Monday, November 3, 2008

I sponsored HARO and here's who replied

On a whim, I decided to sponsor a recent Wednesday afternoon edition of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and see if I could acquire any business from it.

With enough exclamation points to rival a high school senior's yearbook and more smiley faces than my son's IM conversations, proprietor Peter Shankman breathlessly e-mailed me the benefits, including having more than a "96% open rate" and reaching over 35,000 people.

OK, I was in. I requested any afternoon but a Friday (typical publicist's allergic reaction to Bad News Friday), sent Shankman a couple of paragraphs about myself, and rolled the dice to see who would respond.

First, my escape clause: in explaining who the respondents were, I will say that I am just one person putting up an ad, and clearly not representative of everybody who sponsors an issue of HARO. There have been a few solo agents who have posted on the newsletter, and their experiences could have been very different from mine. I am not making any judgments on the respondents. I am just going to tell you who they were in general because HARO receives an awful lot of buzz and others may want to consider sponsoring an issue.
  • The dozen people who contacted me were either a small business, an author or an expert.
  • Almost none of them knew what the cost of public relations was.
  • When I told them what public relations cost (and I was quoting them on the low side, knowing their small size), I could tell it was far more than they had anticipated.
Here are examples of the people who contacted me:
  • A self described "struggling author" publishing a book with a small publisher. He received 50 cents for every book sold, so wanted to know how much a PR campaign would cost.
  • The editor of an online teenage magazine wanted to know if I had any clients to feature.
  • A one-woman PR shop in Arizona handles a spiritual/self-help author whose third book will be published by a Simon & Schuster imprint. She wants me to book him on NYC-based national TV like "The View," "Live with Regis & Kelly," Fox & Friends, and MSNBC.
  • The NJ man who runs a site devoted to dividend-paying stocks. sells two ad spaces on the site and he has content deals with, AOL Money & Finance, and Yahoo! Finance. He spent more than 35 minutes on the phone discussing publicizing him and his site.
  • A Long Beach, NY-based spiritual counselor "interested in adding a 'one-to-many' element to my work, so that my counsel may reach my intended audience in an effective way. I would love to have a column in a magazine, be a contributor on a morning show or be a guest on a radio show."
  • A North Carolina-based woman who ran a site selling at-home menu subscriptions, videos and books, who had a lot of on-set TV experience from a previous life acting as a VNR spokesperson. She was looking to drive traffic and build up her brand nationally.
  • A New York-based psychologist who has had many TV gigs, some of them long-term national ones, who was looking for a publicist for the first time to help her book new appearances.
  • A Rockland County, NY-based woman who asked if I had any clients who wanted to donate items to her corporate gift basket distribution business.
Draw your own conclusions or not.

I think HARO is a great and valuable free product for both journalists and publicists. My hat is off to Peter Shankman for making a business of it. I don't know how he has enough hours in the day to assemble it, but somehow he does and makes money.

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