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Getting the Jump on HARO & ProfNet: Why Getting Into Journalists' Personal Source Databases is Critical

Lauren Eichmann

I was recently added to a source list by a reporter who covers cloud computing topics for publications like Forbes, Network World, Datamation, among others. His database is based on who he’s interacted with in the past and considers a credible source. The catch here is that he said he’s turning to his database sources first, before he posts his queries in other outlets. He even went as far as to say that he gives those in his database a “head start on the competition.”

So why is this reporter starting to build his source list now, and not earlier? He says that online communities and mailing lists have traditionally provided a helpful connection – and oftentimes a buffer between – reporters and sources. Many are changing their procedures, however, “taking more aggressive steps to shield journalists from sources, creating a bigger wall between the two.”

He writes:

“That makes perfect sense for some types of coverage, but for technology and business stories, I think it’s a mistake. Moreover, since copywriting and content marketing makes up from 60-70% of my business, keeping the lines of communications open with marketing pros and vendors is essential.”

Just like databases for media contacts, reporters are now starting to build out their personalized databases of sources. While reporters have always done this, email, contact management databases and other tools are making it easier for them to search for relevant sources. Sure, there are the services that help connect reporters with journalists, but as more writers freelance and cover a variety of beats, they’re developing their own source lists.

So what’s the key here? Get on that source list. Stay top of mind so that when a journalist is covering a certain industry or topic, you’re the first one who they turn to for information or insight. As PR professionals well know, it’s important to build these connections. But with reporters more often juggling multiple stories today, they’re not going to go digging through their email for something that was sent to them five weeks ago. Well, some might (as I’ve experienced), but it’s usually not the case. They’ll turn to those on their credible source list and make the call.

What it comes down to is the fact that reporters are often overworked, stressed and on deadline. In a recent CareerCast report on most and least stressful jobs, media-related occupations were listed as four out of the top ten most stressful. So when reporters say they want to “easily shoot sources I know and trust quick questions when I need something in a hurry for a pressing story,” trust them. If you’re not already on their radar, chances are you’ve already lost out on that story opportunity. It’s important to not only bring reporters news that they find relevant to their beat(s), but that you remain in contact so you stay top-of-mind. Relationships matter in the world of PR.