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HARO Alternatives & How Journalists Really Work

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Journalists don’t use Help A Report Out much. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to marketing and public relations people struggling with media outreach.

I was a journalist looking for experts on a daily basis. There is no magic bullets to capture media attention. HARO has utility but it’s not in proportion to the internet hype.

Video we created on how journalists look for experts (1 min 30 sec)

Here’s my insight on how journalists look for experts and free ways to be found more often as a thought leader.

1. Quora and Stack Exchange Communities

There are niche question and answer sites that have established a reputation for quality. This is partly why they rank well on Google. Depending on your area of knowledge they are a way to bolster your thought leadership credentials.

Tip:

I like these two sites:

Stack Exchange: has a plethora of niche communities.

Quora: does what Yahoo Answers only partly did, open Q & A of decent quality.

They are not quick fixes, rather they help build reputations online over time. These sites, and others, are part of where reputations are formed online now and into the future. This makes them important marketing and public relations tools.

2. Local Universities and Colleges

Audiences prefer local experts as they are more relatable. For TV getting someone in studio may be a requirement.

Why academics? First and foremost they have the ability to speak openly and possess fewer vested interests. In the private sector, even if someone can speak they are often not in a position to say much.

Tip:

Get involved with the local university or four year college. Whether is starts with mentoring or a speech the goal is to leverage the status of the institution to build up your own credibility over time.

3. Large Universities and Colleges

When in doubt a journalist goes to a large institution. They have more potential faculty expert sources; therefore, making the investment of time more worthwhile. As well larger institutions tend to have more powerful brand names which builds credibility with the audience. Think about it, a Harvard professor is judged differently than one from a small liberal arts college.

Tip:

Better to be associated with a larger institution that a smaller one. Choose the one with the stronger brand.

4. Cell Phone Number

The number one request by journalists using Expertise Finder is mobile phone numbers of experts. When facing a tight deadline this is the only dependable way to quickly reach someone.

Tip:

Set yourself apart by making your cell phone number public and post it everywhere you are found online from LinkedIn to your personal site. You don’t get many spam call, I know as I have done it.

5. Good Talker

The second most popular request on Expertise Finder is to answer the question whether the expert is a “good talker”. While intelligent and available are important, if the person can’t explain issues for the life of them then it’s impossible for TV or radio. Even online/print journalists care as a bad talker means interviews that feel like root canals and take a long time.

Tip:

Post a video of yourself speaking on YouTube and on your LinkedIn profile. Counterintuitively the goal is to take away reasons not to contact you. Wherever you are found online should have links to these videos as often as possible.

Ideally it’s an interview, conference or speech you have given. But any video is better than none. YouTube is preferred as plays easily on all devices.

6. Social Media

a. Twitter

For journalists Twitter’s a nice warm blanket. They are power users of Twitter.

Tip:

Find the niche tags that apply to your area(s) of expertise. Then tweet when the topic is in the news. The challenge is that you need to be fast, I mean journalism fast, not corporate fast. Plus need the skills to write good tweets.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
– likely by Blaise Pascal, but often attributed to Mark Twain

b. Google

The Google sledgehammer is used a lot for lack of a better alternative. At least you get a lot of instant results with Google, even if you have to work through them one by one to seek out people.

Tip:

SEO pays off. It’s worth investing time and money. It’s a powerful way to be found over time by journalists via Goggle.

The most popular free SEO tool to add to a site is by Yoast. I’m not saying it’s the best. We use the Yoast WordPress plugin for this blog.

c. LinkedIn

When a journalist has a name of a potential expert going to their LinkedIn profile is an excellent place to learn more about them. You want to leverage your LinkedIn profile to take a journalist’s curiosity that is attained elsewhere and turn it into media actually contacting you.

LinkedIn is first and foremost an employment tool; therefore, not a great starting point for a journalist to find an expert.

Another area to look at is LinkedIn is groups. Add quality comments and posts as a way to be found. I would not say journalists consult them a lot. They are often closed which means the content can’t be indexed by Google. As well I don’t find the open LinkedIn groups rank well on Google. Too often the quality of a group is low.

Tip:

Have a pithy LinkedIn profile with links. Something well written speaks to your ability to communicate and the links are there for journalists to learn more if desired. To a far lesser extent consider participating in groups.

d. Facebook

Your Facebook profile is closed, only open to your friends. Facebook’s power to get media coverage is in commenting and posting on public pages/groups. But because Facebook and Google are competitors I have not found that Facebook is as well indexed by Google as one would expect. Understandably Facebook doesn’t want to give Google too much access.

Tip:

Join, post and comment in niche Facebook groups where you have area(s) of expertise. On average open groups are better as Google can crawl them.

Final Words

If you are not an expert in your field and just looking for a cheap way to boast yourself (see income) then the above is unlikely to work. It’s about leveraging your skills to bring long term benefits.

If you want quick wins, HARO is a good place if you are willing to spend the time. Just be aware of the proportional value that something that comes easily has versus something that takes time.

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HARO Alternatives & How Journalists Really Work
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HARO Alternatives & How Journalists Really Work
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Journalists don’t use Help A Report Out (HARO) much. Insights into where journalists look for experts and tips on free ways to be found as a thought leader.
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Expertise Finder
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