Recently I was searching for sources on Help a Reporter Out, and a PR pro responded with some interesting thoughts.
I was considering quoting him until I read the conclusion of his pitch. "PLEASE send me a URL link to your fine Ragan.com site if you use this info," he
Auugggghhhhh! No! Never mind.
HARO always brings tons of responses, and some of them had even made similar points to this pitch. So I passed. That request for a URL was enough to
disqualify his pitch.
Petty of me, you say? You're right! Yet I'm not alone. I asked around among reporter friends, and I found others who say PR pros' requests for URLs are a
"While I understand their need, reporters often work on super-tight deadlines," says Jo Napolitano, a reporter with Newsday. "It's hard to get everything
done on time—and then remember to send a follow-up email. It's the electronic equivalent of sources asking for reporters to mail them stories."
I feel bad about this. I had a brief, ill-fated career in PR, and I know what a tough job it is. PR pros take the time to respond to my requests,
buttonhole executives for me to talk to, email answers to my follow-up questions. Is it too burdensome to ask me to paste a link in an email and click
Not enough hours in the day
The problem is, I quote many people a week, and it would be time-consuming to keep track of every one who asks me for a link. Perhaps a better-organized
person would set up an Excel spreadsheet or keep track of URL requests in a Word file. The minute a story ran, I would fire off an email thanking all
sources for taking the time to talk. Who has time, though?
Reporters churning out copy also have little control over when a story runs. I often juggle several stories and interview people for pieces that run weeks
later. By the time it appears, I usually don't recall which of them (if any) requested a link. I'm lucky if I remember my glasses for work.
There's also this: Sometimes first thing in the morning, before I even check out what stories we're running that day, the same source who asked for a link
emails to thank me for the story. He noticed it on the website thanks to Google Alerts.
The problem isn't limited to HARO or ProfNet. Reporters even get unsolicited pitches in which PR pros ask
us to send a URL if we run a story.
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Look it up
Cathy Noah, city editor of the Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, says it bugs her to be asked for a link. "They're professionals," she says. "They should know
how to look up a story on a website."
She adds a few other preferences and peeves. She likes pitches that "include reasons why we'd be interested—a good angle, a Medford connection."
Portland PR pros who think a Medford paper 250 miles away cares that their CEO got an award. "Do your research. Don't waste my time."
Press releases with exclamation marks.
PR firms that try to control the story, such as one that dragged its feet giving information because they wanted a guarantee the story would appear
in a Sunday edition, with a photo.
Paul Fattig, an Oregon writer who previously worked for the Anchorage Times, tells me that he, too, dislikes requests for links.
Fattig is nonetheless enthusiastic about the right kind of pitch. He still appreciates PR pros such as the one from Alaska Airlines who offered him an
irresistible feature about a senior pilot flying oil workers into the Arctic.
Fattig ended up in the jump seat of a 737 as it did a low flyover of a runway near Deadhorse, Alaska, "because we had to scare the caribou off the tarmac
before we could land."
"It was all generated," he adds, "by a PR person who knew which department would be interested and which writer wouldn't mind getting his posterior frozen