About seven years ago, I sent out my first email to about 100 journalists that I knew. In it, I told them that thanks to a hyperactive personality, I know a ton of people. If they ever needed a source on anything they were working on, they should email me - chances are, I knew someone that could help them.
I got the usual feedback - "Are you insane? What do you really want? Why are you doing this?" But I also got a handful of journalists who took me up on my offer from time to time - And I started becoming known as the "source guy."
Like most things in the Internet age in which we live, one thing led to another, and I now run the largest source repository in the world, called "Help A Reporter Out." And get this: According to many journalists around the world, It's changing the face of journalism.
See, in the past, journalists had to find their sources on deadline, usually under pressure, by asking friends, emailing, then, as time passed, Googling, and posting on Craig's List. But that was annoying. I thought there might be a better way to do that. http://helpareporter.com was born.
In the most basic sense, it's citizen journalism, simplified. Everyone knows something about something, right? I happen to know the plotline to every single episode of Family Guy. I also know how to skydive, and I also happen to know how to deal with Diabetic cats. Random. How the heck would a reporter know that? They wouldn't. So Help A Reporter was born. And it works.
It's free on every single side. Journalists don't pay. Sources don't pay. Anyone can sign up. http://helpareporter.com is the website. Sign up as a source, and you get three emails per day. They have anywhere from 50-75 queries per email, from all sorts of journalists around the world. The NY Times. The Wall Street Journal. Oprah. The Daily Show. Bloggers. Authors. You name it.
They ask tons of questions, all the time. And guess what - Out there, in the Interverse, there are people who know the answer. HARO provides that conduit. If you're a source, and you know the answer, you email the reporter directly. If the reporter likes what he or she is hearing, they follow up with you, and you're in the media. It's that simple.
Why this works for the reporter: It saves them time, it saves them legwork, and it allows them to focus on crafting a better story. And hey, over 100,000 journalists use us on a regular basis. There's got to be something there.
Why this works for the source: Ever been quoted somewhere? Whether you run a business, or are trying to impress a new client or a first date, everyone loves to be famous. Everyone loves to show up in the media, have a Google alert pop up on their name, or even show it to their friends, bosses, or family. It's what we love as a society.
From a business standpoint, there's no reason not to do this. Ever see what happens when a small bakery is featured in the Wall Street Journal? They usually have to hire new people to handle all the new business.
What about when a CEO is mentioned as an expert on the nightly news? Credibility and professional stock go through the roof. Those who do this, know this. It's why they show up at 5:30am to do the morning shows instead of sleeping in.
And did I mention it's entirely free? HARO is supported by one four-line advertisement that runs at the top of every email. It's text based. When you're dealing in the currency of information you don't have a need for graphics.
Give it a shot. If nothing else, you'll be quoted as an expert - and that'll certainly make for a much nicer afternoon.
Follow Peter Shankman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/petershankman