In addition to writing content for BuzzStream, I also publish articles in places like The Next Web and Entrepreneur. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is my go-to-resource for finding sources and meeting wonderful PR professionals. Through the platform, I’ve surfaced my best stories and have made hundreds of strong connections. But HARO also drives me batty. The reason? I get hundreds of HARO pitches a day. The downpour of communication is so heavy that I’ve stopped reading every pitch that I receive. Sometimes I’ll read 10 or maybe 20. Even skimming doesn’t help.
This challenge has landed me in some challenging situations—for instance, when strangers stop me on the street or at conferences to say that they love my work and writing. A sentence that I hear over and over? “I’ve emailed you dozens of time, but I never hear back.”
That bums me out because I know good stories are falling through the cracks. To help the right stories get the attention they deserve, I decided to write this blog post featuring my best attention-grabbing tips from reading tens of thousands of HARO pitches.
1. Be personable and helpful
When working on a blog post “How to Overcome Fear of Risk” for Entrepreneur Magazine, I was floored to have received nearly 200 pitches in just 2 days.
As much as I wanted to read and include every single story submission, I couldn’t. After skimming through all 200 pitches, I realized that only 5 were worth the follow-up. The reason boiled down to a few common mistakes:
- The majority of pitches that I received were too promotional and pretentious. Many “talked up” the experiences of the to-be interviewees but failed to provide substantive details that were relevant to the story.
- Many of the pitches asked “if I’d like to see more information.” At the time, I had a 48-hour turnaround, which minimized my available bandwidth for back/forth communication. I needed details off the bat—follow-up communication would have slowed me down.
I realized that there were a few things that would have improved the majority of these pitches. Here’s a quick list that I would have liked for all of these to have:
- A friendly introduction
- A fun fact
- Keywords or bullet points that describe the story
The bottom line? It’s possible to make more of an impact by writing less.
2. Make source attribution easy
One of my biggest time sinks as a writer is sourcing. I go through painstaking lengths to research my interview subjects and make sure that I’m referencing them correctly. It’s often a challenge to aggregate information from different sources, so I am more likely to respond to pitches that provide the basics from the start.
Thinking of sending journalists a quote? Make sure to include:
- Who said it
- What that person’s website is
- Their job title
- Their company
- Their social media links
- A link to a press kit
- A Link to a high-res headshot
One tip: HARO doesn’t have the most robust user interface for sorting and categorizing messages, so it’s easy for communication to fall through the cracks under tight deadlines. The content world is chaotic. Make a simple email signature, so writers can find the sourcing details that they need, in one place.
Here’s an example of one of the best HARO pitches that I received for this story:
In addition to sharing a great story, the pitch included the person’s name, company details, email address, and social profiles.
3. Don’t assume the writer doesn’t like you
It can be demoralizing when you spend hours writing thoughtful emails, and nobody responds. Don’t take it personally; the majority of writers are too slammed for their own good and juggling far-too-many conversations. Our email inboxes look like this:
Note: For context, this is my HARO-dedicated email inbox.
Be persistent. If you see someone you’re trying to reach at an event or conference, walk up and say hi. There’s no need to take us to lunch, leave us voicemails, or try to fight for our attention. Instead, focus on building a true relationship. Remember: Our careers are going to last our entire lifetimes. Expect paths to cross, over and over.
What lessons have you learned from pitching journalists? What works? What doesn’t? Share your own best practices in the comments section below. Or tweet them to @BuzzStream.