Numerous Web sites are available — some recent and some that have been around for years — that connect journalists working on stories with sources or experts on various topics. Some charge a fee for the service and others are free. Some specialize. Here is a partial list:
- Help a Reporter Out
- Media Kitty
- Smith Publicity Directory of Authors and Experts
These sites generally work by providing short summaries of stories that reporters are working on and asking for experts to interview on the subjects. When responding to reporters’ queries, you must be prompt, articulate and on-target with your pitches.
While you are competing with many other people for the attention of the reporter, if you have valuable expertise and specific examples that apply to the topic, you have a good shot at landing an interview in a regional or national media venue. Never pitch a different topic to a reporter in response to a query on one of these services, as you are likely to get blackballed by the list owner.
You cannot rely on query lists for a full-blown PR strategy, but they are a good supplement for your media plan. Everyone in business is an expert in their field, so consider taking advantage of the media opportunities available by following several media query lists.
Remember that journalists seeking sources are not looking to give you PR — they are doing their jobs of providing balanced coverage to their audiences. If you are able to benefit as a result of them doing their job, then that is a lucky break for you. You need to be prepared for the journalist to report on both sides of any issue, so a story that mentions or features your company will likely quote someone who questions your claims. A story about you or your business seldom will appear with only a one-sided point-of-view. If you know there’s another side of the story, it’s best to point it out and give your side before the journalist uncovers it.
Don’t take “negative” coverage or quotes personally — it’s just the way journalism works. The story, when considered as a whole, should be balanced. Unless there is something in the story that is out and out inaccurate or libelous, it’s usually best to ignore unflattering coverage. Demanding a correction because you don’t like the tone of a story will only alienate the reporter and set you up for an antagonistic relationship for the future.
Become that expert that the journalist is seeking. When you are professional in your approach, she will return to you over and over for your advice and connections.