These days it seems like we have so much more access to media and media leads. With sites like HARO, helpareporterout.com, that send daily leads (sometimes several times a day) responding to media leads has become more of a daily routine than ever before. The key really isn’t getting the leads, the trick is now responding to them. Here is a quick guide that you might want to keep handy the next time a lead comes your way.
1. Response time: it’s important to remember that response times are crucial. Respond immediately if you can. Since these leads are going to several hundred thousand people, the competition for them (especially the super popular ones like diet, dating, and finance) is fierce.
2. Not so perfect might be ok, too: when it comes to media leads, it’s always good to flex your media pitching muscle. Depending on your topic you might not get leads that are 100% spot on all the time, sometimes you may have to stretch. As long as you’re not pitching a diet topic to a finance lead you should definitely try to look for tie-ins whenever possible and take a chance or two. Sometimes when I do this I will often mention the tie-in I’m attempting to make up front or, in some cases offer myself as an expert if they’re considering an additional angle to the story (and I will always mention the angle).
3. Crafting the response: When you get a lead, you’ll often find there are specific instructions within the lead itself. You should always, always follow them. There are instructions in those leads for a reason, use them. Second, when you’re putting together your response, be short and get to the point quickly. I find that responding in bullet points is good, it helps to direct the media person to the highlights of your pitch. To save some time, I tend to keep a list of tips or other media pitch emails handy so I can sometimes cut and paste if the information is relevant to the new lead. Also, remember that when you’re crafting an email the subject line is key, so make sure it’s compelling enough to get them to open it. And, mention the media lead service in the subject line as well; for instance, “HARO query on quick money-saving tips”. That way the reporter knows you are responding to their lead.
4. Following up: after sending a lead, it’s tempting to want to follow up to make sure the information got to its intended target, that it was what they needed, etc. My suggestion? Don’t. Wait for the media person to write you back, which leads me to my next point:
5. Getting a response: I’m often asked “So how many of these do I need to respond to before I hear back?” My answer to that often is: “More than you’ll expect.” The truth is, much like anything that you’ll do to promote your book, you will have to overshoot this effort. You might respond to 10 media leads before you hear back from one. They key is to keep responding and stay in the flow of getting out there. We offer media leads to our authors and often they’ll write me and say they’ve gotten discouraged because no one seems to be writing them back. If you’re unsure about your pitch, then have your publicist evaluate it for you and tell you if you’re on track or off the mark.
6. It’s all about relationships: remember that this is your opportunity to build a relationship with the person you’re pitching and further, your pitch may be the only clue the media person has as to who you are. They may or may not visit your site, and it’s far more likely that the 30 seconds they have to scan your email is the first and only indication that they’ll have of you. Don’t be pushy or too presuming. Don’t send an email saying: “I’m responding to such and such, please email me for more info.” With the possibly hundreds of responses they’ve gotten, why should they email you back for more information? And finally, once you make that contact, get them what they need on their timeline, not yours. Then, once you have fulfilled your duty as a super-savvy self-promoter be sure and follow up with a thank you, and feel free to stay in touch with the media person as events warrant. Be cautious with this. While you want to keep the relationship going, you don’t want to overload them with emails.
Getting media leads is a great thing, but really it’s only a small part of the process, and with all kinds of media lead services out there it’s important to know not just how to respond, but how to make the most of them.