Tool emerges to aid reporters

NEW YORK: Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman launched If I Can Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a new reference tool for reporters that connects them to PR pros.

NEW YORK: Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman launched If I Can Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a new reference tool for reporters that connects them to PR pros.

The free service uses an e-mail list and Web site http://www.helpareporter.com/ to notify PR pros and other possible sources of reporters' queries. The product emerged as a possible free alternative to PR Newswire's (PRN) ProfNet.

Shankman launched HARO as a Facebook group in January, but when it surpassed the site's limits on group size, he moved it to its own site in late March. It now has about 5,000 members that get a three-times daily e-mail containing two to 10 reporter queries.

In comparison, ProfNet has more than 20,000 members and sends out about 100 to 150 requests from reporters each day.

Rachel Meranus, VP of PR at PRN, declined to comment on the launch, but cited a prepared statement that noted ProfNet has outlasted similar services.

Shankman says HARO has an advantage over similar services because it's free.

ProfNet, created in 1992 and acquired by PRN four years later, costs from $1,500 annually for a single industry-specific subscription to $3,500 for PR agencies receiving all 13 segments.

Shankman didn't launch a formal PR push for HARO, but notified many reporters and PR pros of its relocation from Facebook.

Stacy Frank, Business Wire ExpertSource coordinator, said BW's ExpertSource tool is also free to members. HARO's initial success indicates the importance of social networking technology as a communications tool, she added.

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