ProfNet vs. HARO….vs. Twitter?

25th Jan 2009 | Posted by Mike Manning Mike Manning's picture

For as long as many PR professionals can remember, ProfNet was their sole source of journalist requests for interviews and other information for their stories.  No PR workday was complete without scanning several ProfNet emails each day, searching for requests relevant to their client. Things have changed.

Over the past year, one of the biggest stories in the PR industry has been the meteoric rise of Help a Reporter Out, or HARO. What started as a Facebook group by Peter Shankman to disseminate requests from his journalist friends has grown into a thrice-daily email newsletter full of valuable PR leads. HARO has become a serious threat to ProfNet because, in true Internet disrupter fashion, it’s 100% free.  ProfNet, on the other hand, is only free for journalists submitting queries.

HARO is certainly well-positioned to continue growing in the near-term. But looking a few years down the road, its prospects become more muddled.  The media is rapidly fragmenting into smaller, more specialized outlets run by bloggers and vloggers that have become as influential as “traditional media” but have little use for this type of service.  When was the last time you saw a ProfNet request from TechCrunch or GigaOm?  

These influential bloggers and new media trendsetters are instead turning to Twitter for the information and feedback they need.  This is especially true among technology bloggers, but is rapidly expanding to include journalists across every vertical. 

The competition for breaking a news story online is fierce, and important events often appear on Twitter well before the newswires. VentureBeat called Twitter’s search engine “an incredible tool for getting information.” Journalists are also using Twitter to build closer relationships with their readers: soliciting questions for their interview subjects, catching mistakes or omissions, and driving new readers to their stories.

Twitter already has numerous applications for PR professionals: some journalists prefer to be pitched via Twitter, and services such as TweetBeep can assist in active listening for clients’ products or brands.  As Twitter’s audience expands (it’s the fastest growing social network, by the way) and its usage protocol becomes more defined, it could easily replace ProfNet and HARO as a PR professional’s main source of journalist inquiries.

Recently we saw the first formal attempt at using Twitter for this purpose, with the launch of MicroPR.  That idea may catch on, but it seems just as likely that journalists will continue sending queries to their loyal followers without bothering to hashtag it for the broader community.  The onus will be on PR professionals to identify and follow their important targets to take advantage of this, and build a stronger relationship with them by providing helpful and quick responses to their requests. 

Who knows, maybe Twitter will eventually come full circle and charge PR professionals to access important journalists’ feeds.  They have to figure out a business model someday, right?

 

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