MEDIA MATTERS: Advice from World-Class Journalists and Intriguing Media Minds
Neely Burks is the founder of Nashville based start-up SourceYourCity, a virtual platform that connects local reporters with local sources attempting to increase the quality of local news. Neely founded SourceYourCity in 2011 with initial funding provided by Nashville’s JumpStart Foundry program. I had a chance to sit down with Neely and discuss her new business including her plans for SourceYourCity’s future.
Where did you get the idea for SYC?
I have a PR background and during my time spent in agency life, I focused on local market media relations for several clients across Tennessee and in Texas and Florida.
Through these efforts I interacted with HARO and ProfNet, which helped me see the value that a service like this could provide for local market reporters. As a result, I moved forward with the creation of a scalable product and brand that caters to the needs of local reporters, while eventually serving as a more targeted and effective resource for national media as we launch additional markets.
How is it different from HARO and other national services?
It’s really all about relevancy. National services like HARO offer media the chance to cast an extremely wide net when they’re sourcing their content. For reporters who are open to sources located anywhere in the country, this makes sense.
Reporters, however, are often seeking a local or regional expert weigh-in. For this, services like HARO are less effective because they don’t offer targeted communications based on both topic and geographic location. So depending on the level of interest from the expert subscribers, reporters seeking a regional expert are either forced to cull through 100s of off-base offers or they receive little-to-no response.
On the expert and PR side, you’re forced to cull through tons of content to find a meaningful media opportunity. If you succeed, you then have to compete with the entire country for the placement.
Bottom-line, existing national platforms don’t translate to a local level. And there is a need—local reporters have comparable time constraints to national media and on the flip side, businesses now struggle to get local coverage in the midst of shrinking news pages and high instances of newsroom turnover.
A lot of long-time journalists and PR professionals have established networks and relationships on the other side of the fence. What value do you think SYC can bring to them?
For reporters, if you find yourself recycling the same sources too often, SYC serves as an easy, fast and effective way to diversify your network of sources.
For the PR and expert user, SYC offers a chance to maintain consistent access to media opportunities that might come from contacts outside your primary media network. For example, freelancers who help generate content for newsrooms that are now forced to outsource might be working on a really interesting story that could showcase your company or client in an unexpected way.
If you don’t keep a pulse on what freelancers are working on, you won’t have access to an opportunity unless you’re specifically sought out. So this turns into a missed opportunity that you get to read about once it goes to print, even if you or your client would have served as a more interesting voice.
For the reporter, SYC helps you ensure that you’re choosing the best source, rather than the first-available.
How has your experience with reporters and PR professionals shaped the way you’ve built and marketed this service?
The conversations we’ve had prior to product development and throughout beta have shaped how the service functions and how we plan to build it out from here to deliver the most value to our subscribers.
As our pilot market, Nashville has taught us a lot about what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to launching a new tech-based service. The insights we’ve gained in the process have helped us think ahead when it comes to managing roll-outs of subsequent markets.
What advice would you give PR professionals looking to get the most out of this service?
SourceYourCity is a tool that helps PR professionals secure news mentions. However, it also serves as opportunity to build new relationships. So I always encourage the PR community to participate by providing referrals or responding to human interest queries that might not have a direct business benefit. Both are acts of goodwill that improve relationships with media while strengthening the quality of their coverage.
Do you have plans to take SYC beyond Nashville?
Yes. We’re anticipating a roll-out of SYC Austin this fall. From there, we’ll have a better understanding of how different market sizes respond before we begin pursuing a more aggressive roll-out in various markets across the U.S.