By Bill Miltenberg, PR News
Thanks to ever-shrinking newsrooms and disappearing newspapers, journalists and other content creators are covering more beats than ever and cranking out stories at breakneck speed. Despite the pressures of the 24/7 news cycle, journalists still need expert sources to give their material credibility and depth.
When journalists need an expert for a quotation or background material, they routinely go beyond their virtual Rolodex and turn to resources like ProfNet, a service offered by Small Biz PR Report partner PR Newswire. On a daily basis, queries pour in from a range of media outlets—from newspapers and magazines to radio shows and bloggers. A journalist completes a form requesting an expert in a specific area, and ProfNet includes that information in e-mail blasts and other forms to ProfNet subscribers, who can then respond with an appropriate pitch.
PR pros can use ProfNet and similar services to position senior leaders at small businesses as sources and experts for journalists. For ProfNet, they need to subscribe to receive the e-mail blasts (ProfNet’s offerings start at approximately $55 a month for potential experts; journalists can use the service for free).
Here are seven tips for PR pros who are using ProfNet to connect expert sources at small businesses with journalists:
1) Nail Your Response Pitches: When responding to media queries, Sandra Azzollini, vice president of online communities for PR Newswire/MultiVu, suggests a simple, standard three-paragraph template:
- The first paragraph should provide basic contact information: name, title, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, both for the suggested source and for yourself.
- The second should provide a summary of the source’s relevant credentials.
- The third—optional, but often pivotal in persuading a reporter to make contact—summarizes the source’s perspective.
2) Distinguish Yourself in Your Response: Include “ProfNet” in the subject line of your response so the reporter knows your e-mail is in direct response to his/her query, rather than unsolicited e-mail or spam.
Jen A. Miller, a regular contributor to the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Runner’s World, among other publications, writes that PR pros should go one step beyond just writing “ProfNet response” in the subject line. “I sometimes have more than one out there at the same time,” says Miller. “Also, don’t start your subject line with ‘Re:’. I know we’re not continuing a previous conversation. If you do that, you’re knocking your pitch down a peg.”
3) Explain Exactly Why Your Expert Is a Good Fit: Don’t just copy and paste in your client’s bio, says Miller. She recently made a request for a doctor who can talk about specific subject. “The PR people who tell me how that their doctor’s expertise applies to [this subject] specifically are going to get first preference vs. the pitches that say ‘he is a doctor who can talk about X,’” says Miller.
4) Do Not Try to Be Everything to Everyone: Sending an off-topic pitch is probably the worst thing a ProfNet subscriber can do, says Azzollini. “While it can be tempting to send a reporter an off-topic pitch, it usually does more harm than good. Doing a bit of research to understand the topics on which a journalist typically writes and making pitches relevant will help a pitch rise above the rest.”
5) Use Expert Alerts: Azzollini says Expert Alerts is the most underrated feature of ProfNet. Expert Alerts, or pitches, focus on a specific topic each day and highlight experts in relevant fields directly to reporters that cover them.
The alerts go out as national press releases over PR Newswire’s media distribution network, providing more visibility for the particular experts. “Small business owners can gain national exposure and get their name in front of tens of thousands of people including the media, bloggers and even potential customers—simply by sending us an e-mail,” says Azzollini.
6) Use ProfNet Connect: Take a proactive approach to media relations by profiling your business’ experts in ProfNet’s interactive online community for journalists, bloggers and PR professionals. “A robust and detailed profile on ProfNet Connect, with a full outline of your expertise, your photos and any videos or links to published works makes you more attractive to journalists,” says Azzollini.
7) Follow @ProfNet on Twitter: ProfNet’s Twitter feed features requests from publications that include deadlines and desired subject matter experts; @ProfNet also hosts Q&A sessions and Twitter chats.
This article was originally posted to PR News' Small Business Report.