary of its major points:

Re-read the source request.

Make sure you meet all the reporter’s criteria. If you aren’t a perfect fit, it’s a waste of your time to respond.

Respond quickly.

It’s best to respond within an hour of the request. (They go out at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. Eastern time.)

Proofread and edit.

Reporters will quickly delete poorly written replies.

Customize the subject line.

When you reply to a HARO source request, the subject line auto-populates. Stand out from the crowd by writing your own subject line.

Stay on topic.

Do not pitch the reporter on a different angle than indicated in the HARO inquiry. Doing so can get you thrown off the e-mail list.

Be brief.

Keep it short, five sentences or about 175 words or less.

Write in soundbites.

Many reporters quote directly from responses. Make your reply “quotable” and you’re more likely to be mentioned.

Include alternate contact information.

Make it easy for journalists to reach you. At the very least, include your phone number, email address, website and social media handles.

Build relationships with the media.

Connect with the reporters on LinkedIn and Facebook. Track their work; comment on their articles. Your first pitch might not be successful. However, if you develop a relationship, you’ll have a better chance when you respond to future inquiries.

Turn HARO into a content marketing machine.

If your pitch isn’t accepted, turn your reply into content for your blog.

Track your efforts.

Monitor your work with HARO. Test subject lines, email copy and media relations tactics.

As I said, HARO is one of the best tools for long-term, consistent public relations. I encourage you to use it. You can sign up at The entire HARO Best Practices tip sheet is available here.


PR Pitching for Smarties

October 20, 2015 by Kay Paumier

baseball_pitcherThere’s always something to learn about dealing with the media, which is why I read PR Pitching for Smarties: Master Your Approach to Building Great Media and Influencer Relationships by Marketwired.

The document starts with the premise that media relations and pitching remain very much a part of PR, although today require a new approach. Many of the pointers deal with building relationships and developing a good pitch.

Here are some tips I thought you might find interesting.

Build relationships

“You’ve got to think about building relationships instead of simply passing along information. After all, there’s a person on the other end.”

So learn about the people on the other side of your pitch. Take their styles and preferences into account when contacting them.

Be good to your friends, all the time. Show them respect. Always be kind. If you’re pleasant when your media contacts are stressed, they will be more apt to hear you out.

Know what’s on your target’s minds. Search their latest stories, posts and videos. Comment on their stories; ask meaningful questions. Go beyond complimenting them to actively drive page views to their material.

Relevant content builds relationships. Share such content with the journalist, even when there’s no immediate benefit to you. Connect your media contacts with other influencers and experts, even before you pitch. Both activities go a long way toward building relationships. Helping your targets first may open the door to a receptive pitch later on. It goes back to the impact of reciprocity; people want to return favors.

Build a solid pitch.

Learn how to craft a gem of a pitch that breaks through the clutter. Remember, it’s about the story, not the data. Start with the story and explain why the journalist’s audience would care before diving into proof points. “A pitch that starts with a headline-worthy message in the first sentence is much more likely to get attention than a stat-heavy paragraph.” Of course, back up your pitch with credible and accurate information.

Reframe your angle. Take yourself out of it and focus on the influencer’s audience. “How will your idea impact them? Omit or at least bury self-serving facts.”

Also, journalists today are programmed to think multimedia. So don’t just tell – show. Stories with interesting visuals can help you stand out in the crowd. Use video or infographics to make a story more compelling and to explain complicated information. Creative tools like a speed-drawing video can be attention-getting. Good visuals break the monotony of dry, word-heavy pitches, and can help journalists “get” how to bring the story to life.

Include multimedia and social media functionality in your news releases. Research shows that most journalists want high-res images in news releases, and many want web-quality video.

Whatever you do, keep your pitch short. “If Twitter’s taught us anything, it’s that brevity is more important than ever.”

And remember, no matter what you do some pitches will be rejected. (Yes, it’s true.) What you’re doing is increasing your odds of success by building the relationship and crafting the best pitch you can.

Some other gems

“Accept things are always going to be tipped toward the media or blogger. And that’s OK!”

“In order to help a journalist you have to think like a journalist, long before you pitch.”

“Have you checked your enthusiasm-and-energy meter lately? You have to be excited about your pitch to get anyone else excited about it.”

Some of this material came from advice from the three media relations experts featured in the tip sheet: Dan Ovsey (Edelman), Michael Smart (Michael Smart PR) and Martin Waxman (Martin Waxman Communications).

Again this is my take on some of the material. I encourage you to read the whole document.

Journalists and Social Media

September 15, 2015 by Kay Paumier

social_mediaThe 2015 Global Social Journalism Study, conducted by Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University (U.K.), produced some interesting findings and predictions about how journalists and media professionals use social media for their work.

I found these five conclusions the most interesting.

Journalists fit into five distinctive groups and are becoming more social media savvy.

The five groups are skeptics, observers, hunters, promoters and architects. Last year, skeptics outnumbered the observers (31 percent to 26 percent). This year, the opposite is true (29 percent are observers, 23 percent are skeptics). “This small shift suggests journalists’ use and attitudes towards social media are gradually moving towards acceptance as social media becomes an integral feature within the industry and their working life.”

The report describes each of the five groups in detail. The important point is that the various groups use social media differently, and media professionals need to take those differences into account when contacting journalists.

Social media is a routine tool for most journalists, but their use of it is stagnating.

Almost all the respondents (94 percent) use social media on a daily basis. However, after an initial rapid adoption of social media, the percentage of journalists using social media for more than two hours a day is declining. “This suggests that after the initial excitement of the introductory phase of social media, the journalists found an optimum amount of time to spend on social media. For most journalists, constant use presents no additional gains, and most are settling for up to two hours per day of use.”

About half the respondents believe they need social media to do their work.

Most of the respondents felt that social media made them more productive, and journalists in all six countries felt that social media had become more valuable the last few years. However, apparently social media doesn’t make their jobs any easier. Fully 85 percent of respondents thought social media had not decreased their workload.

Experts and PR professionals are key information sources for journalists.

U.S. respondents thought experts and PR professionals were the two most valuable sources of information. Only about one-third of the respondents felt they were less reliant on PR professionals because of social media, “suggesting that social media supplements journalists’ information (sources), but does not replace existing PR networks.”

Journalists prefer to be contacted by email, but social media is gathering pace.

Overwhelmingly, journalists want PR people to contact them by email. U.S. journalists rank social media as their second-favorite contact method, followed by phone calls.


Based on these results, the survey developers made the following predictions:

  • Time spent using social media is not going to increase significantly. Journalists will focus on a few preferred tools and some specialist apps to make social media work for them.
  • Although social media is increasing journalists’ productivity, it is not reducing their workload. Journalists will make strategic decisions about their principal use of social media and their preferred tools for achieving their work goals.
  • Email will continue to dominate the PR-journalist relationship. For journalists, the preference for telephone contact will continue to drop and be replaced by social media.
  • Journalists will continue to rely on experts so they do not compromise their values and views of their profession by sourcing from sources that are perceived to be unreliable.

About the Survey

This is the fourth year that Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University have done this survey. Journalists from 11 countries participated—the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Spain and France. However, the results only include responses from the first six countries listed, as they are the only ones that have participated all four years of the survey. Most of the findings are based on more than 3,000 respondents. Half were women and slightly less than half (48 percent) fell into the 28-45 age group.

I’ve only touched on a few highlights. I encourage you to read the report in its entirety. You’ll be glad you did.


Handling the Media Interview

September 1, 2015 by Kay Paumier

microphoneIf a reporter contacts you for an interview, you need to respond quickly or you may miss a great opportunity to promote your company or organization. Most reporters work on tight timelines so if you delay, they will probably interview someone else.

That said, media interviews are tricky and not for the faint of heart. Some people have tried to “wing it” and learn media-interview techniques by trial and error. That’s not recommended. Even seasoned interviewees have been trapped into saying things they later regretted.

Savvy businesspeople prepare for interviews well before the opportunity presents itself, so that they can respond quickly and effectively. Many hire professional media interview trainers or PR consultants to help with this preparation.

Here are some of the techniques I have used to train clients for interviews. The first tips deal with preparing for the interview. The other tips cover the interview itself.

Before the Interview

Prepare. Develop several ways of repeating your basic messages so you can repeat your points without sounding repetitious.

Outline your stories, your examples, your “proof.” Of these, the stories are the most important. We are hard-wired to respond to stories. People remember them, repeat them and learn from them. So have several stories “up your sleeve.”

Find out as much information as you can about the interview, including the name and title of the interviewer; the publication, blog, program or research firm; and the approximate publication or broadcast date.

Research the interviewer and topic. Do an online search for recent articles or reports. It’s important to be up to date. You want to be seen as a source of information.

Determine the questions you think might be asked. Outline your answers in writing.

Practice. Do a mock interview with a professional trainer. It’s one thing to read about interviews; it’s quite another thing to be in the middle of one.

During the Interview

Here are some techniques you can practice during the mock interview.

Think of the interview as a conversation with an important customer or prospect.

Take control of the interview as much as possible. You are the expert and every question is an “invitation” to repeat your messages.

Listen to the whole question. Think about the answer before you speak.

Make your main point(s) early in the interview and repeat them periodically.

Answer briefly, using short words and simple sentences. Illustrate your points with stories and examples.

Outline your answers. (e.g., “I’d like to make two points.”)

Don’t talk “off the record” or say “no comment.”

Above all, don’t let the interviewer trap you into saying something you’ll regret.

Your trainer can help you with these, and many other techniques, to assure that the interview is of great value to your organization.

How to Get a Reporter to Read Your E-Mail

August 18, 2015 by Kay Paumier

businessman_at_laptopA reporter’s job is not easy. They are faced with multiple deadlines, with writing and producing visuals for both print and online, and with trying to become an expert (or at least proficient) in dozens of subjects.

Unfortunately, this heavy workload makes it harder for you to connect with traditional reporters. Here are some tips for getting their attention.

Pitch the right person. It amazes me that so many PR people target the wrong reporters, especially with the amount of information available today. Search for articles about your topic and pitch the reporters covering the “space.” Check the publication’s beat list, which is often online. Search in a PR database for appropriate media outlets and reporters that cover your industry.

Pitch people over products. Show the product or service in action—how it’s helping businesses be more profitable, doctors save lives and teachers educate the younger generation.

Or craft a story around how the product was developed. What were the problems? Challenges? Obstacles? Who was involved? Where did the idea come from? Give reporters a plot and you’ll increase the chances they’ll “bite” on your story idea.

Make your email subject line work for you. To avoid the dreaded “delete” key, include important keywords in your subject line. Even better, refer to past articles or coverage. A subject line that says “about your story on….” can dramatically increase the chances that your email will be read.

Begin with ( “what’s in it for them.” Tell the reporters why they should care in the first paragraph of the pitch. Provide the facts—the who, what, when, where, why and how—at the beginning.

Go heavy on data. Reporters love statistics. Give them timely information from reputable sources. Put the word “statistics” in your subject line. Bullet the data in your email or pitch. This will help establish you as a source.

Avoid attachments. Any attachment will probably be lost or get stripped away. Include pertinent data in the message or provide links for the reporters to get the information online.

Have a good online news room. Increasingly reporters rely on online newsrooms for research. Make sure yours is complete, easy to search and accessible. Include high-quality, downloadable visuals and video.

Be active on social media. Reporters say they look for experts and story ideas on virtually all the major social media platforms. Pick the most important one or two platforms and be “present” there. In the best of possible worlds, the reporters might start calling you without you even pitching them.

In short, make it easy for the reporter. Do as much of the research and creative thinking as possible. That’s the easiest, most effective way to get media attention.


Make Every Pitch Count

May 5, 2015 by Kay Paumier

baseball_pitcherIn the PR world, “pitching” refers to suggesting something to a reporter, editor or blogger. The suggestion could be a story idea, an interview, a product review or the like.

A pitch can focus on generating immediate coverage or on longer-term ideas and opportunities. The immediate goal is to get to first base, to generate enough interest that the reporter wants more.

The trick is to have something interesting to offer, and to state that idea in a compelling manner. You don’t have much time. Most reporters take only three to five seconds before deciding whether to reject an idea.

In any event, “pitching” is one of the primary PR skills. It’s also one of the most challenging. A good pitch:

  • Is persuasive and interesting.
  • Gains the reporter’s attention.
  • Gives essential facts.
  • Calls the reporter to action.

Pitches can be written or verbal. Even if pitching by phone, it is good to write a short outline.

How can you develop an effective pitch? Here are some tips.

Know your target. Study the publication or program. Make sure the pitch fits them. Match their style as much as possible. You would not pitch The Wall Street Journal the same way you pitch Rolling Stone.

Personalize the pitch. Identify the right person for your pitch. If necessary, check the publication’s masthead. Better yet, read the publication and identify who covers your industry.

Make it clear that you have done your homework. Point out that the topic would be a good follow-up to a previous report. Suggest a particular section in the publication or program. Or cite some demographic information that shows why your story is appropriate for the readers. (You can find demographic information in the publication’s media kit, which is often available online.) Reporters like to know that you’re paying attention.

In PR, familiarity does not breed contempt. It often breeds success.

Start at the end. Think about what you’d like the final article to look like. Imagine a headline and subhead. Focus your writing to achieve that goal.

Write a good e-mail subject line. If you’re e-mailing the pitch, make sure your subject line tells your story quickly and convincingly.

Write a good lead. You need to immediately draw the reporter into your pitch. You might start either by “writing” the first paragraph of the story, referring to your conversation with the reporter (if you’ve connected by phone), or mentioning a previous article the reporter wrote. Statistics, stories, questions and dramatic statements often work well.

Some samples:

  • “What do Barbie, eBay and Bank of America have in common?”
  • “Jim Ed Jones was enchanted with technology, until he realized the gadgets were running his life.”
  • “For 40 million Americans, it is good news indeed.”

Present the broad story. Take your idea beyond your client or company, and focus on its larger impact. Will the idea help or hurt the economy? Your industry? Your area? Will it tie into a “hot” topic? Spell out the impact; don’t expect the reporter to figure it out.

Focus on the readers’ needs. What is the readers’ pain? How will they benefit from your suggestion?

Think about the obstacles. What would make the reporter turn down your suggestion? Is it too complicated? Too simple? Too similar to the publication’s other stories? Or too different? Think about possible objections and address them in your pitch.

Be specific. Give evidence – statistics, research and stories – to support your idea. Do the reporters’ work for them and you’ll increase your chances of success.

Make the pitch short and easy to read. It should only be a few paragraphs, one e-mail screen or one page. Use short words and sentences.

If appropriate, go negative. People are typically more motivated by the fear of loss (the “pain”) than by the promise of gain. So it might be more compelling to pitch a way to avoid a tax audit than to pitch tips on saving money on taxes.

Do not make the pitch too promotional. Stay factual and avoid hyperbole. Remember, you need to present an idea the reporter can use.

Do not send attachments. You can, however, link to your website and other resources.

Provide “extras” when possible. Offer photos or information for graphics. Offer to connect the reporter with industry experts, spokespeople and customers.

If you follow these recommendations, you’ll increase the chances that reporters will pay attention to your pitch.

A final note: In this discussion, I’ve referred to “readers.” However, the tips work just as well for broadcast media.

The Online Newsroom: Results of the Latest TEKGROUP Study

April 7, 2015 by Kay Paumier

News_imageThe TEKGROUP recently announced the results of its annual survey about online newsrooms. I found the results interesting. Here are some highlights:

  • Journalists overwhelming expect companies or organizations to have online newsrooms. Fully 97 percent say that it is important.
  • Most journalists visit company newsrooms regularly (at least once a month). And they visit newsrooms for small companies as well as large.
  • Fully 77 percent of the respondents thought that the newsroom should have an easy-to-remember URL.

Most Important Elements

Journalists felt that the most important elements in an online newsroom are:

  • Search functionality
  • PR contacts
  • News releases
  • Photos
  • Breaking news
  • Email alerts
  • Product information
  • Crisis communications
  • Event calendars
  • Social media
  • Executive bios
  • Information requests.

A few notes on these elements:

Search functionality: 98 percent want to be able to easily access the material.

PR contacts: It continually surprises me that some companies hide their PR contact information. Clearly not a good idea.

News releases: Almost all the respondents wanted to be able to access news releases, and 95 percent of them want those releases to be organized by the type of news.

Photos: 96 percent of journalists wanted both high- and low-res photos. Additionally, 81 percent thought video was very important.

Breaking news: 93 percent of journalists said that it’s important to be able to access breaking news.

E-mail alerts: E-mail is still far and away the best way to reach journalists. However, journalists prefer quality over quantity. Most of them (75 percent) prefer to receive notifications only about news that is relevant to their work.

Product information: It only makes sense to have product information easily available, so that journalists can easily access product details.

Crisis communication: In a crisis, your online newsroom is one of the first places journalists will turn to for information. It’s recommended that you have a “dark” microsite ready for crisis communications.

Events calendar: This information increases the chance journalists will cover your events.

Social media: Nearly nine in 10 respondents said that it’s important for a newsroom to link to a company’s social media pages. What’s more, about the same percentage said they visit corporate Facebook pages, and 93 percent said they read blogs about companies, products and services.

Executive bios: Having bios online means journalists can easily check names and titles.

Information requests: Almost 90 percent of journalists want to be able to submit an information request online.

One last point. Most journalists (75 percent) want to be able to access this information from mobile devices.

These highlights are good reminders of some best practices. I encourage you to read the full report.

Getting Publicity from Surveys

March 3, 2015 by Kay Paumier

Surveys are a great way to generate publicity, but many surveys fail to live up to their potential because of a faulty design, an ineffective news release, or both.

That’s why I was happy to see the excellent report from Researchscape, “Amp UP News Releases with Newsmaker Surveys,” which contains a wealth of good information.

The company analyzed more than 250 survey news releases to identify best practices and common mistakes. They also interviewed reporters about their attitudes towards such surveys. Their findings are comprehensive and (I found) very helpful.

Here are some of my favorite points:

Multiple Releases

A well-designed questionnaire can provide material for two or three news releases. On average, a survey news release reports the findings from five questions. Fifteen percent of releases in the survey reported on the results of a single question.

Economies of Scales

“A simple yes-no question won’t give you much to report on.” A matrix question, where respondents select from a common scale (e.g., “daily,” “weekly,” or “monthly “) has greater potential for generating news.


Reporters are more likely to report on surveys that follow best practices. Among other items, this means that a third-party research firm (not the sponsoring organization) conducted the research.

Campaign Assets

“Most survey news releases simply include a summary of key findings of the survey, without accompaniment.” The report recommends adding other assets, such as charts, graphs and infographics; the questions themselves; and an explanation of the methodology.

Optimizing Releases for Prospects

Offering a corresponding white paper is a great way to encourage visitors to go to the company’s website. “Many white papers are simply presentations of the survey results, with an introductory slide, one slide per question and a methodology slide.” However, it only makes sense to have the person first fill in a contact-information form in exchange for the white paper. (Only 7 percent of the survey releases examined had such a form.)

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes in writing survey news releases include:

  • Overgeneralizing—“More than 75 percent of Americans love widgets.”
  • Being overly precise—Using figures such as“15.76 percent” instead of “almost 16 percent” decreases comprehension.
  • Claiming a sampling error—Sampling errors do not apply for most online surveys.
  • Having too few respondents—For consumer surveys, about 1,000 responses are needed to be credible to the media.
  • Failing to disclose the basics—It’s important to include the number of people in the survey, the dates it was conducted, and the like.
  • And not linking to resources—As mentioned previously, having graphics and other written material can increase the pickup and value of the release.

Again, these are just some highlights from this report, which I highly recommend you read.

Publicity Opportunities in March

February 3, 2015 by Kay Paumier

MARCHMarch has lots of great anniversaries and celebrations. Among other things, it celebrates National Women’s History Month, International Mirth Month, and (dear to my heart) National Grammar Day and National Proofreading Day.

These types of celebrations offer opportunities for publicity. For example, March 10 is the anniversary of the invention of the telephone. How could someone take advantage of that? Well:

  • Telecommunications companies could do a historical reflection on how far we’ve come in the process showcasing their current and upcoming products and services.
  • Executive coaches could give guidance on correct telephone etiquette.
  • A professional writer could run a contest, asking people to write funny telephone greetings.

Got the idea? Here are some other events, celebrated throughout the entire month of March:

  • American Red Cross Month
  • International Mirth Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • National Women’s History Month

And here are other events celebrated during March:

  • March 1: Plan a Solo Vacation Day
  • March 3-9: Celebrate Your Name Week
  • March 3-9: National Procrastination Week
  • March 4: National Grammar Day
  • March 8: National Proofreading Day
  • March 9: Genealogy Day
  • March 10: Telephone Invention: Anniversary
  • March 11-17: Brain Awareness Week
  • March 12: Organize Your Home Office Day
  • March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
  • March 20: Start of Spring

What Do Journalists Want?

December 9, 2014 by Kay Paumier


Why is it so hard to connect with journalists? Why don’t they respond? Why don’t they “buy” my pitch?

In short, what do they want anyway?

Many PR pros have asked themselves these and similar questions for years. In many ways, it’s easier than ever to get to know journalists, because their work is generally available online. At the same time, it can be harder than ever to connect with journalists, because their schedules are so demanding and they are overwhelmed with pitches and other material.

Fortunately, the Lawrence Ragan Communications report “What Journalists Want” describes many of the steps needed to develop good relationships with journalists. Here are some of their key points.

Engage with journalists on social media.

Follow them on Twitter. Retweet their tweets, but “don’t just click the retweet button. Instead, quote them in a tweet of your own, and include ‘RT’ or ‘MT’ and their @ handle. Tell your followers why the tweet matters, or even just add ‘Yes!’ or ‘I agree.’”

Target the right reporter.

Journalists have complained about inappropriate pitches from time immemorial. And today there really is no excuse to pitch the “wrong” reporter. Between online and social media, you should be able to confirm that you are approaching the right person.

Send appropriate email.

Most journalists (at least according to many surveys) prefer email to other forms of communication. But to get the reporter to read the message, you need a good subject line. Here are Ragan’s guidelines:

  • Be specific.
  • Use “you” when you can “connect the subject to a benefit.” (e.g., How your subject lines can make you famous.”)
  • Think SEO.
  • Explain “what’s in it for me?
  • Keep it short.

Make the body of the email “a short paragraph explaining what you’d like the reporter to cover.” In the process, answer these questions:

  •   Why should I care?
  •   Why now?
  •   How is this new?
  •   What can you offer? (Sources? Visuals? Video?)

The whole email should be about half a screen. And, in general, you should not follow up with a phone call.

The report has other great tips on press releases, online news rooms and media interviews, which I’ll discuss in subsequent posts. But I am only discussing a few highlights. I encourage you to read the report in its entirety.

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