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We’ve seen enough and sent enough pitches to journalists to realise what can get their goat or down right piss them off.  Strap yourself and read on to find out how to stay on the right side of them and keep that glorious press coverage coming.

Whether you use HARO, Help A Reporter Out, Response Source, Press Plugs, Cision, Shemourcebottle et al.

There are ways to answer a callout. You may be an expert in your field, but a rank amateur in email etiquette.

Most journalists will have between 5 – 20 pieces to write up a day, so when they ask for comments they don’t want to play email tennis, they want all the information in one email


Offering to put them in touch with an expert!

They have already asked for the expert to answer, so don’t play matchmaker. Ask your expert for their comments in the first instance and send them to the journalist on their behalf.

Sending them a link to a blog article that has the info they need

See above regarding journalists time, and lack thereof. They use HARO (and other platforms) to collate all the info they need – in one place, their inbox. They don’t have the time or patience  to CTRL + F ( CMD = F – you Macbook users) the blog you sent them.

In addition, they want unique insights and if the info is already on the web it takes away the exclusivity of comments and insights in their pending piece.

Don’t answer the question

This is such an obvious one to get right, but you;d be surprised how many people don’t answer the questions and either blab on about something unrelated or skirt around the subject.

Pro Tip: There is nothing wrong with being contrary or disagreeing with the common theme of the question, as they may include your comments as an alternative opinion or even just to balance out the piece. 

Living up to the Articles Word Limit


If they ask for more than ? words, then guess what, write more than that. No, they don’t count your attribution details or introduction. If you’re struggling to fill the word quota then consider putting in more research, as a flabby, padded out answer can be seen a mile off.

The same applies when they ask for less. This really tests your writing mettle, putting a great answer into a concise manner to be considered for inclusion.

If there isn’t a word limit – use the Goldilocks approach. Not too little, not too much but just enough.

Pro Tip: Look at the author’s last 4-5 articles and see how many words are in the snippets they use from contributors. Write double that, as likely they pick the best bits from the email rather than use the full response.


Stalking The Journo's

No, not real life stalking but the web variety. Some people email the journalist directly after looking up their email address.

This doesn’t work, as journalists use HARO to have all the answers in one place in their email, with a lot using filters and folders to organise each article and haro request neatly.

Random emails are likely to be missed or ignored. They use HARO for a reason, you should stick to that.

I have reached out personally to Journalists, but only if I have just missed the deadline on HARO – as those query email addresses expire. But that was the last chance saloon as I had nothing to lose. I’ve only done it a handful of times, and guess how many responses I had?

It rhymes with Hero, but not the same result.

Pumping up yourself or your client as the next Ghandi

Clue – a) they’re not, and b) if it takes the journalist 5 minutes to read your intro line they won’t bother reading the rest!

It’s great to qualify yourself/your client in the intro line to the journalist but revealing they were head salesman of the lemonade stand in 2005 ain’t gonna cut it.

Be concise and add relevance to your client (if job title doesn’t do it) then move on to the good stuff – the response.

Asking for a link from the article

Look, we get it, most people do it for links as well as branding, PR, coverage etc. But asking for it in your email reveals your ulterior motive and can put the journalist off.

Worse still is when people ask for a link to a certain URL, a money page or promotional tool. Journalists have a duty to provide their readers and publication with high quality info, not line respondents’ packets or further their business interests.

Ying meet Yang


If you or your client is completely wrong for the query and doesn’t have the experience or skills then don’t waste your time or indeed the journalists by responding.

You may know that Tumeric works well for swelling and joint pain, but if they ask for a qualified Doctor/MD, and your experience putting a plaster on your nephew circa 2009 then leave it!

Pro Tip: You can induct yourself into some queries that on the surface don’t look like they fit. I.e if someone is asking about accounting and you’re the Founder of a 50+ person company, then just explain when it was a 3 person company you did all the accounts yourself and learned some good, and harsh lessons along the way.


Being A PR company or PR rep

Some journalists plainly ask that only the person respond and/or ask for no PR companies or agencies. 

So if you are one of the above then there is nothing you can do about that #soz

Deadline Dash

They don’t hate this, they probably just don’t read it as they already have their answers from the first.

Which begs the age old question – is it better to be hated or ignored?!

Following Up with the Journalist


Did I mention that a journalist is busy?!

They don’t have time to follow up, whether using your quote or not. And it won’t make any difference – a positive one anyway – of them using your quote.

Some will let you know they are using your comments and or/send you the url when live (most won’t). Use Ahrefs (or other link checking software) to check your links weekly as well as checking your/your clients name weekly or using keyword alerts to be notified.

Help a reporter guidelines tell Journalists to let people know if using their comments, but i;d say 90% of them don’t. So the onus is on you.

Pro Tip: If they do let you know then let them know in return that they can reach out directly to you for future comments – or if working with different clients/niches, then let them koe the expertise you have on tap.

Anyone got any better tips on how to wind up a journalist? Leave in the comments below...

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By Bretto

Founder of Haro Helpers. An ex traveller, current CEO and future retiree.