When I need to find a source quickly, I rely on the web.
Several websites connect experts with writers. A few of my favorites include HARO, SourceBottle and Source Sleuth. To get started you send out a query telling potential sources about your project and wait for replies. Then, you follow-up with the people who replied and finish your project.
Most of these services are policed by public relations professionals who work with people — such as doctors, inventors and book authors — trying to get their names out in the media.
So, how should you communicate with these people? Very carefully! I’ve turned to a few public relations pros to give you the inside scoop on getting the most out of your time spent looking for sources.
Tip #1: Share Specific Details
David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, is a marketing and sales strategist who speaks publicly and advises businesses how to spread ideas and become influencers in their niches.
He gives online writers seeking assistance from a public relations agency this bit of advice:
“PR pros like when queries are specific. “Interested in talking to a company about social media” doesn’t work so well because the net is cast too wide. However, “Interested in talking to small businesses that have used Instagram to bring in new customers” will get more attention.”
So, tighten up those queries and avoid vague statements. Keep your messages simple and succinct.
Tip #2: Expedite the Process
Katie Kern with Media Frenzy Global would like to chime in and stress that simplified queries expedite the process, so you can meet your deadline and not waste time.
She also commented, “We would also like to have access to a journalist’s email address to follow-up on the submission to a query.” and “It would be ideal to always receive a follow-up email from the writer confirming whether a submission or pitch has either been accepted or declined. Often times, PR professionals are left to monitor the publication for coverage if indeed their byline article or quote has been picked.”
Before you press send on that next query, include specific contact details and note your next steps.
I often close my queries by mentioning a time frame for responding to replies, when the article is scheduled to publish and that I’ll share a link by email and on my social media platforms when the article has published.
Tip #3: Include Relatable Information
Karen Taylor Bass provides public relations consulting and coaching. She views public relations as an empowerment tool and offers these tips for writers working with PR pros:
“The best way to catch the attention of a PR person is to be authentic/honest and not be afraid to share the “real” story. When you share a bit of the journey, challenge, pain and success, the subject becomes relatable (and a green light goes off in our head). Always include stats (if you can) to show that the matter of hand is important and impacts most people,” she explained.
Making your query, and subsequent story, as personal, emotional and engaging as possible is key. This helps you easily leverage into a call to action at the end of your piece.
Finally, all the experts agreed that queries shouldn’t be overly elaborate. Include the basic who, what, when, where, publication and expected publish date. And most importantly, focus on explaining why you’re writing the piece. A source won’t engage with a writer who isn’t focused and in tune with their ideals or agenda.
Do you have a tip to share? I’d love to learn more tips from both writers and PR pros. Please comment below.
Note: This article was updated in April 2018. Since publication, SourceSleuth appears to have gone offline.