Help a reporter out (HARO) is the creation of Peter Shankman, a self-described CEO, entrepreneur, and adventurist. It’s a way for reporters and public relations people to work together, as reporters who are searching for experts on a particular subject can send Shankman their request, which he then emails to long list of subscribers. It’s a great tool that allows reporters and PR people to work together, and is a win-win situation for all.
However, over the past month there have been some issues with off topic pitching, where PR people have emailed reporters information that’s not specific enough, or at all close to their request. These off-topic pitches did not sit well with Shankman, and the first issue occurred on April 30:
Unfortunately, my quest to root out idiocy and heal the rift between PR people and journalists took a setback today, when one reporter who posted a query got three pitches that were so off-topic, and so not-even-remotely-close to what she wanted, that I had no choice but to ban them. It was such a no-brainer, it was sad.
I’m not going to out the agencies publicly. (Although I’m not ruling it out in the future…) But know that I’m serious about this, people. You screw up like that, and you’re history. Go pay the other service $6,500 a year and SPAM to your heart’s content.
Then, on the morning of May 13, it happened again. Shankman wasn’t sure quite how to deal with off-topic pitches, so he decided to leave it up to popular vote:
Last night, I sent out a query from Fortune Small Business. I made SURE to mention that I knew the reporter, and mentioned it would be helpful to be extra careful when pitching. You know, make sure you were on topic, and all that jazz.
Seven of you are not getting this email this morning.
Hopefully we’ll get it one day. Maybe. Until then, I’m beginning to think that simply kicking you off the list isn’t worth it.
Perhaps…Well, perhaps it comes down to publicly outing you?
Think about it this way: If you’re outed here, it might prevent you from winding up on the Bad Pitch Blog, or the PR Spammer’s Wiki, you know?
On May 15, we had a winner:
So here’s the deal… By a VERY small margin, “Just kick them off the list” beat “Out them publicly and kick them off the list.” So, I won’t out you publicly if a reporter emails me and tells me that you totally violated list rules and off-topic pitched.” The first time. But know that if you continue to do it, then it could happen.
So rather than risk it…Why not just pitch on-topic? Seriously.
The most interesting part of this is how close ‘outing them publicly’ came to winning the vote. A few reporters have recently begun to do this (see Chris Anderson, Gina Trapani), a method that has been met with some controversy and hard feelings.