HOW TO: Get Journalists to Tell Your Story

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum.

Any press may be good press, but good press is even better. Yet, how do you stand out among your competitors and catch the attention of journalists? The traditional route is to pitch your story directly to reporters and hope it’s compelling enough that they’ll bite, or to offer your expertise around breaking news topics with your fingers crossed that the reporter is even working on a story about whatever that might be. Another option, however, is to respond to requests on sites that connect reporters with sources.
The most well-known of those is probably Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Started by Peter Shankman in 2008, it now connects over 100,000 sources with nearly 30,000 journalists. There are others, too — Media Kitty, FlackList, ProfNet, NewsBasis and Reporter Connection, are among the most active. These communities have grown so popular, that it’s now difficult for sources to stand out on these platforms, as well.

We spoke with Heather Kirk, the founder of Media Kitty, and Jennifer Nichols, CEO of FlackList, to get some tips on how sources can improve their chances of being noticed when responding to queries from journalists.

1. Be Fast
Speed matters when it comes to catching the eye of a busy journalist for two reasons. First, he is probably operating on deadline, so getting connected to a solid source quickly is important. Second, there are a huge number of other qualified sources trying to catch his eye at the same time. The last time I used one of these sites to find interviewees for a story, I received more than 100 email responses in the first six hours. That’s a lot to sort through, and the further out from my query, the more likely it was that I had already found the sources I needed to complete my piece.

“Respond as soon as you see the query and well before the deadline,” advises Nichols. “Once a reporter has what he/she needs, he doesn’t usually continue sifting through query responses.”

2. Be On Target

One thing all journalists universally hate is having their time wasted. Make sure when responding to a query on any of the aforementioned sites that your pitch is on target. Journalists are looking for sources that match their needs, not people who maybe, sort of, might have some expertise in a kind of, semi-related area.

“Don’t respond to a query unless what you are offering is truly a fit,” says Nichols, who advises that responses be kept to the point and devoid of fluff, but still full of relevant information. “The trick here is to still keep it short while including the pertinent info.”

Kirk also advises keeping the clutter out of your pitch and finding a unique — but still germane — angle to set yourself apart. “Relevant, researched and realistic replies score best. Attaching their hook to your material is key — colorful examples, links to fitting images, engaging background briefs and on-target experts with clout, character and ready accessibility all help set you apart,” she says.

3. Be Honest
“Don’t bait and switch,” says Nichols. “If you offer an executive for an interview, make sure you can deliver. Reporters don’t have the time or patience for your CEO to somehow now be on a plane to Rome and have only an assistant VP able to chat.”

Coming off as dishonest is the best way to sour what could have been a long-term relationship with a reporter. If a journalist doesn’t think he can trust you, there’s very little incentive to ever quote you (or your client) as an expert in the future.

“Many sources see every journalist lead as an opportunity to finagale their way into publicity, jazz up their client reports or nurture new contacts. Leads can offer all of these, but only if you tackle replies with transparency and sincerity,” notes Kirk.

4. Be Personal

Remember that when using these types of source-matching sites, yours is likely one of hundreds of responses that the reporter has received. Sometimes a personal touch goes a long way toward making you stand out from the crowd.

“A well-written, personalized and targeted response where there is a clear fit will get you noticed,” says Kirk.
Similarly, Nichols advises Googling journalists before pitching them to familiarize yourself with what they write. “Check out the style of their stories and how they typically present info and mimic that in your pitch,” she says.

5. Be Precise
Make sure your responses are accessible. No reporter has time to sift through a wordy or poorly composed pitch to try to find that nugget of expertise or the unique perspective that you might be able to offer. Craft a response that is straightforward and to the point and you’ll increase your chances of being tapped as a source.

“Make your reply easy to scan with bullet points and rich context. Rather than bulk up an email with attachments that call for an extra step to open and review, links are handier. Keep your response lean yet workable, colorful yet specific. Look for niche services that tailor to specific beats to up your odds even more,” says Kirk.

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1 st., 2011
Miami, Florida
FOR MORE INFO: 305-851-3441

AUTHOR AND CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT WRITES ABOUT
MIAMI’S CULINARY CULTURE

SOUTH FLORIDA, AUGUST, 2011 ~ FOODBRATS.COM – ANNOUNCES THAT MICHAEL BENNETT, THE EXECUTIVE CHEF OF BIMINI BOATYARD IN FORT LAUDERDALE AND COOKBOOK AUTHOR, IS RELEASING HIS THIRD BOOK ON AMAZON DIGITAL PLATFORM. CHEF MICHAEL HAS BEEN A WELL-SPRING OF CULINARY IDEAS THAT HAS FILLED THE INTERNET AND HE SEEMS TO HAVE MUSTERED SUFFICIENT TIME TO POSITION ANOTHER BOOK FOR YOUR KITCHEN LIBRARY SHELF.
AFTER GOOGLING “CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT”, ONE WILL FIND DOZENS OF PAGES THAT DISPLAY AUTHOR / CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT’S LITERARY CREATIONS. CHEF MICHAEL’S CURRENT ARRANGEMENT OF WRITING FOR MIAMI’S EXAMINER.COM, HAS HELPED THE CHEF CONTEMPLATE MORE INVENTIVE INSPIRATIONS, DIVULGING TO THESE INTERNET READERS WHAT IT IS LIKE BEING A CHEF IN MIAMI. THIS AUTHOR’S ROOTS ARE DEFINITELY SITUATED DEEP INTO SOUTH FLORIDA.
HIS EFFORTS THROUGHOUT THE INTERNET’S SOCIAL MEDIA AVENUES HAVE BROUGHT THE AUTHOR RECOGNITION FROM AS FAR AWAY AS AUSTRALIA. HIS COOKBOOKS ARE SELLING IN DISTANT PLACES BECAUSE OF THE COMMONALITIES IN THE FOODS USED FOR THE RECIPES. COOKING AND THE FOOD USED IS A UNIVERSAL ANALOGUE AND ALL INQUISITIVE COOKS LOVE READING ABOUT THE USE OF TROPICAL AND EXOTIC FOODS. THIS IS PROVEN WITH SALES OF HIS FIRST COOKBOOK; IN THE LAND OF MISFITS, PIRATES AND COOKS SELLING IN INDIA, AUSTRALIA AND ACROSS EUROPE.
MICHAEL HAS FOUND THAT THE REAL EQUALIZER AMONG COOKBOOK READERS IS THE INTEREST IN THE CULTURE OF COOKING. THIS IS HOW HE DEVELOPED HIS LATEST BOOK. “CULTURE OF CUISINE” WHICH DELVES INTO WHAT MIAMI CHEFS THINK ABOUT THE IDEALS OF CUISINE. IN THIS BOOK, MICHAEL RATIONALIZES THE COMMONALITIES OF IDEALS BETWEEN OUR GENERATIONS OF SOUTH FLORIDA CHEFS. THE BOOK SEGMENTS ARE BASED UPON MICHAEL’S INTERVIEWS WITH THESE NOTED SOUTH FLORIDA IDEALISTS.
INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH THE FIRST AND SECOND CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK ARE SEPARATED INTO SUB CHAPTERS OF THOUGHT. MICHAEL THOUGHT THAT THESE CULINARY CULTURE-BASED IDEALS WERE SIMILAR ENOUGH TO HAVE BEEN CATEGORIZED THEM CONCURRENTLY YET, THE STAND-ALONE THOUGHTS SHOULD HAVE THEIR OWN SECTIONING. THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS ALONE HAVE A CONSEQUENTIAL TONE THAT SCREAMS “THIS HAS TO BE A DAILY READ” FOR ALL CULINARY ENTHUSIAST.
• CULTURE A CUISINE
• HOW OUR CUISINE WAS CRAFTED
• UNDERSTANDING FOOD
• DESTINY OF INGREDIENTS
• THE PROCESS OF HOW THINGS HAPPEN
• ONE MOMENT PLEASE; YOUR MEDIA VOICE
• THE FIRST THREE STEPS
• THE INTERNET IS YOUR FUTURE
• QR CODES AND HOW THEY WILL HELP YOU

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…
FORMALLY TRAINED IN THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS, CHEF MICHAEL HAS ALWAYS PURSUED ONLY ONE CULINARY GOAL, MAKING MIAMI’S UNIQUE CULINARY IDEALS VISIBLE WORLD-WIDE. CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT HAS DONE THIS MOST CONVINCINGLY THROUGH HIS TWO SOUTH FLORIDA GROUNDED COOKBOOKS. HE HAS WORKED IN NUMEROUS NOTEWORTHY SOUTH FLORIDA AND CARIBBEAN RESTAURANTS AND RESORTS HONING A SPECIFIC CULINARY LEADERSHIP STATUS THAT HE HAS EARMARKED “CARIBB-ICAN”. OBVIOUSLY THIS CULINARY TRAJECTORY HAS HIT A CORD WITH LOCAL RESTAURANT CONSUMERS. THIS STYLING HAS PLAYED OUT WELL AT HIS CURRENT POST AS THE EXECUTIVE CHEF FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS. BIMINI BOATYARD WHERE SALES AND CUSTOMER COUNTS HAVE GONE FROM SLEEPY TO BOISTEROUS WAS FEATURED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES – best places in Fort Lauderdale FOR ITS BLUSTERY SALES INCREASES. SEE LINK: http://nyti.ms/hSzpNH .

BIMINI BOATYARD’S MENUS EMERGED TWO YEARS AGO AND SEGUED INTO ACCOLADES FROM LOCAL MAGAZINES AS “BEST NEW MENU” IN 2008 AND CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT WAS NAMED ONE OF SOUTH FLORIDA’S “TOP CHEF” IN 2009 AND 2010.
ABOUT CHEF MICHAEL BENNETT’S OTHER BOOKS:
CHEF BENNETT’S FIRST BOOK IS TITLED “IN THE LAND OF PIRATES, MISFITS AND COOKS”, A FIRST-HAND TASTE OF LIVING IN THE CARIBBEAN. HIS BOOK WILL ENERGIZE ONE’S PALATE WHEN YOU PARTAKE IN THE NEW METHODS OF COOKING AND EXPERIENCE BEING EXPOSED TO THE INNOVATIVE INGREDIENTS PAIRED WITH FAMILIAR AMERICAN MENU ITEMS – THE WAY CHEF MICHAEL MAKES OLD STALE DINNER ITEMS NEW AND EXCITING ONCE AGAIN. CHEF BENNETT TAKES THE READER ON PLAYFUL CULINARY JOURNEYS THROUGHOUT THE MANY ISLANDS OF THE CARIBBEAN SHOWING YOU THAT WITH A LITTLE INGENUITY YOU CAN BEDAZZLE YOUR TASTE BUDS BY APPLYING THIS TROPICALLY-INSPIRED COOKERY.
THE FULL 4 COLOR PHOTOS HIGHLIGHT BENNETT’S SIGNATURE STYLE OF PRESENTATION: “FOOD STACKING”. BENNETT CREATES TOWERS AND FOOD ASCENTS; HIS RECIPE STYLING CLEARLY CHARACTERIZES “PLAYING WITH FOOD”. YOU WILL NEVER JUST GET FOOD ON A PLATE WITH MICHAEL BENNETT; YOU WILL GET WORKS OF ART. THIS MAY SEEM DAUNTING TO THE AVERAGE HOME COOK BUT IN TRUE CULINARY TUTORING STYLE CHEF BENNETT EXPLAINS IN DETAIL “HOW TO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD”, THIS ALONE IS WORTH HAVING THE BOOK AS YOU BECOME AN HONORARY PIRATE, MISFIT AND COOK OF THE CARIBB-ICAN STYLE OF COOKING.
IN THE LAND OF MISFITS, PIRATES AND COOKS IS 120 RECIPES, 180 + PAGES AND IS AVAILABLE FOR $35.95 AVAILABLE AT THE AMAZON DISCOUNT BOOKS SELLER SITE AND AT WWW.FOODBRATS.COM.

CHEF MICHAEL’S SECOND BOOK; UNDERNEATH A CLOUDLESS SKY FEATURES MOUTH-WATERING RECIPES THAT WILL INCITE A PANTRY-QUAKING AFTERMATH. SOUTH FLORIDA’S FIVE COOKERY HERITAGES INFLUENCED THE BOOK’S RECIPE DEVELOPMENT. THIS FULL 4 COLOR BOOK SERVES UP AN EASY TO READ 180 PLUS PAGES OF TOOTHSOME RECIPES (110+) AND AN INSTRUCTIONAL NARRATIVE ABOUT WHAT IT IS LIKE TO DWELL AND WORK AS A CHEF ON THE NEW AMERICAN RIVIERA. THIS COOKBOOK IS THE RESULT OF MICHAEL’S REFORMULATING THE LAST TWO DECADES OF SOUTH FLORIDA’S “FLORIDA’S FIVE FLAGS FUSION FOODS” COOKERY COMPONENTS. THE FIVE FLAGS CITATION REPRESENTS HIS CONCEPTUAL REFORMATTING OF SOUTH FLORIDA’S FIVE DISTINCT COOKERY HERITAGES.

“UNDERNEATH A CLOUDLESS SKY” COOKBOOK IS RETAIL PRICED AT $29.95. THE BOOK CAN BE BOUGHT AT AMAZON.COM AND FOODBRATS.COM.

AUTHOR SUBSTANTIVE:
MICHAEL BENNETT IS A WELL-KNOWN AWARD WINNING (CHEF OF THE YEAR-1995) SOUTH FLORIDA CHEF WHOSE CLIENTS ARE A WHO’S WHO OF MEDIA AND SPORTS PERSONALITIES. HE EARNED CRITICAL CULINARY KUDOS AS THE EXECUTIVE CHEF FOR THE 26 YEAR-LOCAL CULINARY FORCE LEFT BANK RESTAURANT. UNDER HIS AUSPICES HE BROUGHT “BEST OF” (ZAGAT SURVEY); FOUR STARS (AAA) AND FOUR DIAMONDS (MOBIL) TO THE LONG-TIME THREE STAR RATING. HE ALSO HOLDS CULINARY AFFILIATIONS WITH SEVERAL CULINARY AND FOOD-RELATED ORGANIZATIONS. HE REGULARLY LECTURES ON SOUTH FLORIDA’S “CARIBB-ICAN” CUISINE.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT US AT:
mailto:the_professional_image@yahoo.com?subject=Inquiries
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