For Expert Sources and PR Professionals
As indicated previously, I offer free promotional opportunities to companies by allowing experts to contribute on stories for other publications (primarily online but print is also a possibility). You can join my mailing list (sends alerts as new opportunities come up – a few times per month) by completing the form on the left sidebar,
The following post answers common questions you may have about the typical publishing process used by my clients.
In a connected world, I believe it is reasonable to expect interviews (by email or voice) to be completed within two working days of initial contact, if the promotional opportunity is valued.
PR companies and journalists share a common goal, but if the executives and companies they represent do not or cannot respond in a timely manner to a promotional opportunity, the result is that it takes me longer to complete a story and that simply cannot happen when deadlines are fixed. I fully understand that any delays are often not due to the PR companies themselves but instead due to the expert’s busy schedule, poor response times or lengthy internal approval processes.
As I can only accept a maximum number of assignments at a time from a given publication, delays directly impact on the number of opportunities I can provide each month. I cannot accept this and if no response is received within 24 hours of connecting, I will move on to another source.
In many cases I am offered assignments from a common pool, which means the faster I complete assignments, the more I can take on before that pool is depleted. Most clients will have a maximum on in-progress assignments. Therefore, first responders that are prepared to promptly answer questions by email or voice are given preference. Any delay by an expert means that I will move on to the next to complete my story and that expert is unlikely to be considered in the future.
My Expected Process When Answering Queries
- I post a query seeking sources. I generally include sample questions.
- A query response is received within 24 hours or I ignore it. Please do not send quotes or complete provided questions until I confirm there is a spot available.
- I send confirmation and expect completed answers by email within one or two working days. Ensure desired credit info is correct. Alternatively, a voice interview is scheduled to take place within 24 hours of receiving the questions, bearing in mind my location in Hong Kong. No toll-free numbers or mobile numbers outside the U.S. and Canada. Skype is my preferred solution.
- I submit the story and we wait for publication. Once published, I send the details immediately or as soon as I wake. It is a crucial part of my process as I prefer to maintain a personal relationship with my sources, given that I may need them again in the future.
As a full-time freelance journalist, I often have requirements for expert sources and use a variety of methods to reduce the time taken to secure them.
The methods I use are (in order of use)
- Mailing List – the subscription form is on the left sidebar of this site. Email addresses are only used to send alerts for upcoming stories.
- Use of existing contacts – I sometimes contact experts or their PR reps directly if they have contributed before and have proven expertise in the topic.
- Online platforms such as ProfNet, ResponseSource, HARO and SourceBottle
- Cold Calling – avoided where possible as many companies employ gatekeepers (receptionists and others that prevent direct contact) that often are less than helpful, given that scammers make the same requests I do. In addition, of course, many have PR companies that act on their behalf.
All methods have their failings and I find myself continually having to answer the same questions by email. In a bid to reduce email traffic and increase the number of stories I can work on in each time frame, let me clear up a few items.
Common Questions Received
Perhaps the most important point is that I’m a freelance contractor. I cannot guarantee any of the following:
- Publication – stories are sometimes killed, wasting the time of all involved.
- Inclusion of source, even after interview – editor has full discretion.
- Inclusion of company URLs – editor decision.
- Source credit – it rarely happens but some clients omit a source credit and use the info provided in the expert interview as their own insights. I don’t agree with the practice and have dropped clients who do it. If it happens to us, all I can offer is inclusion in future stories for other clients.
- Desired source credit – company descriptions are often changed if too promotional or lengthy.
- Verbatim quotes – Quotes are often shortened or summarised.
Questions listed here are quite typical, even when information is already provided. Going forward, if received in any format, a link to this page will be sent instead of an answer. My aim is to reduce email traffic for all concerned and not to complain. I simply do not have the time to respond to all questions individually.
What publication is this for? Read the query.
Can I approve the story before publication? No, I have yet to work for a client that will allow sources to review stories that are in the publication process.
What word count is required for quotes? Most online stories are in the region of 600-900 words in total with features rising to 1500 words. At best, sources can expect two direct quotes and some paraphrasing. The best practice is to provide two or three sentences per question, as this allows scope for direct quotes. I cannot work with bullet points or single-word answers.
NOTE: Direct quotes or inclusion in the story are never guaranteed, given that the editorial process has the final say.
I want to change my credit info. I make a point of specifying the type of credit info necessary in my search for sources. If this is not provided or does not follow guidelines, I will change to suit required style: For example, Michael O’ Dwyer, a freelance journalist at Your Online Content (www.youronlinecontent.com), a Hong Kong-based provider of unreasonable deadlines.
NOTE: I didn’t say that I am a premier, leading, verbose and sarcastic journalist and entirely knowledgeable when it comes to tech/business. Descriptive or promotional credits will not be used. Just state the facts.
I contributed to a recent story. Can I contribute again? If for a different publication, there is no problem in contributing again. However, if the same publication is involved, a wait period of 4-8 weeks between published stories is necessary as continually choosing the same experts reflects badly on me and gives the client an impression that my source selection process is weak. It is a client condition in many cases. Therefore, assume you cannot contribute to a new story for the same publication, until at least four weeks after the previous one has been published.
When will it be published? I am not a publication staff member and am not part of the internal publishing process. As a contracted freelancer, I always provide an estimate or a specific date if known. However, I cannot guarantee successful publication, given that sometimes stories are killed for whatever reason. Submitted stories are published on the client’s schedule and not necessarily in sequence, with the longest to date taking six months. Repeated requests for updates will remain unanswered but a link to this page will make for an entertaining read. As I update my portfolio and promote newly published stories on social media, you will have to trust me when I state I will send you a link when published. It is part of my process. I cannot provide additional specifics, given my freelance status. It is worth noting that the writing and editing processes take place quickly, normally in the first week after interviews are completed. Waiting for publication is what takes the most time.
Is the pitch approved yet? Expert sources and PR companies are welcome to suggest ideas and forward press releases that relate to business and technology. I make a pitch based on the information received. This process can take weeks or months and depends on the publication and volume of pitches already submitted. If approved (and this not guaranteed), I will contact you to contribute. There is no need to continually check for updates as it is in my best interests to include you in my story. Again, it is part of my process. I may be a journalist but I have a process management background and am highly organised.
What is the subscriber base, global distribution, number of unique monthly visitors and other similar queries? I’m a freelancer and am far removed from the client’s marketing department. Website metrics are considered proprietary information by most companies and if data is not visible on the site, do not ask me as I cannot help, am not part of the client’s inner circle and prevented from disclosing agency or editorial contacts by contract. Does your company provide site metrics to third parties? Please use SEO analysis tools, check Alexa or other publicly available data sources. There are several plugins for Chrome and Firefox that offer SEO analysis features.
Can you make a change after publication? In short, no. I never misquote a source, and request desired credit info as part of my process. If this credit info is incorrect I can make a change request but again cannot guarantee it will happen. My advice is to avoid promotional language with words such as ‘premier’, ‘leading’ etc. Simply follow the format shown in the query as anything else will be changed.
NOTE: In any publishing environment, the client/editor has the final say. I do not make decisions on use of head shots or links and cannot guarantee that all quotes or comments are used. If you are not happy, all I can do is try to involve you in future promotional opportunities as to complain will jeopardise my relationship with the client and based on experience, is unlikely to make a difference unless the issue involves a factual correction.
What do you think of this story (document attached by email)? Some mistakenly believe that I will forward unsolicited stories to my editorial contacts. I write the stories based on my own pitches or received assignments. I am not a publishing contact or shortcut to publication.
My client insists on a voice interview. It can certainly be accommodated if it takes place promptly and considers my time zone in Hong Kong. However, I prefer email as I believe a written response is often more structured than in a voice interview.
Can you extend the deadline? My deadlines are fixed and assigned by the client. I allow myself an additional day to write and submit a completed story. If anything, I need to shorten deadlines. A deadline is a final cut-off point and not a target submission time. I need a prompt response.
I’ll be late submitting or cannot submit after all. Can I contribute to future stories? It is very unlikely if it’s not the first time it has happened.
This page will be updated as other issues arise but I believe it covers everything for the moment. Thanks for your attention and I look forward to working with you.