HARO, short for Help a Reporter Out, is an amazing tool, if you know how to use it. For business owners with no budgets for PR, it’s a godsend. For PR professionals, it’s the promised land: direct opportunities to pitch journalists who are actually interested in their stories. But of course, things aren’t as simple as they appear at the first sight: using HARO requires a bit of common sense, self discipline, and pitching skills.
There are no real secret recipes to using HARO, however, to learn how to maximize your chances of being selected as a source by a journalist, you need information from those who actually experienced success. What did they do to be selected? Are they willing to share the wisdom? Are there tips and tricks that helped them score great media mentions?
Everything PR News ran a query with HARO, asking sources to share their success stories, and the amount of feedback received was mind-blowing. In less than 24 hours, there were over 50 pitches in my mailbox, from business owners and PR professionals alike. These responses provided tremendous insider intelligence value – concrete real life examples of successful pitches, tips and advice from real HARO users.
1. Off topic pitches will fail
Don’t pitch off topic – there seems to be a general consensus among 57 people who answered Everything PRs call for success stories. Pitching off topic is a waste of time for you, and might impact your image negatively with journalists:
Stay on topic and get to the point quickly. Reporters are busy and they get tons of queries through HARO — respect their time,” told us Julianne Coyne, PR specialist at Fahrenheit Marketing. Her company was recently selected as a source for an article on Secret Entourage,
How to Do Keyword Research for SEO.
Christina Daves of CastMedic Designs told us the same thing:
Don’t pitch off topic to a reporter. They get inundated with responses. Don’t waste their time.
And Daves knows a thing or two about success with HARO. Aside several mentions or national media (like Blog Talk Radio, NerdWallet, Examiner and others), Daves appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, after answering the query, Do you want to take your product to the next level? (National Television). The show ended up being a contest:
“I competed against 5 other inventors and was selected by two branding expert judges and won $20,000 in seed money. As a result, sales have boomed and I also have had celebrity customers.”
2. Keep it short, smarty
Brief pitches work best – it appears that users who send out brief pitches experience a better success rate than those who rant.
“My best advice to new HARO users would be to send very brief pitches that are highly personalized. Nobody wants a form letter,” told us Alexandra Chauran, a fortune teller who recently got a mention in the Colorado Springs Gazette after answering a journalist query on HARO.
The same advice comes from Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running who used HARO to get press mentions and quotes in Yahoo, Health Magazine, Shape, and many others:
“Beginners to HARO should keep their tips short, to the point, and offer to help the writer with additional information or quotes.”
3. Stick to the topic, without the fluff
Keep to the point – even if you want to give additional details you believe relevant, keep them to yourself:
“Respond to queries where you can truly offer the expertise and information that the reporter is seeking,” explains Michelle Sullivan, Director of Marketing at Privia. “Do not waste their time as that certainly won’t endear you to them. Answer the questions that they are asking and do not offer tons of additional data that doesn’t really benefit their article. Understand that they are on a deadline and that if they need additional details, they will certainly ask.”
And Sullivan should know. Her CEO was recently featured in the SmartCEO Magazine after answering the query Seeking DC area C-level executives for interviews on corporate team building.
Keeping to the point works even when you are not in the business field the journalist is interested in, but only if you know what you are talking about. Liran Hirschkorn, who is an Independent Insurance Agent was quoted at SheKnows.Com about fathers who work from home, a mention that brings traffic to his website:
“My advice would be to look at the HARO emails every day and any request that might be a good fit – submit to. It doesn’t matter if it relates directly to your business or not – for example I was quoted at SheKnows.Com about fathers who work from home, and that mention gets traffic to my website. Write through, useful responses that add value and you have a good shot at a reporter emailing or calling you back.”
Joseph Shrand, MD, Medical Director at Castle, High Point Treatment Center in Marshfield, experienced the downsides of too long, fluffy pitches first hand:
“My first attempts were dismally unsuccessful: I put way too much information in the response. I am now much more likely to get what I call a HARO hit by writing perhaps three or four pithy sentences that get right to the heart of the query.”
4. Credentials matter
Your credentials may sell you as an expert. As reporters are more often than not looking for experts, you should showcase your credentials as early in your response as possible. Conor Keenan, SEO Analyst & Lead Email Marketer at Perfect Search Media explains:
“Give your information immediately, and any other credentials you may possess to build your klout with the reporter in question. Any credentials you can give early on in the email will help to ensure that your email gets read by that reporter, and that will increase your likelihood that you will be mentioned.”
Tangela Walker-Craft, the mom inventor of www.TheGoPillow.com, believes in credentials too, especially because complete contact information ensures that you can receive a reply if you’re selected. But also because her credentials are what scored a mention in the 8 Must-Have Gadgets for Your Next Road Trip segment on the Today Show.
5. The early bird catches the worm
Respond quickly – this is one of the most important rules, often ignored by HARO users. But Jennifer Stagner, search engine optimization, analysis, and technical support manager at Tops Products, knows it well:
“Respond QUICKLY – many reporters stop reading their pitches after they have found the ones that will work. They are meeting deadlines, so respond accordingly.”
Take Stagner’s word for it: she has already experienced tremendous success with HARO, with mentions on MarketingSherpa, CEOBlogNation, Secret Entourage, and many others.
Casey Halloran of Costa Rican Vacations, who got a couple of mentions in Forbes, agrees:
“I cannot imagine how many replies they have to sort through, so I think it’s worth bearing in mind that you need to somehow stand apart….and fast.”
Instead of conclusion: we will follow up
There’s so much more to share from the responses we received: enough material to write 10 HARO articles, not just one. We will follow up with more in the near future. In the meanwhile, the 5 golden rules should help you get started.