How To Respond To HARO/ProfNet Queries Without Pissing Writers Off

This post can be found here

Think your peach defuzzer is the greatest product in the known universe, or rep a doctor who’s on the road to curing a formerly incurable disease? Then you’re probably signed up as an expert source on services like Help a Reporter (HARO)and ProfNet.

I use these services as just one of many tools in my arsenal to find expert and “real life” sources, but often I end up frustrated — and without usable sources. To be fair, sometimes my requests are kind of crazy — like I’m looking for a Hispanic woman in her 40s who lives in the Midwest and drives a Suburban. But many times, it’s the people who respond to queries that make a writer want to drive flaming daggers into her eyes.

Don’t get me wrong — I love and appreciate these services. They’re free to journalists, and I often find good sources through them, like the beautiful bridal entrepreneur-slash-cage fighter I ended up profiling for Fortune Small Business and later for Inc. But the successes are tempered by avalanches of off-point e-mails from PR reps and expert sources.

If you use these services as a PR rep or a source, here are some tips for boosting your chances of a reply when you respond to a writer’s query. (Yes, writers, these requests confusingly are called queries.) I’ll use some examples from recent queries I sent in.

1. Read the Freakin’ Query!

Lat week I sent out the following query:

Are We Detoxing Too Much?
I’m looking for experts such as MDs who can discuss whether the detoxing trend is going too far, in terms of detoxing our homes, our bodies, and our food. Magazines and books are telling us to purge everything from house dust to bleach to non-organic foods, and more and more people are going on fasts and detox diets. How do you know if you’re going too far? And how much do we REALLY need to detox? I do not need to hear from vendors about detoxing products.

You get it, right? I’m looking for information on the negative side of detoxing — how much is too much and how to know if you’ve gone too far. And yet, almost 100% of the responses I received were from medical professionals who offered to talk about why we need to go on detox diets and how to do it. It’s like they scanned the query, saw the word “detox,” and blasted off an e-mail about the wonders of detoxing. If you can’t (or won’t) read, how can we trust you as an expert?

So please…READ the query!

2. Sell Yourself

Every once in a while I get a response that says something like, “I can help you with your article. Call me.” Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Please, tell me who you are and what makes you an expert in the topic I queried.

3. Remember That Our Job Is Not to Sell Your Product

Of course, people who respond to writer queries have something to sell, whether it’s a product, a viewpoint, or something else. But you need to use some smarts to determine when it’s right to make a blatant product pitch. For example, here’s a query I sent out yesterday:

For a national health magazine, I’m looking for beauty news that’s NOT product-specific and that is backed by studies. For example, I don’t care that Jane’s Sun Kissed Skin Lotion was proven to prevent wrinkles, but I do care that a recent study published in the Journal of Dermatology concluded that the antioxidants in pistachios were proven to whiten teeth. Please, no product pitches.

I’m guessing you noticed that I did not want product-specific pitches. I mean, I made it pretty clear, right? So why do I get replies from people telling me, for example, that the FatBlaster Brand Laser Machine has been proven to reduce the look of cellulite? I guess the reps think, “Well, it can’t hurt to send it along anyway.” But guess what? Itcan hurt, because I’ll be sending very negative vibes your way, and I will remember you when you contact me again.

4. Don’t Add Us to Lists Unless We Ask You To

I can’t even count how many PR reps add my address to their press lists after harvesting it from a HARO or ProfNet query. I know this because I have a special e-mail address that I use only for queries on these services, so when I start getting press releases at that address, I know how I ended up on the list. Many people see I’m a writer — what type? who cares? — and decide that maybe I’d like to write about their clients who run a cracker factory in Boise. But even if a PR rep groks my specialties, I don’t want to be added to press lists unless I ask for it. Just because I wrote about safe web surfing in 2001 doesn’t mean that I want to receive press releases on that topic for the rest of my days. I get enough e-mail as it is.

Now HARO has a special feature that hides your e-mail address on your queries so this is less of an issue, but as soon as you respond to a PR rep they have your e-mail address and can add it to their press lists, so the problem hasn’t been completely eradicated.

5. Make Sure Your Client Is Available

It sucks when a PR rep responds to a HARO or ProfNet request with what sounds like the perfect source, but when you try to set up the interview the source goes AWOL. Check with your source to make sure he’s interested in doing the interview before you respond to a query.


12 Fashion PR mistakes that piss Fashion Bloggers off

by Yazmina Cabrera  To find the original post click here 

Lucia del Pasqua

Last week we covered pretty much everything about what a great Fashion PR Girl wannabe needs to perform properly. When I thought the guide was finished, Lucia del Pasqua, an Italian Fashion Blogger –known for her unique honesty, eternal love for Stella McCartney and for rocking The Fashion Politan blog with her overwhelming rhetoric– came out with a post about the worst Fashion PR profiles she has found in her blogging career. And hey, you gotta read this. Her definitions are HILARIOUS.
If you’re planning to become next Fashion PR Girl for your beloved brand, these are 12 things you should definitely avoid when connecting to Fashion Bloggers, as seen by blogger insider Lucia del Pasqua, The Fashion Politan.

1. Sorry, but who are you?
Lucia has faced that sort of Fashion PRs who invite you to an event, recall you to talk about &%$Ç@, send you an email to check if you’re coming… And then they make the horrible mistake of showing that they don’t know who the hell you are through these two awkward ways:
a) At the end of a phone call they ask you: “… but who were you exactly? Where do you work in?”.
b) When you show up in the event, you see that they ask their colleagues who you are because they’ve NEVER seen your face. Like ever. Then they don’t even come say hello.
NOTE TO ASPIRING FASHION PRs: Always make sure you triple-check who you are communicating with. I mean, go visit her blog and create a bloggers catalogue with pictures and names, if it helps!

2. Obsessively-communicative.
Mailing is fine. Meeting is cool. Making phone calls is right. But Lucia has suffered those Fashion PRs who are CRAZY about communicating at all levels and they go beyond the traditional means. She’s been contacted by Whatsapp and Facebook chat for important (and very long) issues, and she’s got lost in the middle.
“But hell, send me a damn email, who are you, my best friend?”, says Lucia.
NOTE TO ASPIRING FASHION PRs: Checking with the person you are intending to pitch which way he/she desires to be pitched is key for not becoming an overwhelming PR. Visit PR Couture by Crosby Noricks to find out more about pitching.

3. Shampoo.
Lucia has suffered the “Shampoo-girl Syndrome”, occurring when a random digital PR ignores basic things as the “target audience” and invites the wrong people to a certain event instead of or with you. “The risk of being photographed with a girl who’s wearing an acrylic leopard printed skirt and white shoes is high”, says Lucia.
Controlling the target audience of the blog you are inviting to press events is key not only for your products, but also to create engagement across the guests.

4. B for Brandetta.
According to Lucia, some Fashion PRs had expected her to write a post about how “amazing, beautiful, fabulous and super-mega-wonderful” a single brand is, without explicitly telling her to do so. In fact, some time ago she had already written a post about a certain brand (all by herself), and a Fashion PR told her: “Oh, too bad, we could have collaborated under an economic agreement”. Bulls*$&! 
Avoid this sort of… how to say… 360º-uncomfortable-situations? Be FAIR.

5. Sweetheart.
Love, honey, baby, cupcake-frosting, darling. Just… don’t. OK? You are not the blogger’s mum. Nor her hairdresser.
NOTE TO ASPIRING FASHION PRs: Be respectful and always maintain a professional tone when talking to a blogger. And anyone else.

6. The pseudo – digital.
Lucia exposes a funny situation in which she asks a Fashion PR: “so, what hashtag should I use?”. And the Fashion PR replies: “(what do you mean by) hashtag?”.
Get fully informed about the mambo-jambo of the bloggers you are intending to work with and learn to talk to them in an appropriate way. CD-ROM is not a word any more.

7. As you wish.
Lucia explains that some Fashion PRs have invited her to press events to specifically get coverage from her in (where she collaborates and hosts a section). She seemed very pissed of the fact that they didn’t want her for The Fashion Politan instead.
Don’t try to limit a blogger’s freedom. Ask in advance in a kindly manner and NEVER force things! And if you finally decide to work with that blogger accept the consequences.

8. Goddesses.
“Oh, like if you were Juno, Minerva or Elena. Don’t be that smug!”, says Lucia ironically.
Remember what we talked about acting like a humble professional individual at all times, at all levels, with every single person? THAT!

9. The far-too-clever.
According to Lucia, some Fashion PRs don’t even hire photographers for their press events and pretend bloggers to make the pictures and send them all the day after. Even Instagram pictures. “Copy+Paste. Thank you”, chuckles Lucia.
By acting like this you’re inevitably giving the image of 1) a lazy PR and a 2) Ebenezer-Scrooge Brand. If you’re short of budget, analyse if it’s still a good idea to do a press event.

10. What do you think I am, a scratch card?
Lucia admits that some Fashion PRs have sneakily asked her to send them her mailing lists with all the contacts she has. “Those have an economical value”, she admits. And how right she is.
By any mean you should ask something like this to a blogger. First of all because it is just not fair and you will be seen as a stealing raccoon, but also because it’s supposed to be illegal to traffic with personal-details. Just saying.

11. Come on, Cheesus Crackers. If I say no, it is NO.
“This kind of Fashion PR thinks Fashion Bloggers have nothing else to do in the world but trying the new Zara collection every day and eating cupcakes”, confesses Lucia.
NOTE TO ASPIRING FASHION PRs: Some Fashion Bloggers have really busy agendas and you, as a Fashion PR, have to understand when to get a NO to an invitation.

12. The day before.
Some Fashion PRs have called Lucia only the day before the once-in-a-century event just because nobody wanted to assist and they were in need of patching-guests.
Don’t be that obvious. Simply that.

(Special thanks to Lucia del Pasqua for allowing me to use her picture and this amazing ranking of the most awful PR profiles she’s encountered. For her original post (in Italian), click here)

No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much

Adrienne GrahamAdrienne Graham  Original Post

But your knowledge has value. You’ve invested time and money into learning your craft and it’s not fair for people to expect you to give it away for free. Even friends need to understand there are boundaries.

For example I will no longer advise my friends or family for free. (Wow, I just made some people mad….they’ll get over it!). I have businesses to run, employees to pay, a mortgage to pay, an office rent to pay, college tuition, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve told this to friends who have promptly replied, “Me too, you know I don’t have much money”. SO WHAT. That means you either have to delay your plans or come up with the money to fund your dreams. Period. Giving away information is the quickest way to end up evicted or foreclosed on. Put that in proper perspective for a moment.

If you’re having problem drawing the line in the sand, here are some rules of thumb you should follow:

  • Believe that what you know is valuable. If it wasn’t then why are they coming to you? You’re their chance to solve a problem or find a solution. That has value. Charge for it.
  • Create a fee schedule. Whenever someone wants to pick your brain, make sure you have your fee schedule in front of you. Give them a quote for how much it will cost them. They’ll either pay it or move on. If they move on, good riddance. They weren’t interested in paying you anyway. Let them figure it out on their own.
  • Decline lunch/coffee invitations unless they are strictly non-business.If the conversation swings around to business, quickly and politely tell them you’re off the clock. If they are interested in a consult they can book an appointment and let them know what the charge is for that.
  • Keep it light. Some of you will probably cave and throw a few nuggets out there. If you do (I hope you don’t), keep it general. Give the why and what but never the how. Anything beyond the why and what comes with a charge. And don’t even point them in the direction to obtain the how. That’s short changing yourself.
  • Prominently post that there are no freebies. OK not in those words. But if you have a blog or website, and even on your social media profiles, make sure you mention that consultations are available at a fee.
  • Exchange for equal value. This puts you in an advantageous bargaining position. If someone requests free information or help, you must feel comfortable in asking for an in kind value service. Assess what they have that can be of equal benefit for you. If they are genuine, they should have no problem in an even exchange of knowledge. Only you will know if what they have is equal to what you’re giving.
  • Refer them to your “free” resources. If you write a blog, have published articles, have archived videos or podcasts or have a show in which you dispense advice, refer them to that information. Explain that those are the only free information sources you offer. Anything specific or beyond what’s readily available has a cost.
  • Don’t be afraid to send them to Google. You can recommend they go to Google, or any other search engine or to sites that have articles or information about what they need advice on. You can also recommend a book or magazine that might be helpful. Let them expend that energy they would have used in meeting you at Starbucks and hit the search engines to find their answers. Problem is, they’ll be overwhelmed with varying degrees of information. Not fun for them, but when they’re ready to put it in proper perspective and implement, they can come to you…for a consult…a paid consult.
  • Ask them for a paying referral. If they truly want your expertise, they have to be willing to help you out too. It’s kind of like the Equal Exchange point I made above crossed with paying it forward. Before you dispense any advice, ask them to provide you with referrals to others who most certainly need (and can afford) your service.
  • Don’t back down. I know it’s hard to say “no” sometimes. But you can’t back down. People will know how far they can bend or push you. Stand firm, set your boundaries and guard your treasures (your brain and the know how in it). The minute you compromise you devalue yourself and your expertise.

Most people are afraid to draw the hard lines in the sand for fear of angering a friend or losing a potential client or opportunity. Trust me, if they will walk away because they cannot get a freebie, they weren’t meant to be a client and there was no real opportunity in it for you.

Many in the marketing circles will tell you the freebie give away is vital. But it doesn’t always lead to a sale. Likewise giving away what you would do in a given situation during an interview will not necessarily lead to you being hired. It’s up to you to determine what you’re willing to give away and how much of it. Know your worth, understand your value. Stop being taken advantage of. No more freebies.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
No, you can’t pick my brain!

Stay tuned for the release of my new book “Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter to Use Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy”


PR Guide to Celebrity Gifting Suites

Written by Janna Meyrowitz-Turner

If you’re involved in PR or Marketing for a consumer or fashion brand, odds are you’ve received emails from companies hosting a gift lounge in honor of {fill in the blank event/award show} that promises to get your brand and/or product to the hottest celebrities. We all know the undeniable power of a celebrity to elevate brand awareness but are celebrity gifting suites worth the risk?

Considering the following before participation in a celebrity gift lounge. If you decide to take the plunge, take note of what to do to maximize the opportunity in today’s 24-hour-news-cycle-celebrity-obsessed-media-world.

First, choosing a lounge is two-fold. There’s the lounge and there’s the company that produces it.

Research events to find out which align with your brand. Different events target different demographics of celebrities (male, female, younger/up-and-coming, established/older) and different kinds of media outlets are interested in different demographics &  celebrities. For award shows especially, the majority of the talent that come through lounges are that year’s nominees and presenters. Look at who is nominated for the event you’re considering.

Lifestyle PR consultant Melissa Papa had a “not so great experience” with one particular company who didn’t deliver the celebrity attendance list they promised. As a result, “the event didn’t garner nearly the press that we’d been assured it would.  It was disappointing for my client, a small skin care company, who had spent thousands of dollars on the participation fee.”

While celebrity attendance is never guaranteed due to unforeseen circumstances, any veteran lounge production company can tell you who they have good relationships with and who usually comes through their lounges.

Be wary of anyone who makes outlandish promises and guarantees of multiple, specific A-listers.

Even agents, managers and publicists can’t 100% guarantee their clients will be there. This company might just be selling you on the event to fill a space and to help cover their event costs.

Identify a lounge production company that you can build a long term relationship with and who understands you and your brand.

Work with companies that can demonstrate creativity when it comes to introducing your brand to celebrities. Do they have original ideas of how your brand’s display should look? What do they suggest you gift to produce strong interactions and great photos?

Even if you’re a professional publicist, you want to work with a lounge production company that is PR savvy.

If an A-list celebrity says or does something silly with your product in the lounge and no media outlet hears about it, did it even happen? Any good lounge will have press floating around from top weeklies, blogs and entertainment news TV shows. It’s your job as brand representative to chat up the celebrities when they’re interacting with your product and to get them to do and say those silly things. But, a good lounge production company will also give you tips on how to do that if you’re a first timer, and will work on your behalf to get those items placed in the media through their own relationships.

If you are a seasoned pro and have your own relationships, pitch away right after the event, just make sure that the lounge production company doesn’t have any exclusives set up that you could potentially jeopardize.

Beauty publicist Felissa Benjamin found that “the press surrounding a lounge we did greatly increased people’s knowledge of our prestige beauty client. We did a PRNewswire release, an e-blast alert and targeted pitching on our own. Sales and traffic increased on their website and we got some great new celebrity fans whose names we could use in the media.”

Last but definitely not least, work with a company that prides themselves on the classiness of their lounge and works overtime to make sure that both you and the celebrities that come through the lounge feel comfortable. Yes, there is an inherent awkwardness associated with giving and accepting free stuff! Work with lounge producers that make it clear who is supposed to be gifted and who is not.

You’re not expected to recognize every celebrity that comes through so it needs to be communicated to you, conspicuously, who they are.

Be wary of companies that have different “levels” of gifting for celebrities (i.e. A-list, B-list, C-list and so on).  Not only is that uncomfortable for celebrities no matter what list they are on, but for you too! What if someone that is on the C-list is the star of your favorite TV show and you want to give them your best gift? Uncomfortable.

Since I’m sure you’ll track me down to ask me, my personal favorite company to work with is On 3 Productions. The majority of their lounges are the official gift lounges at their respective events (i.e. if you do a Primetime Emmy Awards lounge you are under the stage in the Nokia Theater and an official part of the flow of the show). Co-founders Matthew Simon and Samantha Haft are creative, personable, and take a lot of pride in their work and it reflects in the results we’ve been able to garner for our clients. (Please note I am in no way employed or compensated by On 3 Productions).

In conclusion, do your research. Talk to your friends in the business that may have experience with gift lounges. Ask lounge representatives what makes them different from all the other lounges out there. And ask these detailed questions before you sign on the dotted line.

About Janna Meyrowitz-Turner

Janna is founder and president of Style House PR, and provides PR/marketing/branding and consulting services for clients in the fashion, beauty, retail and lifestyle industries.