Bob Burg calls them his Five Laws of Stratospheric Success for a reason: like the law of gravity, the Laws of Value, Compensation, Influence, Authenticity and Receptivity appear to be non-optional. They work whether you believe in them or not.
The Law of Influence says, “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you put the other person’s interests first.” And it works! Long before I ever read The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, I learned that I could generate free publicity for my employer, my clients and the causes I believe in simply by putting the journalists’ needs first.
This is especially true when you’re using a pitching service like Help A Reporter Out, or HARO. What’s HARO (besides an entrepreneur’s best friend)? It’s a free service where journalists find subject matter experts to quote in their stories. Being quoted in a prominent publication can help you find new clients, enhance your reputation, and could even improve the value of your brand.
Here’s where The Law of Influence comes in. If you want to influence a reporter, put their needs ahead of your own. As the potential source for a story, your pitch stands out by being the most helpful and providing the most value for the least amount of work on the journalist’s part. Here’s what this means in the world of HARO:
- Act fast. She’s on a deadline. And it’s not uncommon for a journalist to get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails the day their query is published. Once she gets what she needs, she probably stops reading responses. So be sure your response is among the first to hit her in-box.
- ALWAYS pitch on-topic. It’s one of HARO’s cardinal rules, and besides that, staying on-topic is what makes you a resource instead of a spammer.
- Always answer the query. If the journalist says she’s “looking for experts and entrepreneurs to talk about different ways to cut back on expenses during the first year of your startup,” start your reply with something like “When I started my online CPA business last year, our web hosting expenses were huge. We cut them by 28% simply by…”
- Always make sure you meet the journalist’s requirements. Reporters often prefer to quote someone with a certain credential or other qualifying factor. For the request listed in item #2 above, the journalist specifically asked for pitches from “Entrepreneurs who have experience with online startups, or business owners who are currently in their first year of building their business.” If you don’t meet those requirements, don’t waste her time! Move on to the next item in the HARO email. If you do check all the boxes, be sure to mention it in your one-sentence bio. Speaking of bios…
- Emphasize your story, not your biography. Unless you’re a wealthy celebrity with your own reality show, the reporter typically cares more about the story you have to tell than your resume. Give just enough to establish that you meet the reporter’s criteria, then move on immediately into your story. And speaking of stories…
- Make it short. Give the reporter exactly what she asks for, and nothing more, as succinctly as possible. She doesn’t have the time to read a novella. She’s on a deadline, remember? And she may be reading your response on her phone.
- Don’t be a tease. Give the reporter what she asks for in your response. Answer her questions. Don’t tease her with an empty email that says “call me and I’ll tell you more” or “when can we schedule my interview?” And don’t expect her to wade through your whole website to find the answer to her query. Remember, she’s on a deadline.
- Don’t be a prima donna. Remember, we’re tying to influence the reporter by putting her needs first. The reporter doesn’t owe you anything. Don’t ask to “approve” the story before it’s published (that is her editor’s job). And don’t be surprised if the reporter doesn’t know when the story is going to run. That’s not up to the reporter, either, unless she’s writing a self-published blog.
- Include your contact information! I left this out of an earlier version of this story because I thought “well, that goes without saying.” But it doesn’t. Always make sure it’s easy for the reporter to reach you, quickly. Always include an email address you check all the time and your cell phone number.
Want to influence a journalist as a subject matter expert? It’s simple. Put her first. Quickly give the reporter what she needs, deliver it on a silver platter, and make it effortless to quote you, and you may just get the publicity you deserve.