March 16, 2021
Learn HARO and ProfNet best practices and how to give your query the best chance at a response with our guest Allison Richard of Cision.
Our episode guest is Allison Richard, opportunities manager of members and content at Cision. Allison has been in the industry since 2003 and started as the media research supervisor for Cision.
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Five things you’ll learn from this episode:
How to use HARO and ProfNet more efficiently
The difference between HARO and ProfNet
How to carefully read HARO and ProfNet queries
How you should respond to a reporter on HARO and ProfNet
How to build relationships with a reporter through HARO and ProfNet
“HARO: It’s an immensely popular platform, and we love the love that people have for the service.” — Allison Richard, @helpareporter
“Don’t give up on a failed first pitch.” — Allison Richard, @helpareporter
If you enjoyed this episode, would you please share it with others and leave us a review?
About Allison Richard:
Allison Richard is the opportunities manager of members and content at Cision. She helps oversee the company’s HARO and ProfNet platforms, providing product knowledge and promoting each platform’s value to clients. She loves hearing success stories from clients who’ve found or served as experts in content due to these services.
Guest’s contact info and resources:
- HARO: Take your pitch to the next level
- Listen to our episode with HARO’s founder Peter Shankman
On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
About your host Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021.
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- Hello and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd. Today we are joined by Allison from Cision and she's gonna tell us about two unique tools that Cision offers called HARO and ProfNet. These tools connect you directly with journalists when they need sources, when they wanna interview experts. We're gonna walk through eight tips she has today on how to use these platforms more efficiently to save you time and to get you more media coverage. This can be a great episode, I know you're gonna want to consume it and share it with your colleagues and we encourage you to do that. And while you're here, you may as well subscribe because we're producing all kinds of really good content that's gonna help you stay On Top of PR.
- [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.
- Hello and welcome to On Top of PR, I'm your host, Jason Mudd. And I'm glad to be here because I'm glad to be joined by Allison Richards from Cision. Allison, welcome to the show. We're glad you're here.
- Thanks so much for having me.
- Yeah, it's gonna be a great show. We're excited to have you. I'm gonna read a little bit of your bio, but then I'm gonna turn it back to you to fill in the blanks a little bit. Allison is the opportunities manager for member and content at Cision. She oversees the company's HARO and ProfNet platforms. We're really excited to have you here today because Allison I wanna help our audience understand how to use these important tools more efficiently so that they are not only with a time perspective being more efficient, but most importantly getting the results that you want to see them get on those platforms and the results that they and their leadership team want to enjoy. So Allison, tell us just a little bit more about you.
- Surely. So I have been with Cision forgive me 'cause my math is off I think since COVID locked down, but since 2010. I actually rejoined the company after being there for about 4 1/2 years, then a brief stint in a PR capacity and then back at Cision in 2010 so going on 11 years now. And my story is kind of interesting in that throughout my career I've served on both sides of the PR coin. I say that because I have history with PR like working an actual PR agency and then also behind the scenes at Cision where I kind of behind the curtain. And so I'm in a unique position in my current role or I should say my role over the last couple of years in that the products I oversee I have experience using. So that has been very rewarding to have the insight and play a part in the products I know are immensely helpful to PR professionals.
- I love that. One of my challenges have always been working with software companies who have built a software solution or built a solution for an industry they're not in. And so when I've worked with different companies, I'm like is anybody there actually using this software? Does anybody there think this was a good idea other than it made sense from a logic of programming standpoint. So that's really good to hear and I hope you have a lot of clout and influence on feature requests and ways to improve user experiences no matter what the platform might be. It's good to have an internal champion like that. I wanna settle a debate that we have internally here at my PR agency, Axia. We always wonder is the platform called HORO or HARO? Because obviously we hear both ways of using it and we have our own opinions. So will you settle that debate once and for all for us?
- Sure. I hope that no wars or anything have been started out of that, but you'll have to forgive me I'm gonna hark back to a corny joke I gave someone who asked that via Twitter a year or so ago. They asked that exact same question and I just replied back saying, you can call us whatever as long as we can call you happy with the service. So I say that knowing that Peter Shankman the founder of HARO pronounces it HARO but quite frankly most of our inquiries come via email. So we're not able to see how someone's pronouncing it but we answer to all pronunciations.
- Okay, so the debate is not officially settled but it's not like a nice little neutral response is a good one. I also just I'm curious if it has anything to do with where people are located geographically and if that might have something to do with it.
- I think so too. I will say that HARO does have a sophisticated ring to it but we don't look down on HARO. I guess what else could they maybe Harrow? I don't wanna go all down the line regionally, but yes, we answer to everything.
- Well, the origin is obviously Help A Reporter Out and consumers love acronyms and saying things much shorter than having to say all the words. I like calling it I'm now getting myself confused but HARO because as a youngster I rode Haro bikes, BMX bikes and that's what we called them. And so I love the name, I love seeing the name because it's nostalgic to me.
- And we love that it's nostalgic to you so well with it, I say.
- Excellent. All right, so let's get back to business. The important stuff, why everyone is tuning in because your tools are very powerful and important to the industry, hands down. I don't think anybody denies that. I think where the challenge becomes is just like social media for example, it's a powerful tool and in the wrong hands it can be used inefficiently and counter-productively. So, my hope today is when everyone is done consuming this episode, not only are they more confident and more efficient using these tools but they've taken the time to share this recording with their colleagues and with their peers in the industry so that we, as an industry, just get better at what we do. One conversation I have with newsroom folks is when they start beefing and venting about PR people and their pitches or the way they approach newsrooms and I'm setting the table here is I have always believed and experienced that not everybody pitching a newsroom is a PR person. Sometimes it's the team mom who is passionate about what the team is doing. Sometimes it's the receptionist or administrative assistant or the intern who just sees something they think is newsworthy and wants to advocate on behalf of the organization. And I think that's a lot of your users, is that a fair statement as well?
- That's a very accurate statement. We have upwards of for HARO in particular I believe the latest count was at like 1 million and I always say in counting sources. People are signing up for the wildly popular service as we speak. And you hit it on the head of course the acronym is Help A Reporter Out. We also interchangeably use the term journalists to encompass the bloggers. And like you said there's as many people who, there's a wide range of content creators as there are sources. But for sources, yes it's definitely just everyone from a seasoned PR professional to someone who is like you said the team mom and is very passionate about her team and they no shade by any means but may not have the PR experience or the know how on how to best promote her team or her product. So that's what we hope to accomplish with opportunities like yours today and just these wildly popular products making sure that, like you said, they are I don't wanna say in the right hands because we hope everyone who's using it is using it with the right hands. But knowledge is power and making sure that everyone who signs up eagerly for the products knows what they're doing and what does and doesn't fly.
- Well, just like journalism and news reporting anyone can do it. There's no license you have to get, there's no accreditation required. And PR is very similar and I think that's why news works so well in our country. There's freedom of the press, there's freedom of expression. And so I don't think the profession should be hindered by having to be licensed but certainly training is very valuable. But I've visited companies where before they and my team has visited companies where before they hired our PR firm they were saying, well, this is our receptionist and she handled PR before you guys start working here. Or I've heard from the CEO or COO and they say I've literally heard a COO say, when I'm brushing my teeth in the morning I'm scrolling through HARO to see if there's any thing that we should be responding to. And I've just said, surely there's a better use of your time by hiring somebody other than the COO to be looking through media opportunities. And he said, well, the truth is we see the opportunities and then we try to figure out, okay, we know there's an opportunity what do we do now? And so I just say, well, you definitely need some help.
- Right, right. No shade on checking it while you brush your teeth and we don't judge over here like it however. I'll touch upon one of these. This is a point I'll touch upon later the key in the instance of someone who could be brushing their teeth while scrolling through the queries is that you respond as quickly as possible when you see something. So, however you are able to multitask while brushing your teeth, go for it.
- There you go. All right, so before we jump into those tips which is what exactly what I wanna do, let's just set the table again. So in a nutshell and a quick kind of a summary let's say 10 seconds or less, what is the difference between HARO and ProfNet so that everyone listening understands.
- Surely. For sources it's going to be frequency. HARO is three times a day, ProfNet is throughout the day based off of your frequency preferences. And then how we vet the journalists differs. ProfNet is vetted by journalists. HARO we vet the outlet. And then there's also like some technicalities as far as like the format or the the anatomy of a query as you view it on the subscriber end, and then subscription differences too.
- Okay, sure. And so I feel like we should probably just take one more step backwards I'm thinking of if one of my children or one of my parents were watching this they'd be like ProfNet, HARO I don't even know what's going on right now. So, let's start the baseline there. Alex, I'll go first and then you improve what I say if you don't mind, but ultimately for PR professionals we're turning to and I would say and entrepreneurs and small business people and marketers, all kinds of people in the marketplace are using ProfNet and more likely HARO to receive opportunities where they can be sourced as an expert or provide insight to a journalist with their information. So it's a journalist kind of raising their hand saying I'm looking for this and but take it from here, please.
- Exactly, that's a great analogy. Journalists for HARO in particular they send out the all call of, hey, here's what I need. And a point that we have to drive home 'cause I think this is a misconception with HARO. For HARO particular from as a source or expert subscriber perspective, it's reactive only. We do get a lot of people emailing us thinking mistakenly that like we're kind of along the lines of a press release service and where they can send their information about their product or their service, their expert. But for HARO in particular it is like you just said a journalist raising their hand and saying, hey, I need help with, I need an expert to comment on this and that topic.
- And so you get those opportunities through email and then typically through email you're responding back to those individuals, answering their question or responding within their deadline that they have a way to kind of vet your credentials, vet your topic or reaction or response. And yeah, so does that sound good? Do you think we've established a good baseline for everybody?
- I think so. Yeah, that's the crest of the.
- All right, so now that people are familiar with how it works or they're becoming familiar with how it works, let's talk about how to make it work even better, and it sounds like you've got some talking points so let's jump right into those.
- Surely. So these are tips that are going to apply to both platforms because I think they're just universal and a lot of it is PR 101, but again I don't want to deter anyone who doesn't have a specific or seasoned PR background from joining the services as a source. But these are just some tips that are available on the Cision website. They're best practices for tipping excuse me, best practices for pitching tip sheet that we have on the Cision website just to guide people who may not have that particular background. So the first thing would be to just read and possibly reread the query to make sure that your expertise, your particular expertise is relevant. This is something, we say read and evaluate but unless there are reporters who can be somewhat vague because maybe their story hasn't, they hadn't really formed their story yet and they're just putting out fillers. So in cases where someone says, I'm working on an article and they just keep it vague on I need X medical experts on the vaccine. That's something that could depending on what your expertise is, you'd be within your right if you pitched them and there wasn't a specific action item or particular niche that they were speaking about. That aside though, more times the majority of journalists know what they want and they have a specific angle that they're coming from. So we always stress read and evaluate the query, make sure that what you're pitching is relevant to the query. I'm gonna be saying this throughout and just driving home the point that journalists are often working with very quick turnaround times, sometimes same day deadlines. And so when they're reading through pitches, wading through pitches because they may get like up to 20, 30, 40 pitches they are zeroing in their radars set for, okay, who has what I need? So we would rather sources spend their time pitching somebody for which they're an exact they're a great fit versus trying to make something fit that doesn't and just really trying to stretch a topic to their particular expertise.
- I absolutely agree with you that it's better that you are a good fit versus trying to fake fit. And and whether people like this expression or not, they're often actively looking as a first round to eliminate sources that aren't a good fit and so they're spending a lot of time just moving people to the side so they can get into the ones that are a good fit. And so you have to realize that it's possible that you're competing with a handful of responses but more likely you're probably competing with 100s of responses potentially. I'm sure you may even have data and if you don't, I'd encourage you guys to track it. So do you have any data like that that shows that an average query might get as many responses as this or a higher or low number of responses you're typically seeing?
- We don't track the response rate for a query. That's because everyone who signs up as a source they have an archive and so they, within that archive you're able to see if the journalist or reporter has accepted your query, if they haven't, if they found it helpful, useful or not. And that is something that we are working on because we have received that feedback to just being able to help sources check the response. And we realized that people do want to know like am I doing something right? And if there's something should I fine tune my pitching? So that is one of several items that we're looking at as we're always trying to improve the system.
- All right, excellent. Okay so, we are with Allison from Cision and they operate HARO or HORO and ProfNet. And we're giving some tips here today on how to do an even better job with those services and how to use those services to get the outcomes that you're looking for. We're gonna take a quick break here and be back with more in just a second and so please stay with us.
- [Narrator] You listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show.
- Welcome back to On Top of PR, I'm your host Jason Mudd and this episode is brought to you as always by ReviewMaxer. We're thankful for ReviewMaxer and their sponsorship here. If your organization wants to monitor, improve and promote online reviews, whether they're from customers or your employees we encourage you to check out ReviewMaxer They're at reviewmaxer.com. But if you go to reviewmaxer.com/ontopofpr, they have a special offer for fans of On Top of PR. I hope you'll take advantage of it and let them know that you heard about ReviewMaxer from On Top of PR because we appreciate their sponsorship. And we appreciate the opportunity they're giving you to improve, monitor and manage as well as promote your online reviews. So without any further ado, back to the episode. I'm joined with Allison Richard from Cision. We're so glad you're here and we're really just starting to dive into some good content and excited to share that with our audience. So let me turn it back over to you, Allison and just keep sharing what people need to do to see more results from their efforts with your platform.
- Surely. So yeah, just recapping off of the first PR tip or the first pitching tip we always stress is just reading and evaluating making sure you're a good fit. And then for number two, we say respond quickly. I realized that I may be peach, excuse me preaching to the PR choir with that as far as quick turnaround times the journalist have. But it does bear mentioning with those again who may not have the PR background that you do as soon as you see a query and you know you're a fit, if you're responding directly do so as quickly as you can or if you're responding on behalf of your client do so as quickly as you can. We do get complaints from time to time where people say, well, I only had a couple of hours to respond to this. That's not realistic. And to which we have to inform them that's the nature of the business. And unfortunately, we can't forward pitches to queries that have expired, whose deadlines have passed just out of respect for the journalists. They set the deadlines for a reason. So that would be the second pitching tip is just make sure as soon as you see something and you know you're a good fit, get on top of it. Don't delay. A side note to that too is with HARO it's an immensely popular platform and we frankly love the love that people have for the service. And when they share the word or spread the word with their colleagues and friends, we love that. The catch to that is that oftentimes people aren't that the people who they share the queries with aren't aware that one, they need to sign up for the service in order to respond. These queries they're membership only. So even if you're just with the free subscription you have to be registered with the service in order to respond. And we do get people writing in saying, well, I responded to the query but then I received a message saying I'm not signed up. And that the reason why is because the system doesn't recognize your email address. So if you're not registered for HARO and someone sends you a query saying, hey, you'd be a perfect fit for this journalist requests make sure that you sign up. It takes all of I've never timed it personally but depending on your email platform is lightening quick as to how fast you can sign up. And the other thing too is just make sure that you actually activate your account. So it's a two-step process, sign up and then wait for the confirmation email just again, we're trying to make sure we're not dealing with robots. And once you've activated your account, then fire off your response. So that would be the thing I'd add to responding quickly is that if you're someone who's been forwarded a query yes, still respond quickly but make sure that you're signed up for the service so that you don't run the risk of sending a pitch, you've gone on about your day and then you find out it never went through because you weren't registered.
- Right, right. Well Allison, I think we've got like at least six more topics that you wanna share. So we're gonna have to go through these rapid fire or else we're gonna have a big cliffhanger at the end and have to send everybody to the episode notes to catch the rest. But I agree with you, I would say one thing your platform has done year over year has gotten better and made a better experience for the journalist, made a better experience for the sources. I know for sure there's been times where we've wanted to follow up or send another piece of information relevant to the query and we've gotten that bounce back saying, sorry, the deadline has passed. And so kudos to you guys for continuing to improve. What other tips would you want to share during our time together?
- Let's see as I cherry pick. These kind of go hand, stay on topic. And when we talk about what does and doesn't work for HARO and ProfNet, staying on topic and by under no circumstances should you spam or send unsolicited pitches in particularly with ProfNet because most journalists with ProfNet will reveal their direct contact information which is sacred. And so, we strictly prohibit email harvesting on either platform. With HARO, you only learn someone's email once they've responded to your pitch. But again, treat that information as the privileged information that it is and don't slam them with unsolicited pitches for any anything you're trying to promote. And also be brief. I think, well, we have a specific rule for journalists in which they can't specifically ask people to like you'll see queries or we'll receive queries sometimes that say, please respond up to a thousand words. Well, we have a specific journalist rule with HARO and also with ProfNet. We try to maintain this too that a journalist shouldn't be asking a source or an expert for more than 300 words. The reasoning behind that rule is we consider that to be enough, that's enough of a word count to get your point across in about a paragraph or less or possibly a little more. But anything over that, we feel that the source is basically doing the journalist job for them. And we also have a hand in hand rule that strictly prohibits seeking guest authors or contributing authors. Again, both of these platforms are set up for experts to contribute their expertise but not to actually write an article which the journalists themselves should be doing. So we require them to not ask for more than 300 words. That said, we expect sources to be brief just quick and to the point with your pitch.
- Our audience knows that I like to say be smart and be brief.
- Exactly. I think that goes like with conversation nowadays too. It's like, okay our attention spans are like, let's get to it.
- I think another thing that HARO has changed in the industry is it used to be basically frowned upon for a journalist to do an interview through email. He'll send you the questions, wait for you to respond. And I sense if I could kind of put a finger on the pulse of when this changed, I think it had to do with the early days of HARO where they would say, here are the five questions I want answered. You'd answer those five questions. They'd pull a quote from it and put it in the article and I think that, honestly, I think that changed journalism and for maybe not for the better but certainly for the more efficiency. Because now the quotes are direct, no one can say I was misquoted and it makes the journalist job a lot easier just to copy and paste.
- Exactly, and that's one of the other tips too which I am sure as a PR professional you can attest to is speaking. Writing in sound bites for the purposes of here on ProfNet. Just give them those nuggets that they can work with and pull and be like, ah, this is exactly what I need rather than having to read through a paragraph or a novel. say, okay what? And then in the last lines they see what they need. They are just again, working with incredibly quick turnaround times. And so they want what they need and they don't wanna have to read it through having many paragraphs in order to get there.
- All right. Allison, this has been a great conversation. I'm gonna give you time to share one more tip and then we'll have to ease the rest of them for people to check out on the episode page.
- Absolutely, let's see. So we done, proofread, stay on topic, be brief, writing in sound bites. Let's see as I roll through everything else.
- [Jason] I heard you say proofreading, that's really important.
- Right I mean, it sounds simple but unfortunately it's not always the case. People will and journalists don't have time to go through and determine, okay, I think this is what they meant but the grammar is off. That more times than not they're not going to be willing to edit for grammar and spelling.
- And I would say have a colleague look at it. Make sure your colleague is happy with and it makes sense to your colleague as an independent third party reviewer. 'Cause that journalist is not the expert, you are, you may say jargon or things that are or assume they know things or have a typo or misstate something and it's completely unclear to that journalist and out of respect for you as the expert they're gonna default to you, but really you just made a mistake.
- Exactly. And then if you had to I think this has been particularly pertain to you and your audience is use these platforms for they were designed off of building relationships. I know Peter Shankman, I think he specified that in his interview that he used his existing relationships to help design a wildly popular product and the same goes for ProfNet too. So we advise that don't give up after your first, if your first pitch isn't accepted don't let that be dejecting. But also again, don't spam the person with unsolicited pitches but you might even start sharing their articles on social media to kind of put your your name in their radar or on their radar. And then once you do build up there are journalists that are like, you know what? This person responded to me before. I'm putting them in my mental Rolodex. I'll reach out to them directly and even if it's outside, well, it would be outside of HARO since journalists can contact experts through the service. But that's the power of the product, of the platform is that we help you make that connection, hopefully make that connection and that type of relationship to where I don't wanna say you don't need us anymore, but at least we've helped you with what you needed both the journalists and the expert. So it was built off of relationships and we just encourage people to continue building relationships. Just don't give up on a failed first pitch it, they will come. We can't guarantee that every pitch is going to be received but just keep at it, review the the best practices for pitching. And then also just contact us from time to time if you need help or guidance on something that may or may not be working.
- That's very good, yes and I agree and certainly take the high road. If you were not selected as a source don't try to boycott the journalist or complain to the journalists. Because what you're doing is you're setting, you're planting the seeds for next time. And I heard a great quote a couple of weeks ago that as PR professionals, we need to start putting the public and relationships back into PR as opposed to just thinking about media coverage and content. It's about relationships, it's about listening and it's about engaging. And there's certainly ways to attract attention from the media in a supportive way, versus in a shameless self promoting way. And you're right, the founder of a HARO, Peter Shankman that's how he really started the whole thing was just help, he put the help in Help A Reporter Out. And we have to remember that that's what this service is for is if you're helping journalists, they'll like you trust you and come back to you because you've built a relationship with them.
- It's very cliche-ish, but it does ring true help us help you.
- Thanks, Allison. I absolutely agree. And we have now run out of time but for our audience, don't worry we're gonna share the rest of your, is it eight full tips? We'll share those
- in our show notes and certainly we'll provide you with the contact information if you wanna get a hold of Cision, you wanna get a hold of ProfNet and start a HARO, HORO account whichever one you prefer, and they do that at helpareporter.com is that right?
- Correct, yes. And we have a contact form on the site. And then just in general, if someone wanted to email us directly firstname.lastname@example.org gets to us and we are just we try to get through, we get a lot of inquiries but we will get to them as quickly as possible.
- Yeah, I have no doubt you will. I've always had a really good experience and I've heard my team say great things. So.
- And we love to hear it.
- Yeah, it's one of the many tools in our toolbox at Axia that we use for our clients and encourage you if you wanna do it yourself, that's the way to do it. If you're not doing it today at least expose yourself to the tool. And I certainly say it's a great opportunity just to see what's going on out there in the world what people are talking about. Even if you never respond to a query, you're gonna learn about what's trending and how to tie your company and your messaging to some of those trends. But as Alan said earlier, don't be a try hard and try too hard to make your square peg fit in a round hole. You really wanna be the expert in the space and meet the criteria what they're looking for. And if they don't find anybody they'll come back and they'll loosen the criteria or broaden the criteria so that maybe you'll fit the second time around. So, yeah.
- Just remember, I saw a study for every pitch a journalist receives. For every story a journalist is gonna do, they receive about a hundred additional pitches so they can't do them all. And so you've really got to hunt for the right opportunities and hunt for them well. So it's more about selecting your pitch pun intended versus trying to swing at everything. So Allison, it's been a pleasure. I'm really glad that we connected. I hope we can have--
- Thank you so much for the opportunity. Opportunities like this help us spread the word to as many people as possible. So definitely thank you so much.
- Yeah, our pleasure. That's what we wanna do through this platform is to reach as many aspiring and established PR pros as possible worldwide. And if they're not using your tools they should definitely be exploring them and getting more familiar with them. So again, this has been a great episode, Allison thank you so much. Thank you to our audience
- Thank you.
- for joining in and thanks again to our sponsor ReviewMaxer for their support. If you enjoyed this episode, I hope you'll take a moment and share it with your colleagues or share it on social media and don't forget to subscribe so you get notified when we have another great episode just like this. Allison, thanks again for joining us.
- Thanks for having me.
- [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.