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6 Secret Weapons to Discovering and Connecting with PR Journalists

6 Secret Weapons to Discovering and Connecting with PR Journalists

By Georgia Hitchcock

Now that you have read our fable about the online press release versus social media, you may be wondering how to best capitalize on all the amazing social media monitoring tools you have right at your fingertips! Lucky for you, I put together this list of my top 6 secret weapons, which you should be utilizing to maximize your online exposure as well as making those valuable connections with the people who can give you (or your client) the publicity you deserve – the elusive journalist!

1. HARO

If HARO isn’t already a part of your online PR strategy, I am here to tell you that it should be, and it couldn’t be easier to get started! It’s free to sign up as a “source,” and once you’ve done so, you will start receiving 3  emails per day (morning, noon, and evening East Coast time) full of journalist queries looking for your (or your client’s) expertise. The idea behind HARO? “Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for.”

Image: PR Web

What the heck is HARO anyways?! If you haven’t heard of it before, HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out” and  is an excellent free tool connecting journalists to sources and, in turn,  Public Relations professionals to journalists.

Though HARO is a free service, you can select paid subscription packages for more perks such as filtering your alerts to match your keyword preferences, building a profile to help journalists recognize you as a good fit for their story, searching the online database for opportunities, and getting “Head Start Alerts” before everyone else. You can choose between Standard for $19 a month, Advanced for $49 a month or Premium for $149 a month.

Here are some tips for maximizing on your HARO experience:

  1. Be fast: I’m not talking about responding within the same day, or even within a couple of hours, I’m talking about responding within 15 minutes of receiving the query email. These journalists will likely be receiving hundreds of responses to their query, so the faster you can respond, the more likely it is that you will be selected as a source.
  2. Do a little research: Though this may sound contradictory to my first tip, “Be fast”, I still think it is important to know a little bit about who you are pitching to. What’s their writing style like? What types of stories or topics do they usually cover? Are they casual and conversational or professional and informative? Whenever the query includes the media outlet (and sometimes they wont), I recommend taking two minutes to quickly scan their website and get a feel for what the tone of your pitch should be. But don’t spend too much time here because the clock is ticking! (tick, tock, tick, tock…)
  3. Give the reporters exactly what they need – no more, no less: Founder of HARO, Peter Shankman recommends a three paragraph response to pitching yourself (or your client) as a source for a HARO article:
  • 1st paragraph – Explain who you are and where you work.
  • 2nd paragraph – Explain why you (or your client) is perfect for the article and why you know all about whatever it is they’re looking for.
  • 3rd paragraph – Provide your contact information including your email and phone number. Shankman says it is extremely common for someone to submit an excellent pitch and then provide no way for the journalist to reach them – don’t let this happen to you!

Just like with any awesome free service, there are always going to be “haters” and HARO is no exception. Back in July, this story broke about “media manipulator” Ryan Holiday lying his way into several major news publications using HARO. He decided it would be a good idea to pitch to every, single query he received, even if he knew nothing about the topic. Unfortunately, this tactic worked and he was quoted in Reuters, ABC News, CBS, MSNBC, and even the New York Times, just to name a few. He thought he was proving that journalists and bloggers will “print anything”, but what he actually ended up doing was tarnishing his credibility and reputation as a source and getting himself banned from ever using HARO again. Moral of the story: Do NOT be a sketchy HARO user!

2. Hootsuite

Now that you have signed up for HARO, you are monitoring your queries closely, and you’re sending excellent pitches out to journalists three times a day, it’s time to turn to Twitter! We love using Twitter clients to find and connect with journalists, and our favorite is Hootsuite. Here are some helpful tips for maximizing your Twitter presence:

  • Create a list of journalists you want to target outside of your pre-existing HARO connections.
  • Build a spreadsheet with their contact info, what beats they cover, and the publication they work for.
  • Start reading their writing. Figure out who they are and what they tend to write about to get a feel for whether or not you or your client is the right fit for their readers.
  • Follow them on Twitter and Google+ and like or subscribe to them on Facebook. Share, retweet, and +1 their updates to let them know you like what they have to say and get on their radar.
  • Start reaching out to them; send a personalized email, (or direct message on Twitter), that says who you are and explain that you have read their articles about real estate trends in Houston Texas, and think your client, who owns a reputable real estate investment firm in that area, would be an interesting source for them to consider for future articles.

Setting up Twitter searches in Hootsuite can also be a great way to monitor journalists and create a relationship with them. Several journalists use the term “URGHARO” for urgent HARO queries that they need a response to right away. Monitoring this term on Twitter could put you in direct contact with a journalist who needs your help just as much as you want their publicity; a match made in heaven! Set up one column for the search term “URGHARO” and another for the term “HARO” and check these multiple times a day for opportunities to pitch to. Annnnd just because we like you so much, we also wanted to share this awesome list of journalists that are using Twitter that we think you should keep your eye on.

3. Find People On Plus

You can also use Find People On Plus to find and make connections with journalists.  This nifty little site allows you to search for people’s Google+ Profiles  and sort them based on several different categories or details. In our case, we are looking for journalists who will ideally want to write about us, so start your search for “Journalist” in the “Occupations” section.

Now, let’s take it one step further and target a specific publication. Let’s say you would love to establish some connections with journalists who work at The New York Times (and who wouldn’t!?). All you need to do is select “New York Times” from the lower left column and “voila!” you have a list of 25 journalists to start building relationships with, all of whom work at The New York Times. Of course, I should point out that not all 25 of these  journalists will be the right fit for you, so do some more sifting to get an even more targeted list of journalists that you want to reach out to.

4. IFTTT

Another great tool for making connections is IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that”, and it allows you to create a combination of a “trigger” and an “action” like: “if there is a Tweet including the search term ‘URGHARO’, email me with the responses”. You could also use “PR request” as your action term to get a more varied list of responses outside of URGHARO. If you are looking for more than one word, like “PR request”, make sure to put quotation marks around it, as you will get all tweets including the word PR or request, if you do not.

5. Advanced Search Operators

But perhaps you want to get a bit sleuthier and find out where your targeted journalists reside online besides the website of the publication they work for. This is where using advanced search operators come in handy. Let’s use our earlier example of finding journalists who work at the New York Times and say we want to find out more info about Evelyn Rusli (even though we already have her Google+ Page, lets pretend for a minute that we don’t). Simply do a search for her in Google like this: Evelyn Rusli -site:nyt.com and this will bring up all the information available for Evelyn that is NOT on NYT.com.

You now have access to her Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles, as well as other articles either about her or written by her. Score!

6. FollowerWonk

One tool whose horn we tend to toot quite often is FollowerWonk (recently acquired by SEOmoz – you go, Roger! beep bop boop) – there are just so many awesome ways to use it! For our PR purposes, select the tab “Search Twitter bios” and enter journalist, writer, blogger or editor. You can also select “more options” and scale it down by location, number of followers, following and tweets. Sift through the results and start building those connections!

Now that you have made it this far, I can officially deem you  an “online PR ninja”. Once you’re monitoring your HARO emails and  implementing some (or all!) of the tools I’ve outlined above, it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself winning at that fickle game of Online PR.


Image: Watch Cartoon Online

Georgia Hitchcock

Georgia Hitchcock is the Director of Social Media at Thunder. Things that make her happy include her dog Dart, homemade pasta, Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Doctor Who/all things nerdy, and her fiancée, Tom.

Give her a shout-out on Twitter and Instagram.