November 23, 2012 / by Laura Spaventa

Welcome to the HARO Limelight Series (HLS), where we will highlight either a reporter or source who has had success(es) with our service each week.

Our purpose with this series is to educate readers on how to more effectively pitch reporters and garner media hits.

We hope you find this series useful. Please leave any comments or questions below!

In this HLS, we interviewed Tom Guenette, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for FreeCause.

1.       Please give the BloggingPRWeb readers a little background information about yourself/your business.

FreeCause specializes in building innovative software that enables major brands, loyalty programs, sports teams, and nonprofits to monetize and reward consumers for their online behavior. The FreeCause team develops award winning, revolutionary new technology that allows consumers to connect with their favorite brands while simultaneously giving these consumers an enriched web experience. With more than 25 million subscribers, the FreeCause advanced loyalty and engagement solutions reward consumers as they search the Internet, or when they shop through the FreeCause network of over 3,000 online retailers.

FreeCause is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rakuten, Inc., one of the largest eCommerce companies in the world.

I am the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for FreeCause, helping promote the company, our people, our clients, and our successes to external audiences. I have been with FreeCause since July 2011 and started using HARO a year ago.

2.       How did you first hear about HARO and why did you decide to sign up?

I first came across HARO by searching the Internet, looking for news services and other innovative ways to help improve our media outreach efforts. As the sole public relations resource at FreeCause, I was primarily interested in services that were easy to manage, cost effective, and would be worth investing my time in. HARO met all of those requirements, so I signed up for it.

3.       How has HARO changed the way you market yourself/your business?

The great thing about HARO is each day it brings you a number of stories that are in the works for you and your company to get involved in. Media outreach can be time-consuming, especially when you have a small team, so being able to review projects that authors and reporters are currently working on is invaluable. They have a need, you have expertise on the subject matter, it’s a perfect marriage! I quickly scan the HARO emails each day and see if there are any relevant opportunities worth responding to. I never miss reviewing an email, it’s become part of my daily habit, and each week there seem to be a couple of interesting opportunities worth responding to. HARO has become a key part of my daily PR and outreach plan.

4.       How many times have you gotten media placements through HARO?

We’ve received a half a dozen media placements with HARO in the first year of utilizing the service.

5.       If you have garnered more than one hit, which was your favorite and why?

Our favorite, and biggest media hit through HARO, was our first front page coverage in the company’s history – the Boston Globe. We responded to a HARO query this past May about the use of headphones in the office. The reporter was looking for pros and cons, and we were able to have a source quoted in the article. We also offered to have a photographer from the Boston Globe come to our office and photograph our employees using headphones. Not only did the story run front page (online as well), but there were four photos included in the piece, all from our office! As I mentioned it was our company’s first front page coverage and the employees loved being in the paper and online.

This article also allowed me to build a relationship with a business reporter at the Boston Globe. I mentioned to her an exciting new company-wide initiative we were in the middle of – having all of our 60 employees learn how to code – and she was very interested. A few weeks later she interviewed a number of our employees, had a photographer come and take more photos of our employees, this time learning how to code, and a few weeks later we had another article run in the Boston Globe. That’s the great thing about these HARO queries, they become much more than responding to a particular query, they lead to building better relationships between reporters and sources. That to me is the true value of HARO.

6.       From your experience with getting media placements, what are some tips/pointers you can give to people looking to pitch themselves or their businesses to the media?

  1. Be relevant. Find out who covers your industry or topic of interest and start there.
  2. Be valuable. What expertise or angle of a story can you or your company add that no one else can?
  3. Be responsive. Don’t make them wait to hear back from you. Treat them like you would your best customer.
  4. Be concise. You’re trying to get them interested, not tell your entire story in one email.
  5. Be truthful. It may be that for this particular story, you’re not the best resource. That’s okay. Don’t waste their time or try and smudge information/opinions to meet a need.

7.       What are some no-nos when pitching the media?

Don’t misrepresent yourself or your company. People can see through that and will lose trust in you as a potential resource for the future.

Don’t spam people. No reporter wants to be on a list of a hundred other reporters you’re sending the same press release/media pitch to.


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