In our Journalist Spotlight Q&A series, PR Newswire for Journalists and ProfNet users share their insight and advice on how PR professionals and experts can improve communications and increase their chances of being featured in their publications.
In this edition, we catch up with Myrna Haskell, an author, columnist, feature writer and speaker.
Haskell’s features have appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, American Fitness, and many other publications across the United States and internationally. She is also a columnist for several regional publications, and is the author of “LIONS and TIGERS and TEENS: Expert advice and support for the conscientious parent just like you” (Unlimited Publishing, LLC).
In addition, Haskell is co-founder and managing editor of Sanctuary, an online women’s magazine with a focus on women in the arts, women humanitarians and women’s health. She has also been a keynote speaker for nonprofit conferences supporting parents and education, discussing issues such as leadership, volunteerism and parent involvement in community schools.
Myrna, for those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?
For my freelance work, I write columns and feature-length pieces on the following topics: children's health and development, parenting, parenting teens, special needs, education, women's issues, women's health, etc. For Sanctuary, the magazine I co-founded and am managing editor for, I cover the following topics: interviews with humanitarians and community leaders, women's health and artist profiles.
You’ve used ProfNet for a long time, so I’m sure you've gotten a lot of replies to your queries over the years. What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong?
I usually receive quick responses -- within 1-3 days. This is great, since I am often up against a quick deadline. I've had pretty good luck. Occasionally, I might be told that there is someone, only to find out later that this person is no longer available. This is rare, though. I like to work with folks who deliver. I have an impeccable reputation with experts, and I always follow up with links to the articles. I expect the same professionalism in return, and I usually get it. ProfNet has been very valuable.
Is there anything PR reps can do to set themselves apart from other respondents?
Rapid response time is key. However, I can tell if someone hasn't spent enough time understanding the specifics in a query. If the match is spot-on, you know that they really thought about what you were looking for. Again, I have had really good luck here. I've found that most PR reps are very good at what they do.
Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?
I don't mind an email pitch. However, I've got a full plate, so I have to be selective. I have used material/sources from PR folks that send emails to me on occasion and when something fits with upcoming editorial needs. So, if I say I'll keep the information on file, I mean it. You might hear from me a month or two later when I can utilize the topic/expert.
Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?
Yes. I use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for both personal accounts (for my freelancing work) and accounts for Sanctuary. They are definitely great networking tools. We also just started an Instagram account for Sanctuary.
What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?
I don't have one specific favorite. Some of my Lions and Tigers and Teens column series pieces were really fun to write. I often drew from personal experience with my own teens, but I also had hundreds of other parents writing in with tips. This was a very popular column. I think that some of the articles I wrote for special-needs parents were also important. I've interviewed some phenomenal women for Sanctuary as well.
Any other advice?
The relationships you build with editors and industry experts are so integral to your career. Over time, you build a reputation and people share your name and your articles. When you are not on staff with a publication, this is so very important. Editors want to build trust with their contributing writers. I love both sides of the industry -- writing and editing. I think it's important to have an understanding of both an editor's perspective and a writer's perspective. After all, you are a team.