November 16, 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!
We interviewed Kara Williams, a longtime freelance writer who focuses on travel, for this edition of the HLS.
1. What beats/topics do you normally write about? Why do these particular subjects interest you?
I write mainly about family travel because I love to vacation with my husband and children, ages 10 and 12. Other favorite beats are romantic trips, girlfriend getaways, spas, outdoor adventures, ski resorts and hotel reviews.
2. What is your favorite part about your job?
The variety, for sure! Every day is different. One day I might be interviewing a hotel general manager about his new restaurant, another day I might be researching great all-inclusive resorts for an online round-up, another day I might be planning my own travels!
3. What is your least favorite part about your job?
My least favorite part is probably invoicing and keeping track of income and expenses. I like to write; I’m not a bookkeeper.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome in?
Honestly, I’ve been quite blessed when it has come to making money as a writer. I’ve been in the editorial field for more than 20 years—as a corporate copyeditor, magazine editor and newspaper reporter, now a freelance writer. I was able to transition to work-at-home freelance writing just when I got pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to blend motherhood and a successful, flexible career.
5. How has the journalism field changed since you first started writing and what are you doing to adapt?
It has changed SO MUCH since I graduated from college in 1991 (ack, I’m dating myself). My first job out of school was for Working Mother magazine, where I was an editorial assistant. The layout department still “pasted up” the pages to send to the printer, with paper and glue. Editing was done with a pencil on a hard-copy manuscript, not online. We barely used email; fax was the method of communicating back in the day. Today, I do nearly all of my research via the Internet; back then, I went to the library and used microfiche!
6. When did you first learn of HARO and how has it changed your job?
I think I’ve been a member of HARO for at least 4 years. It has made researching stories SO much easier! I love being able to send out a query for EXACTLY what I’m looking for. I’ve used HARO to cast a wide net for articles for Every Day with Rachael Ray, like the time I needed restaurants throughout the country that offered kids opportunities to make their own food. And I’ve used it for narrow stories for my blog TheVacationGals.com, for example on “What’s new in Vail?”
7. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to PR professionals pitching you a story?
I can’t stand unsolicited, irrelevant press releases that I get via email. They are a waste of my time and the PR’s time. I actually tell MANY PR professionals to stop spending their time sending mass releases to journalists, and instead use that time to respond to HARO queries that are RELEVANT to their clients.
I don’t cover golf and I don’t have a pet (nor any interest in traveling with one), so when I get press releases about golf or dog-friendly hotels, I just get annoyed. Irrelevant releases do not endear me to anyone’s clients.
8. What tips or pointers would you offer to PR professionals looking to pitch you a story?
Read my blog (www.thevacationgals.com), check out my website portfolio (www.karawilliams.com) and pitch me relevant stories via email; not a mass-emailed release. OR, wait until I post my query on HARO, and send me information about your relevant client.
Note I keep using the word “relevant”? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent out a HARO query, say, looking for U.S. destinations, and I’ve gotten a PR pro sending me information on a hotel in Europe. I report that to the HARO police!
9. Does social media play a role in your job? If so, how big of a role?
Social media plays a HUGE role in my job. I network on Twitter, I post my recent articles on Google Plus, I check in with PR and travel-writer friends on Facebook (and share resources/advice on Facebook travel writer groups)… I also make money via social media, for example, hosting Twitter chats with travel-related companies.
10. Where can people find you in the social media sphere? Do you welcome people pitching you via social media?
I am happy to get pitched via social media!
11. What advice would you give someone who is looking to get started in the journalism field?
Journalism isn’t just about writing clever articles these days. It’s about knowing how to write with SEO in mind and how to write succinctly. It’s about being able to take photographs (and size them properly for the web!) and create videos.
It’s about multi-tasking and being open to new ways of making an income and learning new skills as technology develops.
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