When a reporter has questions and your client can answer them
better than anyone, you have a hot ticket for coverage. Robin Londner
looks at the services available for bringing the two parties
A staffer with Nails magazine was recently working on a story about dry,
cracked cuticles and hangnails. She wanted to find a dermatologist who
could give her expert comment. At the same time, a reporter from New
Jersey Monthly was looking for statistics on American soup consumption
between 1996 and 2001. Both writers took their requests to an expert
search service - in these instances, the recently relaunched
No matter how seemingly strange the request, somewhere a PR pro is
representing a client with the answers. And while there are journalists
with stories to write, and PR people with stories to sell, "matchmaking"
information services like ProfNet, ExpertSource, and SourceNet will
continue to be valuable resources.
"For a minimal investment, you can strike gold in terms of leads," says
Raoul Mowatt, a features writer at the Chicago Tribune, who recently
posted a ProfNet request for a story on video game wars. He also uses
ExpertSource. "Sometimes, of course, it's a dry well, and you might have
to wade through spam responses. But usually there are enough bona fide
hits to make it worthwhile."
ProfNet, created in 1992 and purchased by PR Newswire in 1996, offers
three main services, the most well-known being ProfNet Search, which
allows reporters to send queries by broadcast e-mail to PR pros in North
America and Europe. ProfNet Database holds profiles of PR people,
searchable by reporters, who can then send targeted queries. ProfNet
Leads offers sources on timely subjects and is linked to expert profiles
in ProfNet Database.
"We compiled an inventory of 700 experts in three days following
September 11," says Dan Forbush, president of ProfNet, and architect of
its recent overhaul. "And we plan to add new features to ProfNet
Database, including high-resolution photos and video."
ProfNet's chief competitor is Business Wire's ExpertSource, launched in
"We go beyond the database in our efforts to assist journalists," says
Laura Sturaitis, Business Wire's director of new media development.
"If we don't have an expert, our information services group, staffed by
professional librarians, works with the journalists and provides
references, background information, and other insights."
Unlike ProfNet, which e-mails queries to PR people, ExpertSource posts
journalist queries to a searchable website. Its other sites include
Expert-Source NewsSource Center, a bulletin board for journalists to
which PR people can submit 100-word abstracts of surveys and studies; a
searchable database of potential experts; and a company overview web
page, called Corporate Profile, which is posted on BW.com.
Both Forbush and Sturaitis claim use of their services is up since
September 11. Potential reasons, they say, are because journalists may
be working slightly different beats to focus on terrorism, and PR
clients may be changing their expert profiles to position themselves as
Also, cuts in both media and PR budgets may mean that both sides have
less time to develop stories.
The September 11 impact has prompted MediaMap's Source-Net service to
create a free resources listing of experts specific to issues connected
with the terrorist attacks.
Launched last year, SourceNet is the new kid on the block. To remain
fresh, MediaMap is looking into new ways to deliver information from
journalists to PR people, such as integrating queries into a desktop
For now, it uses the e-mail model to alert PR people to queries.
MediaMap also plans to launch SourceNet Experts, a free listing of
experts for journalists.
Erin Mitchell, director of media services for MediaMap, says PR people
can maximize the efficiency of expert search services by adhering
closely to specific journalist requests.
"Journalists asking for information specifically on the color of widgets
will likely not appreciate information on the founder of a gadget
company," she explains. "Likewise, when a journalist posts a query on
SourceNet, they are not looking for a phone call, unless they
specifically request it. The journalist has chosen the service and its
features, and PR pros need to respect that choice."
Lesser known, perhaps, is Broadcast Interview Source (BIS). Operating
since 1984, BIS publishes the print directory Yearbook of Experts,
Authorities, & Spokespersons, along with a searchable electronic
version. BIS also offers an expert internet profile and links to client
and publicist websites.
This month, BIS plans to launch Expert-Click, which will allow
journalists to submit queries to PR people in the ProfNet, Expert-Source
and SourceNet styles.
Other services do not aim to relay specific queries, but instead give PR
people overall information. Vocus, for example, offers a database of
journalists and over 100,000 editorial calendars searchable by key
words, issue date, journalist, outlet, and subject. LexisNexis offers
profiles of media, journalists, and editorial calendars, as well as
weekly e-mails of editorial changes and opportunities.
NewsBuzz has GuestFinder. com, a directory of experts and authors
available for media interviews. It recently bought GreatGuests Fax Alert
and GreatGuests.com, a weekly fax of available experts sent to radio
hosts and producers. CEO Larilyn Bailey says the NewsBuzz plans to
launch additional services in 2002.
Dabney Oliver, an SAE with the Loomis Group in Austin, TX, believes the
benefits of search services far outweigh the time spent sifting through
"If I get my client one quality placement, the time that I spend opening
and deleting ProfNet e-mails isn't wasted," says Oliver, who says she
scores a media hit for one in 10 queries to which she replies. "I look
at these services as a bonus to make my job easier. If it works out,
then great. If it doesn't, not too much time has been spent on a
SOME OF THE KEY 'MATCHMAKING' SERVICES
SERVICES: Journalists post queries or use database ExpertSource
NewsSource Center: PR people can post abstracts from studies
SurveySource: Editors survey business communities, BW offers database of
experts to provide context
COST: BW members and registered journalists, free
SERVICES: Journalist queries e-mailed to PR people
COST: Registration, daily e-mails of queries, access
to details, free; response subscription, $995
NAME: ProfNet Search
SERVICES: Journalist queries e-mailed to PR people
ProfNet Database: Reporters can search for experts
ProfNet Leads: PR people can spotlight leads, link to database profiles
in e-mail to 5,000 reporters
COST: $2,400 (PR agencies) to $5,000 (nonprofits)
SERVICES: Allows journalists to submit queries to PR pros
NAME: Press Flash
SERVICES: Weekly e-mails of editorial changes and opportunities
Press Files and PRAnywhere: Profiles of media, writers, and editorial
COST: From $1,995, includes other LexisNexis services
SERVICES: Directory of experts available for interviews
GreatGuests Newsletter and Fax Alert: Experts and interview sources
faxed to radio hosts
COST: $249 per year per expert listed
Newsletter, $125 per ad; Fax Alert $175
complete, $275 if NewsBuzz provides copy
URL/WEBSITE: www.greatguests.com, www.guestfinder.com