By Isabella Markert
With over 800,000 sources and over 55,000 journalists and bloggers, HARO can be a valuable tool for journalists as well as entrepreneurs and publishers. But with approximately fifteen sources for every one journalist, how can you stand out and secure valuable PR opportunities? Let’s talk about what HARO requests are, how they work, and how to make them work for you.
What Is a HARO?
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out—and that’s just what you’re doing when you participate. Journalists submit requests for quotes or comments on topics they’re covering. As a source, you receive email updates with relevant queries three times a day. If you see a query you can speak to, you write a response and send it to the journalist. If they like what you said, they quote you in their article. HARO gives reporters relevant, timely insights, and you get media coverage.
How They Work
Getting started with HARO is easy, and there are free as well as paid options.
Step one: Create a HARO source account.
Step two: Check your email at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. You’ll see lots of source requests, but scan for those that are relevant to your personal experience or expertise or your industry in general.
Step three: Write a response and send it to the email address listed in the source request. Answer the journalist’s specific questions and be sure to follow any requirements they have listed. Include a bio with your contact information.
Step four: Journalists don’t always let you know if they use your quote, so set up a Google alert so you are aware if or when your response is published.
Step five: Send a thank-you email to the journalist. You never know—this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
How HAROs Can Help Your PR
HAROs can help you get established as a thought leader in your industry. First, because you get connected with authors who are interested in your area of expertise. Second, your expertise is out there helping people. And as you are quoted more and more, you’ll gain name recognition, and it’s more likely that others will want to quote you, too.
Traditional PR efforts may feel like swimming up a waterfall, as journalist after journalists ignores your well-crafted pitch. The problem is, you’re soliciting them, and it’s a gamble whether they’ll care about what you or your client has to say. HAROs make it easier because you know exactly what the journalist is looking for. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a big company with name recognition or a small company with none–if you can answer the question well, your input is appreciated.
“For people like me working for a smaller law firm, we have the ability to compete with large businesses who are able to outsource all of their marketing or PR efforts to an agency,” Lindsey Andrews, a marketer at Torhoerman Law who uses HAROs, says. “I highly recommend it as a resource for PR and marketing professionals.”
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some tips for making your responses stand out.
- Be quick. Journalists have deadlines, and if you spend too much time putting your heart and soul into your response, you’ll get beat out, even if you make the official deadline. As blogger Kelsey Ogletree explains, “When I’m in a hurry, I’ll start reviewing the emails as they come in and reach out to the first response that seems like a qualified fit.”
- Include enough information, but don’t go overboard. Sometimes journalist add a desired word count to their source requests, and you should definitely stick to those limits. If they don’t, stick to a paragraph or two of helpful information that answers their specific question.
- Be quotable. Say exactly what you mean and be specific and concise. Journalists love to be able to copy and paste exactly what you’ve said into their stories.
- Only respond if you can answer the question. “People regularly respond to queries saying, ‘I don’t have a fit for this story, but if you’re looking for sources on this other TK topic in the future, please feel free to reach out!’” says Ogletree. “I appreciate the outreach, but [HARO] isn’t the right platform.”
- Pitch yourself. Don’t spend too much space on this, but include a couple of relevant and impressive details about you: your many years in the industry, your recent awards, or the fact that you’ve been featured in major media channels. Journalists need to know why your perspective is valuable in the conversation.
With just a little bit of work, you can make HAROs work for you. And, of course, the more often you respond, the more likely you are to get picked up as a source. So keep practicing, and watch your PR blossom.