If you subscribe to HARO, the free media leads service that sends you dozens of queries from working journalists three times a day, you’ve probably seen requests from reporters who want to use email, and not the telephone, to interview sources.
You might think that your time would be better spent with someone who wants a phone interview.
Please reconsider. The advice below also applies to you if you don’t subscribe to HARO and, instead, you’ve pitched a story idea to a journalist who asks for an email interview. It also applies to bloggers who want to interview you.
In this age of dying newspapers, the few reporters who are left are apt to have multiple beats. On a smaller paper, a business reporter might cover health care, banking and technology, three difficult subject areas to understand. The reporter doesn’t have time for a 45-minute telephone interview and would gladly send you a list of eight questions to answer—the same questions she’s sending to her other sources.
She has made it clear ahead of time that she won’t necessarily call you for an interview. But she might use your responses as part of her story. So you won’t always know if your comments are included until her story appears. That’s frustrating. But if you’re a perfect fit for her story, it’s in your best interest to respond.
How competent is this journalist?
You can’t know the answer to that question if your phone rings and a journalist who you don’t know starts asking questions. The only alternative is to stall, say the time isn’t good and ask for a call later in the day. But you risk losing the opportunity to be a part of the story.
With an email interview, you at least have a few minutes to do a quick Google search and see what you can learn about the reporter who you’ll be responding to.
You have time to create intelligent answers
During a telephone interview, you have to think quickly. You’re apt to say something you regret later. Or you might not explain an issue as well as you could have if you had a minute or two to think about your response. Or you might forget about a perfect example that would have illustrated your response.
Even if the reporter is on deadline and wants information within the next hour or two, you still have time to think about the best way to phrase your answer.
You won’t be misquoted
The easiest way for the reporter to use your comment is to cut and paste it into her story. If she places quotation marks around your comment, she won’t change the wording. If she paraphrases and has a question about something you’ve written, she’ll probably email you and ask for a clarification.
You’re helping the journalist
Your Number One job when dealing with a journalist is to be helpful. If that means you’re saving her time by responding with email, you’re being helpful.
When you respond, you can also ask her questions such as, “Do you need something to illustrate this story? I have a pie chart that might help.” Or “if you need other sources, please let me know. I’ll be happy to help.”
Why would a reporter who uses HARO to look for sources not be able to find enough of them? Doesn’t HARO usually result in dozens of responses from people who want publicity? Not necessarily. The reporter might be looking for a specific type of source, someone who has deep expertise in a complicated topic.
You can use the media outlet’s logo on your website.
Even if the reporter devoted just a few short paragraphs to your response, you can still use the media outlet’s logo at your website. My friend and business associate Michael Rozbruch trains accountants, CPAs and enrolled agents on how to add tax resolution services to their practices. Michael Loves getting publicity. He does an excellent job showing his website visitors all the media outlets where he has appeared:
You can pitch another story idea later
Be careful when doing this. One of the no-no’s about responding to HARO queries is that you can’t respond with an off-topic story idea. In other words, you can’t write this: “I saw your request for experts in home organizing. I’m not an expert, but I sell products that will help keep corporate offices organized. Would you be interested in writing about that?”
That’s the quickest way to get blackballed.
If you respond via email and the reporter uses some of what you’ve written, find out where that reporter is on social media. Start building the relationship by liking, commenting on and sharing the reporter’s content.
You can also use Google to search for the reporter’s email address. If you find it, you can email her. Remind her that she included your comments in her story. Ask her if it’s OK to contact her again in a few months when you have a story idea that might interest her—as long as it’s related to the topic she covers.
When searching for email addresses, I also love using Hunter, the Chrome extension that lets you immediately find the email addresses behind the websites you’re browsing. Let’s say you know the reporter’s name is Jayne O’Donnell and that she works for USA Today but you don’t know her email address. You can’t use the email address in her HARO query because it might be disabled. You want her USA Today email.
Go to the USA website. Click on the orange Hunter icon in your browser. Type in her name. Hunter will tell you if it has found her email address.
You’ll also see a list of other email addresses behind that same website.
Have I convinced you?
The next time you get a request for an email interview, I hope you’ll say yes.
If you need more convincing, check out this email interview I did with author Mark Tilbury for his blog. he did a super job with his questions and included lots of links where his readers can find me.
Have you done email interviews? Have they served you well? I’d love to see your comment below.