In almost every group project I was ever involved with in school, from elementary through graduate level, there was always someone who took on the lion’s share of the work and someone who didn’t pull their weight.

When it comes to putting together a news story these days, it seems like the roles of the ever-familiar school group project are emerging again. This time, it often appears that the public relations person or interview subject is doing all the work while the reporter or writer sits back and takes the Pgrade—and byline.

But it’s important to note that, in an age of around-the-clock news and slim newsroom staffs, journalists’ jobs are more challenging than ever before. So they aren’t really slacking. They just need your help.

As Peter Shankman reportedly put it:

“In the past ten years, journalists have been tasked with doing ten times more with five times less. Truly want to get your story placed? Do as much of the journalist’s work as you can. Give smart background. When you offer a source, make sure they can talk and know what they’re saying. Beat the herd by being just a little bit better.”

Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, a source for news people to find sources for their stories quickly.

If you are a Weaving Influence public relations client, chances are you are familiar with HARO and ProfNet, another media query service. You know that these services provide a real opportunity for you to tap into the news coming out of your industry. By landing in a story, you earn often high-profile publicity, relationships with key media contacts, and backlinks to your website, to name a few benefits.

But there are right ways and wrong ways to respond to a HARO. The Weaving Influence PR team is skilled at making sure we respond in a way that gets media personnel’s’ attention (like writing catchy headlines), showcases your expertise (credentials in the first paragraph, bio at the very end), builds relationships (personalized greetings), boosts SEOs (backlink requests), and doesn’t annoy contacts (no follow-ups unless the journalist contacts you), for example.

Yet responding to a HARO is often a team effort. And with that, there are some things experts should know when responding to queries sent from the PR team.

Here are 6 key tips for a successful HARO response:

Be really fast. Journalists get upwards of a hundred responses to a single query. And with a deadline looming, they often use the first responses they get for their stories. So time is of the essence when responding to a query.

Stick to the script. Answer exactly what they asked for. Don’t respond with something that is tangentially related or suggest another angle. If there are numerous questions, it is best to list the questions with your response below. The easier to read, the better.

Be short and sweet. Make your point quickly. Often, reporters even include a word limit to encourage this. The shorter, the better.

Be reachable. Journalists want to be able to get to you directly, so be open to including your email and phone number so that they can contact you for follow-up questions.

Be specific. Give specific points and ditch the generalities. If you’re including tips, aim for 3 to 5. But remember to follow the instructions of what the reporter asked for.

Give them what they need. Remember, your job is to make it easy on the reporter. So don’t ever tell them to go elsewhere for the information, like your website or another article.

There is never a guarantee that a HARO or ProfNet response will make it into a story, but by following these tips when you send your insights to your PR team member, your chances of making the grade will be much greater.


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