Perfecting your Pitch: How to use HARO

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Pinning down suitable sources for a news article about your business can be difficult, especially if you’re not in niches where you can get a good scoop. That’s where HARO comes in to help you grow your business by establishing relationships with reporters, journalists, and bloggers.

HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. It’s a free subscription service journalists and reporters can use to get information from expert sources in the subject they’re looking for. Similarly, business owners can use HARO to establish themselves as an authority in a particular niche.

Learning how to use HARO effectively can be difficult. You want to come across as professional, whether you’re inquiring or trying to establish yourself as an authoritative source. The rest of this article will offer a complete guide on how to use HARO and get the most out of it for building links for your website.

What Is HARO?

Most brands and businesses have heard of HARO, but many aren’t sure how they can use it to build their brand or how effective it is.

The simple truth is that to draw attention to your business successfully, you’ll want greater exposure to a wide range of media and garner some positive attention amidst a whole slew of competing businesses in the same market.

HARO is designed to help small businesses stand out. It’s a platform that connects news sources to business owners looking for PR representation.

For years, HARO has been assisting business owners in ranking well and getting legitimate media exposure on sites like Huffington Post, MSN, WebMD, CNN, Business Insider, Forbes, and CNB.

Better still, getting picked as a source for a media outlet dramatically increases your chance that they’ll come back for your expertise when they need additional information.

HARO provides the perfect outlet for you as an expert in the field to contribute your knowledge to the larger pool of data out there. If you can cement yourself as a valuable and worthwhile source of info, then traditional and online media sources will keep coming back to you to get the scoop for their stories.

It’s an absolute win-win formula that gets journalists and reporters the necessary information to write a full-fledged article while providing some exposure and credit to the source.

Suppose you’re chosen as a source for one of these outlets. In that case, you’ll also have the opportunity to request that information about you and your blog be included in the content marketing efforts. Requests can come in all different shapes and sizes.

For example, a reporter might be looking for a straightforward factual answer to a question if online information is clouded or muddied. Of course, they’re only looking for expert sources, so be sure not to respond to queries you’re not qualified to answer.

Bloggers, journalists, and influencers seek expert quotes to create valuable media coverage. A quote from an expert is a perfect way to add credibility to an article or blog post.

Signing Up for HARO

To get started giving your expert input on HARO, you’ll need to sign up as a source. Expert SaaS PR professionals are always on the lookout for new sources, so if you’re subscribed to HARO, you’ll get 2-3 emails daily.

Typically, you’ll get one in the early morning, one around noon, and one in the afternoon following the close of the workday. The emails will usually contain a request for commentary, an interview on a specific topic, or various topics.

When you sign up for HARO, you can select topics within a specific industry that reflects your niche and expertise in that area. Topics range from the following:

  • Master HARO
  • High Tech
  • Energy and Green Tech
  • Sports
  • Public Policy and Government
  • General
  • Travel
  • Business and Finance
  • Biotech and Healthcare
  • Lifestyle and Fitness
  • Entertainment and Media
  • Education

Pick 2-3 topics you’re good at, and you’re much more likely to secure valuable media coverage with your HARO account. Only respond to relevant queries to help a reporter; otherwise, you’re wasting their time and not contributing anything worthwhile.

The emails can have many requests, all seeking different kinds of information. The queries usually contain a request for the source to provide their qualifications, and the response emails are submitted to an anonymized email address where sources can pitch their ideas, commentary, and insights into a particular topic.

It’s important to know that when you sign up for HARO, you’re not guaranteed to get a story inclusion straight away, even at all. Additionally, some HARO requests are not what they seem, so you should exercise caution in what you choose to respond to.

The Cision Communications Cloud suggests that a whopping 800,000 users have signed up to act as source or source-finders on HARO. Reporters are going to receive hundreds, if not thousands, of different requests for inclusion in the media, touting their respective expertise as a viable source on the subject matter.

Take note of what emails you bother responding to. There is a qualification process for reporters looking for sources, but they don’t necessarily have to disclose where their media content will be published.

Someone who lists that they write for a high-end online media source may only contribute articles once or twice a year. The source you’re providing for them is instead going onto their weekly blog, likely resulting in little exposure or PR representation for your business.

In short, some requests yield beneficial media coverage, while others will not. HARO shouldn’t be the main focus of a media coverage campaign, but it’s certainly not a bad tool to incorporate into your business strategy. After all, it’s free!

Why Use HARO?

HARO is a free service that lets you build quality backlinks for your website simply for doing what the name suggests: helping a reporter. It’s a great content marketing strategy; you can even get your links featured on lots of different sites simply by lending your knowledge and insight into a query here and there.

In the long run, HARO can quickly lead to profitable relationships with reporters and the companies they work for. Craft your HARO responses well, and you’re much more likely to be recommended as a source in the future.

You can request a backlink on their site when you’re a source. Based on the reach and influence of the site, any links included can help your business get more exposure. You might even have the distinct honor of writing a guest post for a site if they appreciate your expert opinions.

Getting Noticed on HARO

The first and only rule of HARO is that you shouldn’t waste anyone’s time. Reporters are taxed enough to sift through a lot of information to get credible sources for their articles and blogs.

Your primary effort should be to make the reporter’s job as straightforward as possible. If you don’t know anything about the subject matter, just don’t post a response to the email.

You will waste the reporter’s time on their query and risk being flagged by HARO for off-topic responses. Instead, start responding to HARO emails and queries where you have personal experience or a valuable story to tell.

There are many other users on HARO, so for reporters to get their next story, you’ll want to follow the explicit instructions in the HARO email for the best chance of getting media mentions.

It doesn’t hurt your reputation not to respond, and there will always be more queries to respond to. Journalist Holly Johnson, a writer and regular user of HARO, reports that many people just post their name and phone number on responses to queries, which isn’t at all what the reporter wants.

Instead, they are looking for credible, to-the-point information right off the bat when creating content. Trying to rope reporters into having a lengthy conversation about you and how fantastic your business is just isn’t work.

Respond Quickly

HARO operates on an ever-revolving timetable. An hour after a query is submitted, it’s likely already been answered, and the reporter has gotten the sourced information they needed for the article. You have to be quick to get a reporter’s interest in HARO, so make sure you note when your HARO emails roll in daily.

Reporters will get dozens of responses to a query, and sometimes, the only way you’re going to stand out is if you’re first in line to grab their attention. So each morning, pop open your emails and see if there’s anything worth responding to.

Find something you’re good at or have a lot of experience with and filter out the rest. You can also finish up in the evening by answering a few queries. Remember, HARO emails typically roll in at predictable times of the day, so if you’re on the ball, you can be the first response the reporter sees when they open their emails.

Check early in the morning, around lunchtime, and in the evening. Pay attention to when the emails come in each day and structure your response time so that you’re ready and waiting for them. As mentioned before, reporters and journalists are often on a tight deadline, so you should immediately start responding to relevant queries as soon as you get them.

Paid Subscriptions Can Give You the Edge

Suppose you’re committed to using HARO as a full-fledged campaign strategy for your business. In that case, you can opt-in to HARO’s paid subscription service, which lets you input specific keywords and get primary access to queries containing those keywords before non-paid subscribers do.

This makes life easier when you have to write queries on HARO since you know you’re already ahead of the curve, allowing you to present the perfect pitch to demonstrate your expertise and build relationships with media outlets.

As a paid subscriber, you’ll receive the queries a full hour before others can access them. There are currently three different plans you can use.

Standard Subscription

The standard goes for $19 a month and lets you filter one keyword to get better media opportunities for your site. You can also create one profile to put into your emails when you’re pitching journalists automatically.

You can also get text alerts when new media opportunities are available and send them straight to your mobile phone. Lastly, you can search online for an edge over non-paying subscribers through active media opportunities.

Advanced Subscription

Going for $49 a month, the advanced subscription lets you choose up to three keywords to be competitive in different fields, allowing you to tell your story across several fields for bloggers and journalists alike.

You can also create three profiles to reflect your varied expertise in different fields. Lastly, you can get alerts when the editorial team at HARO approves a query for release, giving you premiere access to their site to view and craft your pitches.

Premium Subscription

The premium subscription goes for $149 a month. It offers everything in the previous plans and lets you choose unlimited keywords, create unlimited profiles, and have direct phone and email support from HARO. So a paid subscription might be the way to go if you want HARO to be a significant part of your backlink strategy.

Create an Outstanding Headline

Once you’ve decided how in-depth you want your HARO backlinks strategy to be, you’ll need to put some serious thought and effort into formulating your email subject line like an actual article headline. Then, if the reporter never opens your email, they’ll never see the well-crafted, expert information you’ve compiled for them.

Once again, remember that reporters get flooded with email responses to their queries, most of which are discarded. So if you want to stand out, start with a catchy phrase like “Insider Method to,” “Commonly Misunderstood Facts about,” “Myths and Truths regarding,” or “The Best Way to.”

Don’t make your headline clickbait, but you should undoubtedly consider why your particular source is different from the others. Create a contrast, stand out from the crowd, and immediately pique the reporter’s interest. After all, if the subject interests them, it will also interest their readers.

Reporters always seek insider information, commonly misunderstood facts, or lesser-known tips and tricks. So if you can provide a hint to the contents of your email with a catchy headline, you’re well on your way to being featured in their story and building quality backlinks.

If you’re struggling to write a solid headline, you can use a headline formula to craft a catchy subject line to pique the reporter’s interest.

Build Credibility Right Away

The first thing you want to do in the body of your email is to introduce yourself in a friendly yet authoritative way. You want them to know right off the bat who you are and why, out of all the subject matter experts on this topic, you’re the best to deliver the inside scoop.

Once again, remember to only respond to queries where you can legitimately toot your own horn a little bit. You’re not going to get anywhere on topics you don’t have any knowledge in, so stick to what you know best and sell yourself in the email. Don’t come across as salesy or self-promotional.

Take your achievements, credentials, and attachment to the topic and put them into a brief 2-3 sentence paragraph. Consider the relevancy of what you put in your credibility report, too. Only share credentials that boost your trustworthiness as a source in the particular niche the reporter is asking for. Keep it short and sweet, and consider including the following:

  • Your name and website
  • Your education or licensing
  • Your years of expertise
  • How to contact you on social media
  • Any publications or media sources you’ve been featured in

If you’re just building credibility, consider discussing why you’re passionate and knowledgeable about the subject.

Sure, sources with more years of experience will get more hits with queries. However, if your subject line is catchy and your information is succinct, well-written, and applicable, you still have a decent chance of getting featured over time.

Craft a Distinct Response

Now that you’ve got your reporter interested in your email with a good hook subject line and a quick overview of your credentials, your next step is to continue to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack by crafting a unique take on the subject by providing unique insight or insider information.

Remember that the reporter has probably read emails before yours and will continue to source information after you. As such, you want to bring all of your expertise, insider information, relevant stories, and personal experience to bear on the matter.

If the content reflects commonly regurgitated information, it will not fly on social channels, and your HARO pitch will fall flat. When crafting your HARO responses, you’ll want to write some one-of-a-kind, professional responses. Think about your quotability as well.

Reporters aren’t going to copy and paste the same boring information if you’re just creating commodity content based on some shoddy research. Reporters crave a unique perspective. So be warned: they will run your content through a plagiarism checker to ensure it hasn’t already been posted online.

Craft your expertise in the field, use creative and distinct wording, and, well, actually focus on the question. This isn’t the spot to ask them to check out your fantastic website, online course, or e-book.

In all honesty, they don’t care. So refer back to your super-catch headline as often as you need to, and make sure you provide that insider scoop, lesser-known tips, or high-quality info you promised.

Take the time to make your contribution quote-worthy and applicable to the subject matter with minor editing. Then, read the query aloud several times and ask yourself, “what’s the most valuable/interesting insight on this topic?”

If need be, write down the query on a sticky note and tag it on the edge of your monitor or at your desk as a reminder to stay focused on nothing but the question.

Don’t be tempted to include lengthy rhetoric, preamble, or irrelevant subject matter. Instead, condition the length of your response to reflect the quality of information, not quantity.

Many queries will have a suggested word requirement so reporters can quickly sift through many responses.

You may have to write a few sentences or a thousand-word essay. Even if the queries are just asking for an interview, don’t just put your name and number and call it a day. Hook them with your subject and credentials, then give them the information they’re after. The platform is called Help a Reporter Out, after all.

Oddly, if you give them the info they need without the hassle of an interview, you might jump the line and get your content featured immediately. Alternatively, a reporter might be interested in your perspective and want to interview you for further discussion.

Structure for Skimability

Making your writing short and sweet is crucial to getting attention on HARO. Often, reporters are looking to quote you, the expert, directly to add credibility or context to their article. By providing clear, concise writing that directly addresses the question, you can make yourself stand out from other HARO sources.

Use italics, bolded text, and plentiful subheadings to break down information. Then, section your content into a short, skimmable text of 2-3 sentence paragraphs. This tip might make you shudder for anyone with an academic writing background, but it’s well worth it to entice the reader’s eye.

No one wants to read massive walls of text, so be sure to emphasize surprising statistics, relevant information, and counterintuitive statements. You can also include a bottom line section in your response, which the reporter may read first to get the gist of what you’re trying to communicate.

Keep your content short and sweet so it can be easily scanned.

You might be the greatest, prolific source on your niche, but the reporter doesn’t know that. Making your content filled with highly relevant, extremely interesting content increases the likelihood that the reporters and journalists will want to quote you.

If it seems pretty straightforward, it’s because it is. HARO works on the simple principle of “don’t waste the reporter’s time.” Still, unfortunately, many sources don’t use these top tips to start building relationships with journalists in their HARO pitch.

Keep it Simple

Don’t be tempted to flex your knowledge of a specific industry by filling your email with jargon. Most of the time, journalists aren’t looking for highly technical pieces to include in their article unless the query says explicitly so.

As a general rule, you should keep it simple, explain terms where necessary, and assume that the reporter doesn’t know anything about the subject matter. Most of the time, reporters look to break down complex subjects into something everyone can understand.

Proofread Your Work

Always keep in the back of your mind that the reporter, blogger, or journalist is looking for to-the-point, direct, and engaging content. Check that your heading accurately matches the content in the body of your HARO response and that you’re delivering on the fascinating insights you promised.

Double-check your sentences for grammatical errors since they are often an instant red flag for journalists that you haven’t put much thought into your query response. Use tools like Grammarly if you struggle with formatting your sentences and sticking to proper grammatical form.

Think critically about the wording in your email. Can it be simplified to reflect better the message you’re trying to convey? Is there anything wordy about what you’ve written? Can you select more precise or eye-catching words to draw the reporter’s attention and increase your quotability?

Ask for Backlinks

Once you’ve gotten the hang of responding well to good HARO queries, you might get a nibble or two from some journalists. Unfortunately, many journalists won’t provide you with a backlink if you don’t ask for it. However, you can template this response quite easily by saying:

“If you want to use any of my content, please refer to me as X.”

This will make you more likely to be featured on their site, whether you’re sourcing for journalists or bloggers. Getting backlinks is a great content marketing strategy, and HARO is a solid component of an excellent link-building strategy.

As a business owner, you want to make sure you regularly ask to be referred in the reporter’s article. It’s the only way you can build links, establish good public relations, and potentially have the opportunity to do guest posts using HARO.

Following Up with a Reporter

Once you’ve done a final quick scan of your HARO response, click submit. If you don’t hear back from a reporter, don’t feel slighted or disrespected. It’s just how HARO works, and you’ll probably have to submit dozens of answers to get even a single feature.

HARO sends out emails three times daily, so you have plenty of opportunities to use HARO to promote your website. Only follow up with a reporter if they say they will use your article. If selected for an article, you should be given a link to the article to read and review it.

Be sure to thank the reporter for including your content and review the article to ensure that the information you provided was included accurately and that the link to your website works correctly. You can also share the article through social media to garner additional attention to your expertise in a particular subject.

It’s also a plus for the reporter’s writing, too. Having a featured HARO response in their article can also make you a much more likely candidate for the future. Some reporters might also shelve your response for a few months, potentially using your response to their query in the future.

Final Thoughts

HARO is a valuable part of content marketing and can help you promote your business by sharing your knowledge with journalists, bloggers, and reporters. The work you put into HARO is what you’ll get out of it.

Respond to queries thoughtfully and often if you want to get callbacks from people posting questions. Always be honest and straightforward in your responses. Don’t claim to be something you’re not and only respond to queries that you have actual knowledge of.

When responding, be sure to put some thought into a good headline for your subject to grab the reporter’s attention and expound on those claims throughout your response. Use bolded and italicized text to highlight important details, and add a bottom line at your email’s end to highlight your response’s most important takeaway.

Journalists and reporters are often on an extremely tight deadline and don’t want to spend forever slogging through walls of text, so make your points concisely and accurately.

Don’t just replicate information on the internet; include your insights and be sure to emphasize lesser-known tips, fun facts, or insider information based on your knowledge of the subject matter.

Close out your article with a way to quote and refer to you in the article and thank the sender for considering you. The more you use HARO, the better you’ll get to build links, establish long-standing relationships with media outlets, and develop yourself as an authoritative source in your niche.

Q: How do I sign up for HARO?

A: You can sign up for HARO by creating a profile on their website.

Q: What information should I include in my profile?

A: Include your name, contact information, and a brief description of your business or expertise. You may also include links to your website or social media profiles.

Q: How often should I check for new queries?

A: There is no set frequency, but checking in at least once per day will help you ensure that you don’t miss any opportunities.

Q: I was contacted by a reporter, but I’m unsure how to respond. What should I do?

A: First, ensure that you understand the reporter’s query and have relevant information to share. If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Once you’re confident you can help, craft a clear, concise, and professional response.

Helpful Tips

  • Always include your contact information when responding to queries so the reporter can quickly get in touch with you.
  • If a reporter uses your information in a story, thank them and let them know you’re available for future queries. This is a great way to build relationships with reporters.
  • Don’t be afraid to pitch reporters story ideas that you think would be a good fit for their beat. This is a great way to get your business or expertise in front of a wider audience.

Dos

  • Make sure your profile is up to date and complete.
  • Be responsive to queries.
  • Be helpful and professional.
  • When responding to queries, always include your contact information.
  • If a reporter uses your information in a story, thank them.
  • Don’t be afraid to pitch reporters on story ideas that you think would be a good fit for their beat.

dont’s

  • Spam reporters with pitches that are irrelevant to their query.
  • Be pushy or sales-y.
  • Forget to follow up.

Alternatives to HARO

-HARO is not the only source for finding reporters to pitch, but it is one of the most popular and well-known options. Several other websites offer similar services, including helpareporter.com, JustReachOut.io, SourceBottle.com, Pitchbox.com, MuckRack.com, One Pitch.co, PressFriendly.com, and MyNewswire.com.

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