By Julie Wright —President
Journalists love to poke fun at PR pros for pitching nutty story ideas or tone-deaf newsjacking attempts. However, turnabout is fair play. On the PR side, we definitely get our fair share of wacky requests from the media. And the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) email service is where the weirdest of those cluster and multiply. If you’ve not recently found yourself hating HARO, we’re here to fix that.
How often have you scanned an email from HARO and nearly spit out your coffee? We love HARO for matchmaking our client partners with journalists on deadline, but we also hate HARO for the volume of bizarre requests.
If you’re reading this and don’t know what HARO is, it’s a thrice-daily email service with 800,000 subscribers that connects journalists on deadline – 55,000 of them – with expert sources to provide information and insights for their stories.
HARO queries range from the hyper-specific and obscure (Ex. “Everything To Know About Garcinia Cambogia”) to the overly vague catch-all (Ex. “Blockchain and business”).
So, courtesy of HARO, here’s a little PR industry payback for our media friends. And, to our PR friends, here is a little levity to brighten your crazed day:
1. “Seeking experts re: car sex”
Wow, no one told me that this was a career option in high school!
The actual query is for a sex therapist or educator who can answer the big questions about car sex like, “What should someone know before attempting car sex? Why try it? How can someone have car sex safely (from the perspectives of car safety, considerations around public sex and consent and legality, and considerations around safer sex)?”
Turns out we all may have under-thought this subject! Although it did ask the question that is on everyone’s minds: “And what positions work best?”
2. “Pets & Their Fave TV Shows/Vets & Animal Shows”
“We’re looking to talk to pet owners or vets about animals and their favorite TV shows. Does your dog love the news? Is your cat crazy for quiz shows?”
To all of the dogs and cats reading this right now, bark or meow once if you prefer Jeopardy or twice for Wheel of Fortune. The query goes on to ask for vets to respond with the TV shows they recommend for sick pets. Here’s a PSA: If your vet ever recommends a TV show for your sick pet, it’s time to find a new vet!
3. “Looking to talk to men about how they asked their wives/partners for open marriages”
The blog Fatherly is asking for a friend.
4. “Experts Reveal Why The Pull-Out Method Is So Dangerous”
First of all, “reveal” – really? If this outlet’s readers don’t know the answer, do they, in fact, read?
5. “Huamana Analysts Needed”
Bro, I don’t think that’s how you spell Humana. Glad you’re seeking expert help though.
I’m guessing that this query generated a few responses from the Hawaiian islands. And Humana’s PR department missed out on this one if they were filtering queries by keyword and didn’t include misspellings of their company name.
6. “A brief explanation of the difference between brick and wood when buying or building a home”
If your client is a big bad wolf or a little pig, here’s your 15 minutes! Wolves and pigs have two very different takes on brick versus wood. So, I hope that the writer got both sides. A little concerning that straw was left out as I’m sure that today’s pigs and wolves know straw bale construction is the future.
7. “The Science of Sexy Step Moms”
Is there any? (I’m referring to science, not sexy stepmoms.)
8. “The Brilliant Reason You Should Wrap Your Car Key In Tin Foil”
It’s almost like the reporter has already written the headline before researching their story. Apparently, aluminum foil can prevent thieves from copying your key-fob signal to gain entry to your car. So, that is clearly the “brilliant” reason to undergo this hassle against a very low-risk situation. But, there could be more nuance?
Tin foil is a flashy accessory? Tin foil keeps your key germ free? Taking your key out of the foil to unlock your car will give you that Christmas morning vibe six times a day?
AND A BONUS! 9. “How-to story ideas”
“Looking for fun story ideas for a how-to section: Are you a source for an educational how-to story?”
This is what an editor or reporter does when they have completely run out of ideas: asks the HARO community to do their job.
Here’s four ideas for this writer: See queries #1 and #3 above and ask for an expert on HARO.
By the way, if you haven’t been using HARO but would like to get started, I recommend checking out this tip sheet before you start responding: https://www.cision.com/us/resources/tip-sheets/haro-practices
P.S. It took extra effort to keep this blog post #SFW and PG-13. Apparently, HARO is the Tinder of expert source apps.
P.S.S. Even Tinder posted a query to HARO recently–ironically, the Tinder writer was seeking an asexual person for an interview (there being none on Tinder, I guess.)