Publicity is good. Free publicity is even better. And it’s also easier to get than you think, provided that you know where to start, have an action plan, and grasp the “rules of the road.”
Where to Start
This part is simple. Start at HARO (Help a Reporter Out) at www.helpareporter.com. Three times a day, HARO sends its subscribers no-cost media opportunities in selected fields, such as healthcare, business and finance, education, entertainment and media. It’s an essential PR resource every entrepreneur, business owner, expert and author should know about.
HARO is one of my favorite sources — and not because I’ll be featured on their website in an upcoming success story. It’s because HARO provides a media-rich collection of publicity opportunities for experts across the world, as well as a fast-paced forum for journalists looking for source experts (a.k.a. you).
Without question, for an entrepreneur, author or guru of any kind, being “picked up by HARO” is a huge win. It could easily lead to being quoted in an article or report, or featured in a story, blog or book. It could also lead to radio and TV interviews – which means more credibility, mind share, competitive advantage, a rush of traffic to your website, your phone ringing off the hook, your email bursting with inquiries, and most importantly: sales, sales and more sales.
Your Action Plan
There are five pieces of a successful HARO action plan:
- Start your media response strong. List your name, position, website address and company description in the first paragraph.
- Keep your pitch short and sweet, and answer questions directly. If a journalist or producer is interested in your story, he/she will email you back.
- Provide a link to important material in your email – don’t include attachments (more on this below).
- Create a standard Press Response template that you can use for every media inquiry. Use the same intro and conclusion/call to action for most responses, and customize the main message for each query.
- In the subject line, use the word HARO and include the query title (e.g. HARO: Why HARO users have a PR Advantage).
“Rules of the Road”
Knowing the “rules of the road” will make or break your HARO efforts. There’s a fairly strict code of media etiquette, and playing by the rules is important. Here’s a snapshot of what to do – and what not to do.
- Do communicate in a polite, respectful and focused manner. Reporters will respond in-kind.
- Do provide great content. Reporters get hundreds of pitches daily. Make it easy for them to say “yes.”
- Do ensure that the body of your copy is clear, concise and concentrated.
- Do move quickly if a reporter wants your help. Time is of the essence.
- Do stay on-message. As with any marketing, this is the only way to go to reach your audience.
- Don’t include an attachment, because of malware and virus threats.
- Don’t beat around the bush. State your opinion (more on this below).
- Don’t bother with a “catchy” headline. Save that for your media releases.
- Don’t try and negotiate deadlines – they’re firm at HARO and there’s no wiggle room.
Standing Out in the HARO Crowd
Once you get the hang of HARO and follow the “rules of the road,” interest from reporters should follow. But then you’re faced with another challenge: how do you stand out in the HARO crowd, and become a sought-after source? Here are some bonus tips that can truly put you over the top:
- Without going off-message, over-deliver in your interview. You’re being consulted for your expertise and experiences. This is the time to share what you know.
- Reporters need and want sound bites and opinion. So while it’s fine to be reflective and fair, you aren’t being asked to describe an issue or a trend. Reporters can figure that part out themselves. They want your opinion. So have one, and be prepared to share it.
- Build a database of reporters by being friendly, helpful and to the point.
And most importantly…
- No matter what, respect the connection and the relationship, as you would with a trusted colleague or your very best customer.