Jonathan H. Harsch is a seasoned journalist who has specialized in agriculture, energy, environmental issues and politics for nearly half a century. His passion for making the world a better place has crafted his work, which has appeared in a myriad of publications including y Agri-Pulse, AgriData News Service, the Christian Science Monitor, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, Rodale Press, Winrock International, Profiles magazine, and The World and I magazine. Harsch explains that his goal is to contribute to the planet’s health by improving the public’s environmental understanding, and consequently environmental policies and procedures. This expert has also served as a speaker for the World Bank and OECD conferences in Washington, Paris and Hawaii, as well as being the recipient of the Scripps-Howard Edward J. Meeman Award for Outstanding Conservation Reporting. So how do you impress this veteran when you send a pitch to his inbox? Find out with his tips below.
What kind of information do you like to receive?
While I keep track of agricultural issues, my primary focus now is on energy, climate change, bioenergy, rural energy, and renewable energy including biofuels, wind, solar, hydro, marine, and nuclear. I prefer to receive pitches which relate directly to this energy focus.
What will catch your attention?
There are a few ways to catch my attention. First, regular contact with me. Providing accurate, time-sensitive, newsworthy information focused on my current beat — energy and renewable energy– always catches my eye. Second, feedback. It is, of course, nice to get a response with positive comments on an article I’ve written. It’s even nicer and more impressive to receive a response pointing out anything I’ve gotten wrong in an article and directing me to relevant people and information to help me get it right next time. Follow up on your pitches and stories so we can cultivate a working relationship.
How do you prefer to receive pitches?
Email. However, if it’s really urgent and exclusive news that relates to energy and bioenergy in particular, either a text or a phone call to me is also fine.
Do you have any advice or pet peeves to share with PR professionals?
This is a very timely question. I contacted two PR people this morning, both with large organizations. One hasn’t bothered to reply yet, after telling me on the phone that he would set up interviews. The other not only responded immediately but set up an excellent interview with a top executive which took place just four hours after I’d submitted my request. Even if it’s only to tell me that giving me an interview on short notice couldn’t be arranged, I respect those PR people who get right back to me with straight answers the most. I don’t have much use for PR professionals who will not give me an idea whether I will get the requested interview in time to meet my daily deadlines. Of course, it also helps any PR person get Agri-Pulse coverage if he or she is familiar not only with Agri-Pulse but with my own energy articles as well.
Do you use social media like Twitter or Facebook to gather leads and story ideas? Can you be pitched via these channels? Why/ Why not?
No. I find I have more than enough going on already, so I consider Twitter and Facebook needless distractions. But that’s probably just an unfortunate consequence of my age and my having worked initially with a manual typewriter — a portable Olivetti which I still have and entertain fantasies of using once again.
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