PR pros gain 3rd conduit for access to journalists

Reporter Connection joins HARO and Profnet while offering variations on the connection theme
 
Have you been quoted in The New York Times lately? How about The Wall Street Journal?
 
Despite the current emphasis on social media, don’t forget that print and television are still relevant—and inexpensive—ways to get your message to the masses. 
 
But how do you pitch career (read: not very enthusiastic) journalists who are severely overworked and already inundated with press releases?
 
The newly launched Reporter Connection joins Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and Profnet as services established to link you—the authority—with journalists looking for sources. Pitch well, and you may end up on CNN.
 
Which service should you use? Maybe one works best for you; maybe all three do.
 
HARO is the largest with more than 100,000 sources, 29,000 journalists, and 210 queries; Profnet is the oldest, going on 18 years.
 
“Inevitably, people will start to find their own voice, and we will end up serving different media and readers than competing services,” Reporter Connection co-founder Bill Harrison says. “We’ll each find our own niche over time.”
 
Here’s a look at the differences and similarities of each service.
 
Reporter Connection
 
Reporter Connection launched in late December and is still in beta. It e-mails queries daily to 51,000 potential sources. There’s no count on how many journalists use the service, but Bill Harrison says the site averages about 10 queries per day, some from major outlets.
 
How do these services work?
A journalist needs a source. The journalist fills out a query form, specifying the type of source and any questions he or she may have. Potential sources receive an e-mail from the service with a list of such queries and they may choose to e-mail pitches or answers to the journalist. The journalist then goes through the responses and decides which to include in his or her story. It’s that simple.
The site’s parent organization, Bradley Communications Corp., already had a number of publications and events aimed at connecting sources with media such as Radio-TV Interview Report, a twice-monthly magazine that 4,000 radio/TV producers read in order to find guests. Reporter Connection was a logical next step, given the extensive contact list the company had in place. The service is free to journalists and to those looking to be a source.
 
Bill Harrison says he and his partner Steve Harrison focused on making the experience better for the journalist.
 
“Ultimately PR people want to get more exposure in top outlets,” Bill Harrison says. “We believe that by making the service better for journalists, we’re invariably helping PR people.”
 
The duo tried to fix two specific problems journalists may have with other services. The first: Reporters don’t want to disclose their e-mail address.
 
“PR people might just like to grab a journalist’s e-mail address and throw it on PR mailing list. Ultimately that doesn’t serve anyone, and it just annoys the journalist,” Bill Harrison says. That, he says, is “something that has held reporters back from using other services.”
 
Reporter Connection routes all queries through its system, so sources aren’t e-mailing reporters directly. Divulging his/her e-mail address is up to the reporter.
 
A second problem that irks journalists—off-target replies. Reporter Connection created a more structured query form to reduce the volume of such responses.
 
Reporters have the option of selecting six questions that potential sources must answer before responding to a journalist’s query. Questions include: What experience do you have with this subject? What are your credentials?
 
These questions are intended to benefit journalists, but they also will help PR professionals pitch better, Bill Harrison says. They’ll be answering the questions journalists want answered.
 
Once a journalist has received enough replies, or his or her deadline is passed, the system automatically turns off the query—which saves everyone time.
 
HARO
 
Help a Reporter Out’s Web site has been around since March 2008, though the service was on Facebook and circulated by word of mouth before the site’s creation. The site’s founder, Peter Shankman, says he has spent 11 years ironing out the details of the service.
 
HARO sends an e-mail out three times a day with a list of reporter queries, as well as urgent source requests to more than 16,000 followers on Twitter. The service is supported through advertising.
 
According to Shankman, 93 percent of journalists that have used HARO come back to use it again, perhaps an indication that their requests have been answered.
 
Last week, Shankman modernized the look of the site and added many user-requested functions, including some that Reporter Connection offers.
 
Shankman says HARO was already taking measures to eliminate spam from the system, such as banning PR professionals or their agencies for submitting more than a couple of off-topic pitches. As of last week, reporter’s e-mail addresses are kept private by use of an anonymous address for each query (like Craigslist). The address “dies” when the deadline passes.
 
“Our job is not to play God in terms of who gets to send what pitch,” Shankman says. “Your job as the source is to create a great pitch that goes to the reporter. The only time we every see your pitch is if a reporter sends it to us and says the pitch was off topic.”
 
Reporters can now rate the pitches they receive on the Web site, which gives PR pros much-desired feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. Sources can request to receive only queries that fall into categories that interest them.
 
Profnet
 
Profnet works on a slightly different model from those of the other services. It is run by PR Newswire, and it charges subscribers to the e-mail list (more than 43,000) a subscription fee that varies depending on the type of organization.
 
Subscribers must be professional communicators (gatekeepers for experts) and are vetted before they’re allowed to join. It is the vetting process that limits off-topic pitches, says Ted Skinner, its VP of public relations products.
 
“Journalists can mask their e-mail through different services, but we vet our sources,” Skinner says. “Spam is certainly not an issue for us.”
 
Profnet also vets the journalists and their queries. A processing team goes through the requests before they’re sent out to make sure they’re complete and don’t require further questions.
 
Additionally, both PR professionals and journalists can target their pitches. Sources can choose to receive only topics that interest them, and journalists can opt to send queries to communicators based on location.
 
Profnet offers a more direct way for journalists to get in touch with experts in the form of an expert database. With more than 30,000 experts profiled, PR professionals get 24/7 advertising for their clients, and journalists have sources at their fingertips.
 
Profnet also just launched a service through its affiliated Hispanic PR Newswire branch called ProfNet en Español. It helps connect reporters with Spanish-speaking sources in a similar fashion.
SOURCE: Ragan

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