6 Responses

  1. Travis Van January 26, 2012 at 11:00 am | | Reply

    Garbage in, garbage out. Why are PR people even spending time trolling HARO for opportunities? For any specific topic area (whether you are selling an iPhone app or a piece of furniture), there are thousands of authors writing specifically about that topic, all the time. I don’t get why PR people spend an iota of time worry about Profnet, HARO or similar? The majority of “opportunities” are from obscure authors / publications. In tech, for example, how often do you see a Steve Lohr (NYT) or Walt Mossberg (WSJ) or Arrington (when he was at TechCrunch) caliber author post a query to HARO? Practically never. The best authors in any topic area have no desire to get carpet bombed, and are resourceful enough to find their own high quality sources. Additionally, why would anyone ever reply to a query from an anonymous source? Is your company so desperate for any type of attention that you would knock on a door without even knowing who it is on the other side?

    One of the amateurish activities that I’d argue PR people should avoid is spending time pursuing these everyman opportunities. Instead, roll up your sleeves and figure out who the most active authors are in your product category, and spend all of your time there, learning as much as you can about the subject matter, the companies being discussed, the related threads in the meme – and pursue accordingly. You will immediately be better informed, more aware of the important relationships you need to forge, sharp enough on the subject matter that you can come up with really great / creative angles, and infinitely more successful than lazy PR people that troll for easy wins (with mostly obscure authors) on matchmaking services (that is, when they’re not using an outdated media database to indiscriminately spam authors). The relationship between Vocus and HARO is perfect!

    The same PR folks that lazily pursue those types of opportunities are those that are obsessed with editorial calendars and pouring through outdated author bios and “beat information”. The best PR people spend a miniscule amount of time looking for treasure maps leading them to perfect authors. Instead they pour all of their time into actively READING the news about their topic area – which has infinitely more useful data about who your most important authors and relationships are.

    1. Distributed Marketing January 26, 2012 at 11:40 am | | Reply

      When was the last time I saw a query posted by a journalist from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal on HARO? Last week — though I admit I haven’t looked at it this week, as I’ve been tied up with other things.

      The columnist whose mail I was allowed to screen for a few days last month would definitely be on anyone’s list of top-tier journalists, and the publication is certainly a household name that is very well respected in the industry. He used it because he needed a specific kind of case study or user story, and couldn’t find an example among his own contacts. HARO resulted in 225 responses, and seven of them made it into the finished article. I think my friend is typical of the journalists who use HARO. They need a source, can’t find one among their own contacts, didn’t get what they needed from Twitter, and use HARO as a last resort.

      I would hope that most PR people who look to HARO and all the other matching services do it in addition to their regular pitches, not in place of it. I’ve personally had very good results with HARO, and have gotten stories in a number of top-tier media outlets that don’t normally cover my category, but were looking for something specific where we happened to fit — usually a human interest angle on a technology, in my case.

      That said, your point is exactly right. The more time you spend developing a custom list and developing a relationship with the journalists, bloggers, and social media influencers in your niche market, the better your results will be over time.

      Thanks for finding our blog, and for taking time to comment! Regards, Deb McAlister-Holland

  2. Travis Van January 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm | | Reply

    Thanks Deb. I agree with most of your points. Perhaps the tech queries have evolved to include more opportunities and sources than was my experience with HARO when I used to look at it a couple of years ago.

    But I believe that competing with hundreds of other respondents for a mere mention in a story (whose topic is often tangential to the reponder’s main product category, and especially when the author / source identity may be shrouded) is the equivalent of buying a lotto ticket as an “investment.”

    There are all sorts of serendipitous outcomes that can happen in PR, from the strangest of circumstances. I recently had an Associated Press author that read a blog post I’d written more than a year ago call about a story she was writing (that had little to do with our company’s core focus). She quoted me and mentioned our company in a syndicated story. But impact on our company’s site traffic, or any measurable impact on getting any new customers or demonstrable sales results? Hardly. The investment of my personal time to get that outcome was practically nothing. It was great to meet the author, I thought the story was great, and I love to know journalists because I respect the profession and am an avid reader. But I find it very objectionable how many PR people are chasing down mentions in tangential stories and chalking them up as some major win.

    1. Distributed Marketing January 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm | | Reply

      It’s true that (with very, very few exceptions) no single story in any media will do a lot to move the needle on a company’s sales. PR is a cumulative process.

      I smiled when you mentioned chasing down mentions of any kind and chalking them up as a major win. I had a job candidate recently who showed me her “results metrics” for her blog. It was filled with “pick-ups and media coverage” of the blog — nearly all of them scoop.it or paper.li daily digests. I asked how much traffic came to her site from those mentions and she said that she didn’t know, and didn’t know how to find out. Need I explain that she wasn’t my first choice in a candidate?

      Thanks again for the comments! Best regards, Deb McAlister-Holland

  3. [...] first choice is Deb McAlister-Holland from The Distributed Marketing Blog. 5 PR Pitch Mistakes to Avoid is the article that every PR pro should consider reading before planning his next blogger outreach [...]

    1. Distributed Marketing January 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm | | Reply

      Gee, thanks! We’re honored to be included on your list! Regards, Deb McAlister-Holland

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