Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

So tell me, are you that incredibly well-connected writer who always knows the savvy, witty person to contact for insight and comment on every story, regardless of topic or audience?

Is your contacts list completely up-to-date?

Does everyone immediately take your call, or respond within minutes to your messages?

No? Me neither. But I am highly aware that being able to connect with people through diverse channels has a huge impact on my ability to produce saleable pitches and interesting articles, so I do what I can to improve my odds of finding and connecting with those elusive sources.

Every now and again, I turn to ProfNet, which is similar to HARO, JournoRequests, SourceBottle, Public Insight Network, and Source Sleuth. These services connect writers in need of a source with experts, often via their PR person.

As a journalist, I can post a query about the kind of person I seek. Boom flash zing, my request is out there to all the relevant PR people and sometimes the experts themselves.

It can be an incredible time saver in certain circumstances–if done properly.

Of course I do want to hear from The One. But I’m not crazy about my inbox clogging with dozens of meh-not-quite-right responses. And even less so about replying to them all.

If you use these services, I’ve got a couple of suggestions for you.


First, make as clear as possible what kind of expertise you’re looking for (without, of course, giving away too many details if it’s a unique angle, as the request is blasted out far and wide).

For example, posing a specific question for potential sources to answer in their reply weeds out those who really can speak to the issue at hand from those who can’t.

But remember, these are people who actively want media attention, so it’s not uncommon for them to try and hammer whatever their square peg perspective or widget is into your round hole article. No matter how detailed your request, some generic or poor matches replies pop up.

It’s a bit ambiguous if you need to reply or not to all these messages. I know many writers who do so. Normally it’s fine to delete a press release, but these are often personalized messages tailored to fit a specific request. And inevitably you’ll have some Maybes that you want to hold onto if for some reason your first choice doesn’t work out.


Here’s my solution to politely acknowledge all replies without spending any time, other than a 10-minute setup. We all know it takes “just a minute” to acknowledge an email, but 25 replies to half a dozen such requests adds up to more minutes than you have for mindless admin.

1. Set up a dedicated email account just for use with these accounts.

2. Create an autoreply message that says something like, “Thank you for your response to my query. If you or your client is a good fit, I’ll be in touch shortly about scheduling an interview.”

3. Post your query. If you are not on a pressing deadline, wait a few days, and then review the batch of replies all at once.

Once you set this up, you can spend your time and energy on what matters most: reading and evaluating the replies themselves.


Want a blueprint for writing queries that editors find irresistible? Download a copy of the free eguide, “5 Proven Steps to Writing Queries that Sell.”

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