28 July 2008

Connecting sources with reporters: killing bad pitches

Over the past couple of months two new web sites have sprung up - one Canadian and the other American - aimed at connecting reporters with potential sources for stories.

haro_logo_bk-300x273HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. Consider it a sort of match-making service.

If you are a potential source of information, sign up at the HARO site and you'll receive an e-mail up to three times a day containing a short description of what reporters might be looking for.

If you are a journalist, there's another page consisting almost entirely of a form to enter your contact information and the background on what you are looking for.

HARO is the brainchild of Peter Shankman, a marketing public relations consultant in New York City. As Shankman describes it,

I built this list because a lot of my friends are reporters, and they call me all the time for sources. Rather than go through my contact lists each time, I figured I could push the requests out to people who actually have something to say.

These requests only come from reporters directly to me. I never take queries from that other service, I never SPAM, and I'm not going to do anything with your email other than send you these reporter requests when they arrive in my in-box.

Many of us in the business get the same sort of calls from time to time. Shankman just decided to do something with a broader reach.

Meanwhile, three Canadians have started a similar concept north of the border. Journalistsource.ca is newer and will likely take a while to get rolling. Your humble e-scribbler signed up a couple of days ago and so far there's been one e-mail looking for a connection. Two public relations professionals and a journalist are behind the site.

Occasionally a journalist will want to remain anonymous, so in this case, we ask that you email us your response to the request, and we’ll send it on to the journalist on your behalf.

What do we ask in return? That’s simple too - When you see a journalist’s request that you think you/your organization is capable of fulfilling, please be SURE your response fits the request before replying. Why? Because one of JournalistSource.ca’s main goals is to eliminate PR Spam.

That last hyperlink is in the original text. It will take you to one of several sites that have cropped up detailing some of the horrible pitches arriving in newsrooms from marketers and PR consultants looking to place stories with a news organization.

It's a legitimate part of the business but when it's done poorly, everyone suffers. Other sites try to combat the bad pitch.

HARO and Journalist.ca are two new efforts to get past the bad pitch and connect people with stories to tell to the people who are looking to tell a story.

Oh. If you think this will just make a handy list for you to spam from, be warned. It gets back quickly and thus far Shankman hasn't been shy in his circulars in outing the spam artists.

Death to bad pitches.