A good number of my clients come to me with amazing credentials and great ideas, but little platform–they often don’t have a huge mailing list. They don’t necessarily speak to thousands of people dozens of times a year. And they haven’t been on Oprah…yet (a few of my clients have been–but not the majority!).
If they’re looking for a traditional publisher, I often suggest they sign up for the reporter queries on PR Leads and helpareporter (also known as HARO). As more people find out about help a reporter, it’s gotten doggone competitive to be chosen as the expert the reporter quotes in their article.
My client, Dr. Craig Malkin has a 75% success rate with the responses he’s sent through queries from PR Leads and HARO. Before I suggested these do-it-yourself PR methods, he’d never had a stitch of publicity. On his first query, he ended up quoted in Match.com’s Happen Magazine online. Not bad for a rookie.
How does he do it? I interviewed Craig to find out his secrets.
Book writing coach (aka me): What do you do when you respond to a PR Leads or HARO query? What goes through your mind in terms of how to present your information?
Craig: I spend time with each query to make sure I’m absolutely clear about what the journalist is asking for. Then, I try to think like a reporter.
What quote would make the story stand out? Is there a new spin on old information that could make the idea more interesting? I try hard to come up with tips if I can, because journalists absolutely love them.
I make sure I’m packaging facts in a compelling way, and I always try to craft at least one catchy sound bite. Journalists have precious little time, so I know my best shot is to give them something that’s extremely easy to use.
When it comes to being quoted, less is always more (case in point). If I know, for example, that research proves we can be affected by our friends’ moods, I might say something like, “Depression is contagious.”
I’m not famous (yet), so I want to make it painful for reporters to delete my e-mail; I figure they’ll take a snappy quote from an unknown expert over a flat one from a celebrity any day, because they want their story to stand out.
It works most of the time.
Book Writing Coach: Do you start by saying who you are or by answering the question/query?
Craig: I always use the same formula, recommended by Dan Janal of PR Leads
1. Who I am (including media experience)
2. What I have to say (the quotes)
3. How to reach me
Book Writing Coach: How much info do you give? Do you often give more than one answer or tip?
Craig: I let inspiration dictate how much I write. If I’m being asked for tips, I always send a minimum of four. Don’t be afraid to send more (as long as they’re short), but bear in mind, if you send too much, reporters will probably get overwhelmed and skip even the best quotes.
Book Writing Coach: How do you make it visually easy to read?
Craig: I put my best quotes in italics and a different color. Often they have only a minute to look through hundreds of e-mails, so you want your best stuff to stand out. I also break the e-mail into three to four very short sections.
Book Writing Coach: Can you give an example of a query you responded to for a national website, magazine or newspaper and what you said that grabbed the journalist’s attention?
Craig: Here’s one that landed me an interview with Marie Claire. You’ll notice it’s extremely brief, with a few lines set off in blue italics.
My name is Craig Malkin. I’m a clinical psychologist who taught and trained at Harvard Medical School. I’m currently writing a book about how we control attraction.
Despite the saying about absence making the heart grow fonder, distance rarely cranks up the heat. Don’t count on the strength of your love, alone, to keep you connected. If you can’t rely on seeing each other, you have to work to keep the connection alive in other ways.
When you’re away from one another, exciting, new people and experiences may be a dime a dozen. You’ll need to preserve some excitement with your partner if you want your relationship to compete with all that novelty.
Schedule regular phone calls, IM, or text check-ins that both of you can look forward to and expect. It doesn’t have to be daily, but it should be scheduled, to ensure that it happens—and more than once a week. If you enjoy spicing things up with sexy notes or creative video chat—even better. Exciting experiences strengthen attraction.
If either of you feels reluctant to schedule times to connect—with or without the spice—consider taking a break. You’re going to have hard time keeping up the connection without these moments together—and that leaves a lot of room for destructive insecurity and jealousy.
Book Writing Coach: Wow, that’s a superb query. Catchy soundbites, but it’s substance, not fluff. What’s some of the biggest publicity you’ve gotten through HARO or PR Leads?
Craig: I’ve been quoted and interviewed twice for Match.com’s, Happen. I’ve also been interviewed and quoted by Marie Claire, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and, in December, I’m slated to appear in Women’s World. I’ve also almost landed a quote in Woman’s World twice—as a result of which I made a connection with a reporter who liked me enough to agree to be mentioned in my book proposal as a media connection.
Book Writing Coach: Any words of caution….something to be aware of?
Craig: Do your research before you respond. I learned that lesson the hard way. In one case, a reporter copied every thing I wrote and passed it off as her own. In another, I was all set for a pod-cast interview, and first the guy forgot the time, then he kept interrupting me because he wanted to hear different answers. Try to get a sense of who you’re talking to if it’s not a big name media outlet. At least do a Google search.
Book Writing Coach: Thank you, Craig.
And, dear Reader, do you have any tips or secrets to share that helped you get quoted or featured in a magazine, newspaper or online article? Please comment and share your tips, as well as your questions. Craig and I are both happy to respond.
Dr.Randy Kamen Gredinger says
I’m always careful to answer only those HARO queries in which I truly feel expert. I too offer tips and strategies without holding back. I just go for it assuming the best. My success rate with HARO and getting into major publications has been high, but certainly not 75%. I know when the response just pours out that it has a great chance of getting selected for publication. On a few occasions the story has even gotten picked up by Reuters and gotten into five or six publications. That was fun! I love the idea of highlighting potential quotes and important ideas. I can see how that make your query more compelling. Thanks for that tip.
Monica Strobel says
After spending time on HARO and PRLeads feeling like a “stalker” (looking but not acting) your generous ideas make me feel better about taking judicious action and responding! Thanks for the ideas, as I might have thought four tips was too many for a response. Any suggestions for when you’re not exactly who they’re looking for, but maybe feel this is a reporter to followup with?
Great successes, Randy, thank you for sharing! Monica, that is an excellent question. Often reporters are irritated if they sound out a query and end up being pitched something that doesn’t apply to their query. One thing that does work, and that I know Craig has done, is to respond to an appropriate query and, once you’ve developed a relationship with a reporter, you can suggest some additional pitches/ideas that are in the reporter’s area of interest or related to the story they’re pitching.
If your pitch is not on topic, but you think might interest that reporter, you might read more of their articles before pitching and then refer to their articles (i.e. show you’ve done your research and really know their areas of interest) or try to get to know the reporter a bit through social media. You can also send a press release to them if they work at a particular media outlet (not as appropriate for a freelancer).
If a reporter says in their query that they are not interested in pitches outside of the query, do honor their request.
Your topic is a timely one, Monica, and I’ll bet once you start responding to queries you’ll get some traction. It’s great if you set up your website or blog so that there’s a place for reporters to go to get a sense of your expertise.
Jamie Perillo, LPC says
Thank you Lisa – this was very helpful for my first time response to a HARO query.
In my response I had considered including a story from my practice and decided not to. Is it recommended to include these in the response or to invite the journalist to contact you if they are interested in further anecdotes?
Lisa Tener says
Great question, Jamie. If you have permission, or if you can disguise the names/story then you may want to share it–anything that can make your response stand out from the crowd and be more meaningful can help. However, you do want to be succinct and also make the best of your time.