Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where the Real People Are

Before I got into freelancing, I would read a magazine article about people who cheat, or gamble too much, or have some sexual dysfunction and wonder idly how the writers found these “real people” to talk about such intimate or obscure subjects. Then, when I began to freelance, I wondered the same thing with a kind of desperation: who are these people and where can I find them?

Well, now I have the answer: HARO -Help A Reporter Out. This très cool service, started by Peter Shankman, allows journalists searching for sources to funnel their specific queries through him to send out to the more than 37,000 people in the HARO network. It’s pretty amazing that he’s pulled this all together, and that it works so efficiently. Last night I submitted a query to Shankman, this afternoon the email was sent out to the network, and by this evening I had about a dozen responses, most of them quite on-target and helpful. If have an urgent request, Shankman will send out a special flash email notifying the network of your need.

This is such an invaluable service. Previously (like, um, two days ago), I’d post on appropriate online forums to find sources and just cross my fingers that my post wouldn’t get deleted as “spam.” And even if the post survived, the response rate often wasn’t very good. But this HARO….well, I’m impressed. At least so far. I’ll keep you posted.

You can check HARO out for yourself at www.helpareporterout.com. Even if you’re not a journalist, you can sign up to be a source. You’ll get up to 3 emails a day with a list of queries, and you simply respond to any one for which you have an appropriate answer. Go ahead and do it! How else will the writers for Cosmo find out “101 sex tricks that will make your man beg for more!”?

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