Like most brands and businesses, you’ve probably heard about HARO (Help A Reporter Out), and you might be thinking about using it to help build your brand. But maybe you’re not really sure how to go about it, or even if it will work for you.
One thing for sure, though, is that for your business to be successful, your brand needs the exposure that attracts positive attention in a sea of noise.
HARO can help you with that. It’s a platform that connects brands looking for PR opportunities and media journalists seeking subject matter experts.
Help a Reporter Out has been helping businesses get real exposure in respected media outlets and sites like Huffington Post, MSN, WebMD, CNN, and Business Insider.
How valuable would such high-level exposure and the accompanying SEO boost be to your brand and business? You’d definitely pay for it if you knew it was possible, wouldn’t you?
But first, you need to have a better understanding of what HARO is and how it works, so you can make the most out of it and see maximum results for your business.
How Help a Reporter Out Can Benefit A Business
Journalists, bloggers, and influencers often need expert sources for stories they’re writing. They sign up for a HARO account to submit requests, or queries, for an expert (source), or a quote from an expert that will validate their article.
The brand looking for exposure would join HARO as a source. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive three HARO emails each day from Monday to Friday.
As a source, you need to look out for the emails and decide if any of the journalists’ requests match your skillset.
If so, you answer query requirements and respond with your “pitch,” and the journalist might consider you to offer insights into the article.
When a journalist chooses your pitch, you get a mention in the article with a link back to your site.
Once the emails hit the inbox, you have a limited time to respond. Many other experts will have received the emails at the same time.
Speed is of the essence here. If you don’t send a pitch back within a few hours, it would be too late. Better to move on to the freshest journalist requests.
So, that’s how HARO works.
Top 14 Tips For Using HARO Successfully
HARO sounds brilliant, but having read so many complaints from sources that never receive replies from journalists, here are a few tips to gain the attention of media professionals.
1. Choose the Best Leads and Media Outlets
HARO queries come in dozens. Sometimes one newsletter contains around 200 journalist requests. And you know you don’t have to answer all of the queries, so you need to be efficient and strategic.
Choose only the best leads based on what’s relevant to your niche, your expertise, your relevant experience, and the quality of publications. Reply to the opportunities that are the best match to what you want to be associated with.
You might want to start with publications that have the highest domain authority (DR) and those that provide do-follow links, which are great for SEO purposes. This, however, will require extra research.
Some queries are Anonymous, and it can be tricky. As a public relations professional, you might want to avoid it because you need to know which media outlet your brand will be published on.
Some marketing professionals, though, say that Anonymous queries are likely to be from major media sites. You need to use your best judgment here.
2. Supply Only What’s Requested
Share only exactly what has been requested. If one ‘expert tip’ is needed for a story, send only one. Be brief but to the point, leaving no doubt.
If a professional nutritionist’s opinion is what’s being asked for a story, and you run a fitness blog, even if you have masses of useful nutrition information, you may still waste your time by sending a pitch.
If the journalist has deliberately pointed out the expertise that they want, make sure you meet the criteria before you send a HARO response.
3. Respond Quickly to HARO Emails
This relates to what was said earlier. If a journalist asks for a response by a certain time, then any response after the submission deadline will not get a second glance. HARO won’t even forward your answers to the journalist when you send them past the deadline.
Try to answer relevant queries immediately when you receive the HARO newsletter. Don’t put them on the back burner for later. The closer you pitch to the HARO newsletter release, the higher your chances of getting media coverage for your brand.
That’s because journalists receive hundreds of responses from brands like you, so if you respond at a later time, your email would probably be buried in their inbox.
Also, when journalists have received enough pitches, they start writing their articles. So, you’d want to be among the first to respond so that you have better chances of being included in their sources.
4. Create A Template
This isn’t advocating a one-size-fits-all response to HARO queries. But there will be pertinent information necessary on every response sent.
For example, the email address of your company, a brief introduction about you as a figurehead, what your company does, and what qualifies you as an expert in your field.
The journalist won’t be interested in canned responses, but they must know who they’re dealing with.
Creating a template or two with the important information included can save you time in writing your email. You’ll be able to pitch faster by reducing the need to type the recurring information about you and your brand.
5. Make Your Subject Line Stand Out
As mentioned, journalists receive hundreds of pitches on a single query. That’s why you need to stand out in their inbox.
Here’s where the subject line matters, and it can be as important as the content of the email.
The first five words or 19 characters of your subject line is usually what the journalist reads first, so you must make the most out of that.
For instance, if the journalist is looking for a finance expert, include in your subject the words “Finance expert tips on…”
Also, avoid using a generic subject line, like “HARO response” or the query title that the journalist used. Chances are your email will be grouped with the rest of the messages that have the same subject line.
If the journalists provided their email addresses on the HARO query, that’s when you can take advantage of a longer and more catchy subject line.
6. Send a Unique Response
Another important thing to do to ensure that you stand out against the crowd is by responding to HARO queries with a unique pitch. Avoid generic answers that others are likely to include in their pitches.
Try to find a different angle and add more value to your pitch. If you have real-life results and data, you can use them when pitching journalists. Avoid the obvious answers. Instead, you need to be original and leverage your expertise.
Think from the perspective of the journalist. Is your answer quotable? Does it sound like a catchphrase that stands out among hundreds of responses?
7. Don’t Be Too Promotional or Salesy
Avoid sending a pitch that’s too self-promotional or salesy. Your pitch would most likely be ignored.
Stick to just being an expert source and you’ll be able to secure a media opportunity. The key is on how you can be creative in your pitches and be subtle with promoting your brand using keywords.
Say, for example, you’re a loan company that provides alternative products to payday loans. You find a relevant query asking for tips for consumers when applying for a loan.
In your pitch, you can include a line that says, “Consumers must shop around before signing up for a loan, and consider payday loan alternatives that have lower interest rates.”
Do you get the picture? Your company name will be mentioned anyway when the journalist quoted you.
8. Don’t Be Tempted To Use Jargon
It’s doubtful the journalist asking for an expert is looking for a highly technical or scientific response. They won’t put information on that level into their piece (unless of course, it’s a technical paper that would be released in technical publications).
Whether it’s an article for a newspaper or a social media post on Facebook, if a 12-year-old can’t understand it, it’s too complex.
Journalists seek expert insights to help them expound on their topic in a way that can help readers gain a better understanding of the subject. So, you need to write in layman’s terms and avoid jargon.
9. Structure Your Writing
Skimmable is the buzzword today. No one wants to read walls of text. If a reporter or influencer can’t cut and paste the responses straight into their article, they will more likely move on to the next HARO emails.
Headers, two to three-sentence paragraphs, and bullet points are what’s necessary today. You may also use bold texts to highlight some of your points to draw the journalist’s attention.
10. Proofread Your HARO Pitch
Proofreading is essential. Don’t forget to double-check your spelling and grammar before you hit the send button.
You’re an expert, so there’s some level of expected quality from the way you write. Simplify your sentences and words. You don’t need to be poetic or use grand terms when you can use simple and easily understandable words.
You can use editor tools like Grammarly. Install the browser extension so that you can proofread your pitches while you’re composing your message in your email.
11. Don’t Waste Time With Off-Topic Pitches
Remember, a journalist on assignment will probably be on a deadline himself. Wasting his time will not help your pitch. Worse, you could be flagged for sending HARO pitches that aren’t meeting their criteria.
To help meet their deadline, journalists request a specific quote or piece of information, don’t second-guess them by responding with a pitch that doesn’t address their query.
The same is true if you’re not qualified to answer HARO requests based on the required expertise or relevant experience. Say you’re a finance expert, but the journalist is looking for a licensed financial advisor or certified public accountant, don’t bother responding.
12. Include Your Contact Information
Some journalists may have follow-up questions based on your query response. So, it’s important to include your contact information in your HARO email.
You don’t want to keep them hanging when they don’t know how to reach out to you because you’d miss the opportunity to get quality backlinks.
13. Keep Everything Professional
It can be agonizing to wait for any kind of response from a journalist. Most of the time, they don’t respond at all.
But whatever the case, treat them with professional courtesy. Don’t search online for their personal email address or other contact information to “confirm” the email has been received and if they require any more information or quotes.
Sometimes you won’t hear from them at all even when they publish your quote. What you can do is to keep an eye on the articles that mention your company. You can set up a Google Alert or check regularly on tools like Ahrefs any new backlinks you might have gained.
14. Share the Article on Your Channels
If the journalist uses your pitch, send a thank you email to show that you appreciate being included in their story.
It’s also helpful to share the article on your channels. Use your social media channels to post the story, write a blog post referencing the article, and share the article on your LinkedIn profile.
These can help you get more brand exposure, as well as build a positive relationship with the journalists. Some journalists would be more inclined to reach out to you directly for a quote or expert insights for their upcoming stories.
Is Help a Reporter Out Free?
Yes, HARO is a free platform. But it also has premium plans with additional features.
If you’re just starting, the free basic plan already has everything that you need to start your HARO outreach strategy for your small business. You just have to expect to do some work on verifying the quality of queries and the publications that the journalists are working with before you send your HARO response.
The paid plans start at $19 a month, with features like keyword alerts, profile, text alerts, search online, head start, and phone and email support.
If you have a premium plan, you can set up more keywords and have first access to new queries. In other words, you have better chances of getting press coverage than other HARO users.
Summing Up Help a Reporter Out
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a powerful marketing tool for brand exposure if used correctly when connecting your business to journalists and influencers.
Remember to be strategic when pitching journalists and include all the details they requested in your HARO email. Just as you choose the most relevant HARO query topic, keep responding only with pitches that answer query requirements.