“Help a Reporter Out” Can Be a Boon for Your Career

“Help a Reporter Out” Can Be a Boon for Your Career 1024 576 Reader Views

by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

When I speak at writers’ groups, I am always amazed at how many writers don’t seem to know about Help a Reporter Out, also called HARO. Or they don’t know how to make it work very well for them. I know because the pencils come out and hands go up.

Here’s what it is. It’s a list of reporters, bloggers, and other media folks who need your help or the help of someone else out there that comes directly to your email box. It’s a little like a list of classified ads from media folk. Often they want opinion. They may want expertise. They may even want to cast you in a reality show. All you have to do to get these targeted (and carefully  categorized) calls for help in your e-mail box is sign up at http://helpareporter.com. But then, of course, like anything else, you have to “work it.”

Some consider it a bit of a problem that these HARO notices come to them several times a day. I did. I signed up and eventually thought I didn’t have time to fool with the extensive lists. And when I did respond, I was also discouraged because I didn’t get the immediate results I thought I should. So, I unsubscribed. But here’s the thing. I wasn’t getting results I wanted because I wasn’t using it right and—of course—because I wasn’t willing to be persistent. Then I tried it again. I changed my tactics. I didn’t frame myself as an author, but as an expert. And I cut down on the time I spent with it by keeping my answers (really query letters) that matched topics I know something about and relate in some way to one or more of my books on file.

I call it this approach to saving myself tons of work “recycling” in the third edition of my multi award-winning book from Modern History Press,  The Frugal Book PromoterAlthough this recycling method needs a little tailoring each time a file is used, the method cuts time required for dozens of different kinds of promotions. There is also information in that book on how to determine the angles related to you, your writing career and your book or books that might appeal to large demographics. Once I learned how to approach the people I contacted, I got better, more frequent results—in less time. Further, you might find this exercise that requires you to reread your own book with your marketing hat on, one of your most productive marketing undertakings you’ve ever tried.

I had to learn how to make HARO work the hard way. You don’t because I’m sharing some of my hard-won tips:

1.Sign up.

2. Try to look at every e-mail HARO sends out and quickly pick out the calls that might directly apply to you or the ones you can skew to favor what you can offer. Example: I answered one that wanted people who had suffered some kind of stroke so I shared my little story about a TIA I had while I was in Tibet. I was there for inspiration for a novel and my poetry. I was careful to include that reference to my creative work (along with links to some buy pages for those books) in the answer I sent. But I was also careful not to make that the major thrust of my query.

Note: For this kind of query, I adapt parts of several first-person essays I have on file, too. The healing aspect of writing can often be shown to relate to health issues you have overcome—and that is just one example of unlikely connections between HARO calls for help and your writing career. If you would like a copy of one of my first-person essays—perhaps one connecting my fiction to triumph over cancer—send me an e-mail at [email protected].

3. At first I thought these were all real reporters who would actually call me for an interview or at least to check facts. Some are. Some aren’t. The world is a different place since I was a reporter. Writers are in a bigger hurry. That means you need to be complete with your answer. Use anecdotes. Use soundbites. This is great training, by the way, for learning what intrigues media people and what doesn’t. Give them contact information and permission to call you if they wish right in the pitch you send them. Note: Though I have received lots of publicity using HARO, only once has someone called me. E-mails are a big time-saver for reporters. They save time by quoting and crediting whatever comes to them. Anything. From emails addressed to them to what they read to junk mail and, yes, to the answers they get from their HARO ads.

4. Always include a little bio. You can copy and paste it but it should include the kind of information about your background that applies to the kind of question your contact wanted answered. Include links to your website, blog, or online bookstores buy page. Sometimes the writers use that bio exactly as you gave it to them. At the risk of being redundant, media folks are busy. If your note to them requires tons of work to corral details you didn’t include, they’ll just use someone else who did a better job of giving them what they need.

5. Keep at it. As with all marketing, persistence pays.

6. Don’t get discouraged. Expect that you may hit gold on about one of every ten or twenty calls you answer. But one of those can reach a ton of new readers.When you learn that your answer has been used, go online, comment, and send a thank you to the writer. If you don’t know how you could possibly know if your helpful piece gets used, you need to refer again to your Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromoIII) and find “alerts” in the index.

Note: Sometimes the blogger or reporter (the smartest ones!) will let you know you were mentioned and even give you a permalink to use in your own marketing.

7. If you are featured on a relatively big site, add the coup to your media kit, your website, and blog about it. It might look like this: “As featured in Publishers Weekly.”

Remember, you’re not just selling books here. You’re building a writing career. You’re building name recognition. You’re networking, too!

To print an article or something else in your own blog, website, or elsewhere, send me a quickie query to [email protected]. I almost never say no! (-: In other words, I’m happy to Help a Reporter Out!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi-award-winning author of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her #HowToDoItFrugally series of books has helped writers and retailers worldwide. She is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, the Book Publicists of Southern California’s Irwin Award and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of 14 women of “San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen.” She was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program for nearly a decade. She recently updated her Frugal Book Promoter and added a new book to her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethicallywas launched as an e-book giveaway by Bookbaby.com and to highest acclaim by Midwest Book Review. Learn more at https://howtodoitfrgually.com

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