As someone who has spent many years in the world of public relations, I'm usually on the query-answering side of any PR lead email chains, pitching clients our my own brands to the press. However, since Katie and I started Tin Shingle and even more specifically, editorial sections of the site including the blog, we find ourselves on the other end of the "querying conversation".
These days I'm posting leads within the Tin Shingle PR Leads emails and Help A Reporter Out (HARO) in order to snag the best possible anecdotes, experts and sources for the stories we're doing. As always, with the best often comes the worst! This was especially noticeable this past week when I posted a query via HARO and found my inbox flooded with responses. Being on the receiving end of some good but of so many bad reponses to my query, and experiencing first hand the sheer volume of responses I get from any query I put out there, I thought it would be good to compile a few reminders to all of you who are answering these types of leads on a daily basis.
HOW TO ANSWER A HARO LEAD PROPERLY:
Only take the time to answer it if it's for a story you actually fit. I put out a HARO query for "top female fashion designers to look out for in 2012" and had respones ranging from hair products to entrepreneurs who had nothing to do with fashion. This annoyed me, filled my inbox with spam, and just got me frustrated with the sender. Should I hear from said senders again, their image in my mind will be slightly tarnished, I'm just saying...
Include links to all relevant information I need to decide if you're a great fit for the story. I don't want to hunt for your information or links to your website. Even more important? Have reliable contact information and get back to me quickly.
That is so important it should be said again: Get back to me right away. Janna from Style House PR was on email (a great email) back to me within minutes. Brands doing their own public relations can also respond fast, don't think it's just publicists. Accessories designer Jess Bolbach of Bolbach responded to any questions we had within less than an hour as well. They both understand that it truly is the early bird that gets the worm. Speaking from someone on "the other side", I just cannot include everyone in the story, so the best and most intriguing answers get into the story first, and it's hard to squeeze people in once the story is filled.
If you don't hear back from me right away don't think that I'm not interested in you, or won't use you for future stories. There were some brands that I loved reading about but that didnt make the final cut for the story. That said they answered exactly what I was asking for, their stories were intriguing and I filed them away to possibly cover them in the future. Please note, I didn't email them to tell them this (nor will most editors or reporters) because I simply don't have the time to do this, but I didn't forget about them. Sometimes you'll hear back from editors weeks or months later, so don't give up hope!
If I've interviewed you, don't check back with every day to see when the story will go live. For most writers this is out of their control, unless they run the outlet they are posting the story in. I cannot always make the final editorial timing decision, but I promise you I'll let you know when the story goes live or if I need anything else from you. Do not "check in" with me more than once a week once we've done the interview...
Do not pitch me a story completely different than what I asked for. So many people literally took my contact informaiton to pitch me feature stories about things that I didn't ask for. I just deleted their responses, I didn't keep them on file. It was a waste of their time and mine.
Even if you land a story off of HARO or PR Leads that isn't about YOU you're creating a relationship that could eventually turn into a story about you! This is one of my favorite parts of answering PR Leads. At times I'm answering as an expert or entrepreneur and the query is for a story that isn't going to be all about me, Tin Shingle or my clients. BUT the ROI for me in these situations is that I'm creating relationships with the press and getting my name out there in one form or another and both of these things can be used strategically for future success!
Do not give up! Keep pitching! It DOES matter and make an impact on your brand! I say this as both someone who does the pitching and someone who now does the receiving...you never know which pitch will be "the one" to stick...You also never know who will keep seeing your name pop up and become intrigued. As long as you're pitching a story that you're a good match for, you're making progress.