Just three months ago, Peter Shankman (Peter is the founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique marketing a PR strategy firm located in NYC) started a new project he calls "Help a Reporter Out," or HARO.
The service allows journalists to submit requests for "experts" when working on a story. Peter then compiles the requests and sends them out to his subscribers - flacks like us for the most part. The requests range from "I'm working on a story on waterproof makeup," to "What has made Americans -- especially parents -- so fearful?"
Peter encourages flacks from all backgrounds to sign up, because - as he says - sooner or later a journalist will need you or an expert from your organization for something they're working on.
I signed up for the service when I heard about it on PROPenMic, but I've also seen talk on Twitter.
I know what you're saying...this sounds like all those other listserve services where I can sign up to be an expert and pay a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars annually to be included in the "expert" list. That's where this one is different. It's free.
That's right. I said it's free.
As Peter says on the site "It takes me a few minutes each day to do this, and the good Karma is immeasurable. So I'm not charging. If you really feel like sending me a donation or something, why not just send a few bucks to an animal hospital or animal rescue society somewhere. Some good places are Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, or The National Search Dog Foundation. That'll keep the good Karma flowing."
OK...I hope he doesn't take a page out of the Associated Press handbook and try to charge me for copying all that text off his site.
I've gotten a few e-mails each day since signing up, and I've responded to one. Some of them contain the reporter's complete contact information. Others are "anonymous," which means you send your information to Peter, who then forwards it to the reporter. If that person wishes to get in touch with you, they can.
He's gotten more than 10,000 subscribers in just under 90 days, and he's now aiming for 20,000. In each e-mail he encourages us to forward information about the service to our friends (I'm choosing to do it this way) so he can get more and more people signed up.
The one thing he is absolutely adamant about is that you not waste the reporter's time. Again, to quote Peter: "Promise us one thing: When you join, you'll promise not to email a reporter with an answer that doesn't match what they're looking for. In other words, you won't waste a reporter's time. Promise?"
As far as I'm concerned, this is a win-win for journalists and flacks. They get access to thousands of experts in a plethora of fields, and we get the opportunity to strut our stuff and look like heroes when we land an interview with a journalist we might not have otherwise had access to.
Once this grows some more and is no longer taking Peter "...a few minutes each day..." I'm not sure how it will remain free...at least for the flacks...but for now...enjoy it! Sign up!
And, if you're on Twitter, follow Peter at "skydiver."