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Nov 16

Practicing Guerrilla PR with ‘Help a Reporter Out’

Smaller organizations and non-profits often have a challenge in communicating their story to the media. Not only do they have limited staff and budgets, but today’s pool of journalists is smaller and busier. Enter Help a Reporter Out, a way of connecting journalists working on specific projects with subject matter experts in business or academia, appropriate public relations professionals, or other individuals able to provide testimonials or background information.

How it works

Journalists register with the site in order to post topics with which they are seeking assistance. “Helpers” register separately to receive e-mail s everal times a day summarizing current requests. This feed is also available via Twitter. Helpers respond either directly or through HARO to the media requests. The journalists follow-up as desired from the responses.

From a Public Relations perspective, success in using Help a Reporter Out is dependent on focused and professional PR skills, as well as being in the right place at the right time when a journalist inquiry is posted. Peter Shankman, founder of HARO, only has a few ground rules for the site, such as not Spamming journalists with off-topic pitches, not reposting the queries, and not harvesting the journalists’ e-mail addresses. Overall, Shankman explains, HARO works because it is based on principles of mutual trust and support — something we might add that has often been lacking in journalism-PR relations.

As Wired Magazine has point out, Help a Reporter Out is a deceptively simple approach to “crowdsourcing” within the journalism and public relations fields. Wired also provides some examples and user reactions to Help a Reporter Out in an effort to quantify the success of HARO — something that the service does not trumpet themselves. Similar services such as ProfNet and Media Kitty are available, although they have not achieved the same level of awareness, or follow a fee-based model (HARO is free).

In Marketing Warfare, Al Ries and Jack Trout discuss the use of unconventional tactics when outnumbered and outgunned by the competition. In such situations, tools like Help a Reporter Out have the potential to help balance the “discussion field” for smaller organizations and non-profits.

Additional Links

Help a Reporter on Twitter

The original Help a Report Out Facebook page

Top 10 Tips for PR Success Usin g HARO

Strategic Public Relations blog discusses Help a Reporter Out

Media Kitty on Twitter and Facebook

Peter Shackman’s Web site and Twitter account

Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work–And Why Your Company Needs Them – Book by Peter Shackman

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