As a journalist, I frequently use the invaluable tool HARO. (Help a Reporter Out). Reporters submit a query or pitch and people from all over send responses. HARO is a god-send when you have a tight deadline and need to get expert opinions.
I’ve gotten responses to my queries from “ordinary people”, best-selling authors, press agents, and even TV celebrities. They help me with my story and let’s fact it, I help them with free publicity if I use them as a reference for an article.
Basically, like any good article, a query needs to start off with a hook, a way to grab people’s attention. You are competing in a crowded field each day and have only a few seconds to catch someone’s eye; a catchy query title is a must. I also try to have a little fun with my queries, I try to convey my voice in the limited space I have both in the title and summary.
One of my most effective queries that delivered dozens and dozens of responses was the following. In it, I tried to create both a hook and a compelling story, complete with examples of the type of information I was looking for.
If there is one thing women know how to do it’s to create a supportive network. We are all about encouraging and taking care of each other. We know how to nurture. With our busy lifestyles and geographical distances a lot of that support comes from the net.
I’d like to hear stories of how you use online communities for support. Do you use a group for diet inspiration? Facebook to keep in touch with relatives? A bereavement group to help you handle a loss? A writer’s group for online critique and motivation?
Tell me how as a woman, you get and give support to those you care about using the internet. This is for a regional parenting magazine.
The quality and quantity of query responses, depends in large part on how well the query is written. Peter Shankman has a nice video tutorial on responding to reporter’s queries here.
When you get dozens of query responses for a quick deadline how does one decide what to include and what to follow up on? Here is a quick list of what gives you a better chance of being included in a print article:
- Don’t tell me that you are an exact fit for my article and to email you for more information. I don’t have the time to go after a lead that may not even be useful. Give me your information up front and then I'll decide if I can use you in my story.
- Don’t respond to my query if you are not a good fit. A response that begins, “I don’t know much about that, but you may want to know about this instead” just gets deleted.
- Reponses much after 2 days are useless, usually there is a fast turn-around-time so be quick.
- Don’t just send me information; tell me why you would be a good fit for my article. Just as a hook is important in the query, hook me with your circumstances. Often I’m looking for those who have interesting stories as much as those who possess topic expertise.
HARO is invaluable tool for journalists as well as those who are hoping to get publicity and their names in print. If you demonstrate to a reporter that you have expertise, a story, and applicability to the pitch, chances are you will find yourself in print with national coverage. It’s simply as easy as that.
Wendy E.N. Thomas is a freelance writer and Instructional Design Consultant for High-Tech Businesses. She is located in New Hampshire, U.S and has over 25 years experience in the High-tech field as a Technical Writer/Instructional Designer.
A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs.