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Help a Reporter (and Yourself) Out

Help a Reporter (and Yourself) Out

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    Ever wonder where journalists and other writers find the experts they quote in their stories? In the past, reporters counted on their own networking, and on a service called ProfNet. ProfNet lets journalists search their database of experts and contact them individually to see if they’d be interested in being interviewed.

    Until recently, ProfNet has been about the only game in town, as far as finding real experts is concerned. Which might be why their website is a little less than user-friendly – no competition. But things have been shaken up rather thoroughly in the last couple months, with the arrival on the scene of a new service aiming to connect journalists and experts.

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    Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is the brainchild of Peter Shankman, founder and CEO of marketing/PR firm The Geek Factory, Inc. The idea is simple, but incredibly powerful. Journalists post requests using a simple form, detailing their story and the kind of expert they’re looking for. Experts – on whatever – subscribe to the HARO mailing list. A few times a day, the requests over the last several hours are compiled and sent out to everyone on the mailing list. Subscribers skim the list and see if there are any stories they feel they can contribute to, and they email the reporter directly.

    It’s that simple. It’s almost stupid! But it works – in a few months it’s membership has grown to over 12,000 people and Shankman is sending out 50 or more HARO requests a day.

    Why bother to help a reporter out?

    Why should you take the time and energy to read HARO’s twice- or thrice-daily email, looking for HARO requests that apply to you?

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    There are several answers, all of them good. The first, of course, is that you know something that might help a reporter to be more informative or more accurate, and therefore in some small way you can contribute to the world’s store of knowledge. That’s what knowledge is for, after all – sharing.

    But, you say, I get paid for sharing my knowledge. Hey, good on ya! Maybe the warm fuzzies aren’t enough.

    Fair enough. While journalistic ethics generally precedes paying sources, people who volunteer to help reporters with their story get another kind of payment: exposure. And no minor exposure, either – being quoted in a major newspaper or national magazine can bring a flood of traffic to your site, new clients, job offers, you name it. And smaller outlets can be just as good,or even better – being quoted as an expert by a niche publication means that the people who will see your name referred to as the go-to guy or gal on your topic are exactly the people you most want to see you as an expert.

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    PR folks know this, which is why when I sent out a HARO request recently, about 1/3 of the responses I got were publicists and marketing folk offering to connect me with their clients. It’s an excellent opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

    There’s one more reason to respond to HARO requests: it can be fun. You get to share your thoughts with someone who, while maybe not an expert, at least has an interest in the field you work in (usually, or the story would have been assigned to someone else). Speaking with a skilled interviewer is a great way to clarify your own thinking, too.

    What if I need some help, too?

    HARO is, at least for now, an open system. I’ve seen requests from bloggers, in-house writers, people taking surveys, and of course actual jourrnalists on assignment. There is no verification system in place to make sure your request is “legitimate”, and while that might become a problem down the line, for now it’s working pretty well. (I shouldn’t say no verification system – people aren’t going to respond to requests that seem phony or amateurish, so in that sense, the system is self-regulating).

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    What that means is that, if you need to interview an expert, and can offer a reasonable amount of exposure, there’s no real reason not to try a HARO request.

    And it works. My first HARO request was for an expert n what I thought was a pretty obscure topic. Within a few hours, I had 14 responses! What’s more, almost all of them were good – real, bona fide experts in the rather tiny niche I was writing about.

    If you want to improve your chances of getting a decent response, there are a few things you should do:

    • Be real: I can imagine all sorts of ways that people are going to try to game the HARO system. Here’s the thing, though – you’re interacting with real people – smart ones, at that. They are experts, after all. If your request comes off as scammy, you won’t get a response – but even if your request does get a response, people will realize soon enough that you’re full of… it when you start responding of when you get them on the phone.
    • Explain your topic thoroughly: HARO gives plenty of room to describe who you’re looking for; be as specific as you can. Don’t think you’re being clever by being vague, or that you’ll improve your chances of finding someone if your request is so loosely worded that just about anyone might feel that they’re the right person for you. The people who sign up for HARO’s list are looking for particular requests that they feel a connection with. Ideally, you want a handful of people to read your request and feel like you’re talking about them specifically.
    • Be respectful: You don’t get to expect a response, you get to appreciate one. If someone takes the time to respond to your request, even if you can’t use them for your project, try at least to respond and tell them “no thanks”. You never know when you might need their assistance in the future, so don’t burn any bridges by being a jerk.

    I, for one, will be watching closely to see how Help A Reporter Out develops. It’s such a simple idea, but it works – and in the long run, may be a huge step forward for journalism. And for self-promotion – what a great way to get yourself noticed by people in your niche!

    I’d love to hear other people’s stories about HARO. If you have any, please share them with us in the comments.

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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