Everyone’s an expert in something. And the media’s job is to give its viewers and readers an interesting and informative take on a multitude of subjects.  

That’s where you come in. The media is looking for you all the time. Don’t believe me?  

Well — more than 35,000 journalists subscribe to Help a Reporter Out — better known as HARO to find the perfect expert to help them tell their stories.

It’s a simple concept that was thought up by public relations whiz, Peter Shankman. A reporter needs a source – a source wants to be found and voila HARO was born.

The email blast goes out three times a day with reporter queries ranging from, “people who wake up at 4AM to exercise” to “amazing gifts for designers that won’t be regifted” to “seeking knowledgeable African-American hair expert”.

If you’re an expert in one of the usually 50 or so queries, you can reach out to the reporter and pitch yourself as the perfect person to talk to for the story.

Ok, so how do you do that to make sure you get picked? Two ways:

  1. Be quick: I’ve used HARO as journalists and one of the things that happens when you hit send on your query– the floodgates open. Reporters are inundated with responses from experts ranging from darlings to duds. The key here is that because so many emails come in and reporters are often working on tight deadlines — you have to be first to the finish and deliver the goods.
  2. Be indispensable: What you say in your email matters. Don’t say you could provide tips or you will provide tips – actually do it! Time is of the essence here and you need to catch the reporter’s eye now. Be generous but don’t be overwhelming.

Pitching is pitching – no matter if you’re pitching your business to a potential investor, or pitching your expertise to the media. Keep the audience in mind — and answer this question when you’re answering HARO requests — “what will the reader/viewer take away from my tips?”  So what will that person be able to do differently tomorrow after hearing your insights that will make their lives better and solve their problem?

Maybe they won’t eat a donut for breakfast because you’ve laid out three alternative meal ideas including a recipe for a nourishing Amazonian acai bowl. Yum.

Make Sending Responses Easier

Sign up for Help a Reporter Out emails and start monitoring the requests that come through and might be a fit for you.  Then start answering them and keep track of what you send out.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a Google Doc or Evernote folder exclusively for responding to HARO requests. In it create documents for each individual request along with the query and your answer below it. Then when you work out what you want to say copy and paste your answer into an email to the journalist.
  2. When naming your documents be sure to be specific about what the pitch was about. For instance, it’s much easier to reuse “How to pack like a pro” rather than “Travel magazine HARO pitch.”  You’ll save time the next time a similar inquiry comes through when you label specifically. You’ll come to find that after answering several of these your introduction will likely be the same. You’ll include your name, your expertise and links to your websites and books.

This is what my intro typically looks like when I reply to requests:

Hi there —

I’d love to help you with your article!   

My name is Paula Rizzo and I’m an Emmy award winning television producer in NYC and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com.  I’m also the author of the book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.  

  1. Then when you start answering queries about your expertise you’ll also find that your tips can be used for multiple requests with a bit of tweaking for each individual audience.  

For example, if two journalists send out identical queries with the headline, “Best Productivity Apps” and one is from Brides magazine and one is from Parents magazine – you better believe you’ll need to cater to each audience specifically. However, some of your tips can translate for both audiences and it won’t take you as long as it would if you were starting from scratch each time.

Remember often times the first few responses to come through get the most attention because reporters are strapped for time. But make sure to send thoughtful and helpful responses. Also don’t worry if you don’t hear back sometimes you have to send to multiple outlets before getting a bite. But the good news is the more emails you answer the more ready-to-go pitches you’ll create in your pitching folder.

Paula Rizzo is the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert, a six-week program that teaches experts, authors, entrepreneurs how to get, and keep, media attention. She’s also the author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed

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