Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why Some People Get Publicity and Some Don't

If you're looking to get publicity for yourself and your fitness business, it's a smart move to sign up for the free HARO newsletter.

I've recommended HARO before, but I haven't gone into too much detail about what HARO might be like from a journalist's perspective.

Getting the inside scoop on what happens when a journalist puts the call out for sources can help you understand how and when to respond to HARO requests so you experience more success and make the best use of your time.

Not too long ago, I used HARO to search for sources for an article about fitness business names and logos. About three hours after the newsletter went out, I'd already received more than 30 responses. And I know journalists who get way more than that.

Using HARO can get overwhelming for journalists--fast--so make your email as focused as possible. No digressions, no super-inflated bios and, please, no attachments/links to articles you've already written on the same topic!

Here are a few no-brainer reasons why I immediately hit the delete key on some HARO hopefuls:

From the sidelines. A surprising number of people began their response by saying: "Someone forwarded this to me..."

Here's what that lame opener says to me: 1) the person is a bit clueless as to what's going on, and/or 2) the person isn't serious enough about getting publicity to actually sign up for the HARO newsletter.

I'd rather quote HARO subscribers (or those with publicists who subscribe).

It's OK to respond to a HARO query that someone forwarded to you. But why tell the journalist? Keep it to yourself--it'll make you look more professional.

Too many links. Tell me in your email what I asked for and why you're the best person to be a source for the specific piece.

After that, I might want to see a bio, portfolio, YouTube videos and relevant accomplishments, but I don't want you to send me on a wild goose chase across the web. Keep links to a minimum.

The why'd-you-bother-responding response. Don't overwhelm me with too much info, but don't underwhelm me either. I got a few of these: "My company does business logos. I can help. Call me."


Missed the boat. If you've been out of town or just got busy and missed the deadline for responding to a HARO query, let it go.

Don't email after the fact, saying, "I was on vacation, but for future reference here's a bunch of neat stuff about me."

I won't remember any of it.

So who got the gig? A couple of people with solid credentials who gave me specific info about themselves (related to the article topic). They also showed passion for the subject, including a thought or two that made it easy for me to imagine quoting them.

Honestly, I got about half a dozen or more great emails from thoughtful, qualified professionals.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't choose everyone.

If you've been responding to HARO queries and you're doing everything right, don't get discouraged.

When you don't hear from a journalist after responding to a HARO query, it doesn't necessarily mean you're on the wrong track. It just might mean there are plenty of other contenders on the right track alongside you.

So do your best to make an outstanding impression. And keep trying--persistence pays off when you know what you're doing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fitness Press Release

Take the Lead With Your Next Press Release

As a fitness writer, I receive a lot of story pitches from personal trainers and fitness organizations.

Recently, a press release came across my desk promoting a new product based on a popular fitness format. After struggling through the first paragraph, I stopped reading.

It was too boring and confusing. I suspected most journalists wouldn’t bother to read past that first muddled paragraph either.

The first paragraph of a press release - sometimes called the lead - holds a lot of weight. Its crucial job is to hook readers and relay important information while promising something interesting in the paragraphs to come.

Getting the lead right - whether it’s for a press release, a blog post or an article – takes savvy.

For example, if the topic you are touting is already well-known, piggyback on this success, but find a new angle.

If you write a press release about a topic that’s already been covered in the media many times, you might think this proves the worthiness of your own press release. But editors or television producers in search of new stories might not see it that way. Instead, they might see your press release as rehashing the “same old stuff” and delete it or toss it in the recycling bin.

Keep this in mind if you’re writing a press release about staying fit this summer. Begin with something interesting and fresh. For example, introduce a new spin on an old idea. “Get in Shape for Summer" has been done many times and it’s pretty generic. It’s not particularly compelling either – any journalist can think of that idea on their own.

You need a better hook. For example, "Shape Up to Prevent Summertime Hiking Injuries" or “Remake Your Shape: 7 Summer-Fit Moves You Can Do Anywhere.” Both examples present some type of focused hook.

Bottom line: Increase your success by putting a new and specific spin on a familiar topic.

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