Crowdsourcing for journalists and PR pros: 4 tools you need to know about

Crowdsourcing for journalists and PR pros: 4 tools you need to know about

Journalists and PR professionals don’t exactly get along all the time. The reporter wants more information, and the PR guy wants to maintain the brand. The reporter wants to publish this info now, and the PR guy is already imagining what that would do to his carefully orchestrated campaign.

Is there anything they can see eye to eye about? Yes: crowdsourcing.

As a journalist, you already use crowdsourcing in your articles, from researching information to reaching out for expert commentary. Taking those skills online can help you find everything you need much faster than usual while opening up the possibility of getting interesting new insights and scoops.

For PR professionals, you can use that same unique audience to position your clients in front of previously untapped markets and drum up publicity.

Here are four websites you can use to crowdsource your work, no matter which side of the news you’re on.

1. Help a Reporter Out (HARO): HARO is the most straightforward tool on this list. PR people can sign up as sources, and they’ll receive three emails per day filled with journalists’ requests for interviews. After that, you can craft a response and email individual reporters directly through the service. Paid memberships bring even more perks, like filters to give you only the most relevant opportunities and early alerts to give you a jump on the competition. Journalists can post their story needs and deadline, then screen pitches as they come in and even leave feedback to show each person how they can make a better pitch next time.

If you don’t mind scouring three long emails per day—or paying for an upgraded set of filters instead—to find the perfect story to match your client’s expertise, then HARO is a goldmine. Thousands of journalists from reputable news sources are on it every day, so you’re bound to find something that works. Better yet, the reporters are the ones reaching out in the first place, giving you the upper hand. Establish mutually beneficial relationships with reporters by proving you understand the needs they lay out in requests.

The good news for journalists is that there are about a hundred thousand potential sources available at any given time. Whether they’re the particular kind you want, though, is uncertain. You might not want to use HARO on a super tight deadline just in case nothing relevant turns up. When you’re still too pressed for time to research potential interviewees and send individual requests, though, using HARO to fish for them can be a lifesaver.

2. QuoraQuora is Yahoo Answers’ more sophisticated cousin. It allows you to set up and look through questions and answers around more than 400,000 topics. These can help you find current information from people with real-world experience in the subject, whether they’re just experienced in a certain field or have made it their life’s work. Quora’s community of users is active and peppered with some really influential people.

The best way to use this site as a PR professional is to find questions for your client to answer. By stepping in to save the day with some relevant information and a link to her business’s website, your client can position herself as an expert while driving some traffic at the same time. You can also look for questions relevant to your client’s brand to get insight on what people are talking about. Is there a need your client’s product can fill if a few tweaks were made to it? What’s the next big thing coming from your competition? Curating questions for your client to answer and learn from can help build her online presence as an expert in her field while making sure her brand innovates and maintains relevance.

Journalists, of course, are going to want to take advantage of Quora’s sleek Q and A forums. Not only will your questions get professional answers, you’ll often get information directly from the people you’re writing about—it’s not uncommon for an employee of a company to answer questions about the business. Users who aren’t answering questions also help you out by flagging responses to tell you if they’re duplicates, in need of explanation, or given by someone who needs to disclose his affiliation to something relevant. The Poynter Institute recommends using Quora to discover potential story topics, unearth trends and see what people are saying about popular subjects. You might discover a brand new angle for a story that’s already been covered in depth.

3. RedditReddit is a rich resource for both PR folks and journalists, as long as you take time to learn the rules. Reddit’s users moderate their own topic sections, called subreddits, with ferocious dedication. They’re the rule enforcers, but all of the content that shows up on the site is also posted and promoted by users, who can up- or downvote a post to make it more visible. The best content from the subreddits gets bumped to the site’s front page, earning serious attention.

No matter your purpose on the site, Reddit generally discourages self-promotion. You can sometimes get away with posting links to your own work after you’ve established yourself as a regular contributor, so do some lurking to learn the ropes before posting.

As I wrote last month, PR people have to walk the careful line of doing their jobs, but not looking like they are at the same time. There are two main strategies here. First, you can monitor keywords that matter to you to see what people are saying about something related to your client’s needs. So if someone posts in the beauty subreddit asking for advice on the best moisturizers, and you catch that post while it’s still active, you can insert your skincare products client into that situation. The metareddit monitor combs through subreddits for those words so you don’t have, saving you tons of time. Once you’ve identified a good place to make a plug, have your client post as himself—not his company—to offer his input. A special Reddit discount on a product wouldn’t hurt, either.

The second thing you can do as a PR rep is set up an “Ask Me Anything,” or AMA, event. This lets Reddit users ask your client absolutely whatever questions they want. While your client can pick and choose which questions to answer, Reddit users appreciate honesty and humanity. Go off script, give real but still careful answers and don’t be afraid to get a bit silly. It’ll pay off in the end by making your client’s business seem more trustworthy and relatable.

For journalists, the key is to use Reddit to get sources and information, not publicity for your latest article. Breaking news tends to get subreddited, as do most topics related to your beat, so combining all of those into a multireddit RSS feed can help you keep them organized and easily scan for story ideas. There’s also a calendar for AMA events, and if you know about those ahead of time, you can get usable quotes from notable figures before your competition does.

If you do decide to quote from the site, don’t be lazy by crediting the info to “Reddit.” Quote the individual user, and send them a private message to ask for permission first. It’ll show that you care about the people contributing as much as you do about your story.

4. MyBlogUThe relative newcomer to this list, MyBlogU is still a great resource for crowdsourcing information. Its first major feature is group interviews, which work similarly to HARO’s queries. The brainstorming feature allows you to request feedback on a particular issue or idea. These are moderated by editors, so your submission will have to make the cut in order to be presented to users.

Like Quora, PR people can have their clients answer questions as experts in a particular field. This might get them quoted in articles, which boost visibility. They can also ask for feedback on ideas for new products, ad campaigns, and other areas of business.

Journalists will likely benefit from the brainstorming feature by asking people for their perspectives on story topics, while the interviews might get them quotable answers to more specific questions. Once you write your article, you can send the URL to your collaborators, who are very likely to share and promote it themselves.

These are all powerful tools for getting information and new perspectives. They can cause issues, though, if you’re overly self-promotional and end up turning your audience off to your posts. It’s also tricky to maintain a presence on so many sites, not to mention all the time it takes to find the best opportunities within those platforms to promote your client or source information. Ultimately, that dedication will pay off when you get the perfect source or bit of spotlight just in the nick of time.  

Adrienne Erin is an online PR specialist at WebpageFX who has pitched thousands of bloggers and journalists. She writes for SiteProNews, Search Engine People, and Socialnomics. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit Design Roast to see more of her work.

Photo: Crowd of people via Shutterstock

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