I’ve used HARO (Help a Reporter Out) for years and think it is one of the best PR services out there. This free service, which is provided by Cision, helps reporters quickly and easily connect with sources for their stories.
At this point, more than 30,000 journalists have quoted HARO sources in their articles. I have successfully arranged interviews for clients with major general and trade media, and a colleague was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to HARO postings.
Here’s how it works. Three times a day HARO emails or tweets inquiries from reporters looking for sources for their stories. The inquiries are divided into topics including business and finance, health, technology and travel.
The inquiries are all different, and generally include this information:
- The type of person the reporter is looking for (e.g., experts in child care, accountants, people who eat lunch at their desks)
- The topic (e.g., front-yard vegetable gardens, cloud computing, time-management tips)
- The deadline (some are quite short.)
- The contact information.
Urgent requests are also posted on Twitter.
PR people and other interested parties respond explaining how they can help. The result: the reporters get a better story and organizations get media coverage.
Of course, there are some caveats. HARO has become incredibly popular and competitive. As of this writing, more than 350,000 people subscribe to HARO, scanning inquiries from almost 30,000 journalists.
So I was glad that Cision published a tip sheet on HARO Best Practices. Here is my summary of its major points:
Re-read the source request.
Make sure you meet all the reporter’s criteria. If you aren’t a perfect fit, it’s a waste of your time to respond.
It’s best to respond within an hour of the request. (They go out at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. Eastern time.)
Proofread and edit.
Reporters will quickly delete poorly written replies.
Customize the subject line.
When you reply to a HARO source request, the subject line auto-populates. Stand out from the crowd by writing your own subject line.
Stay on topic.
Do not pitch the reporter on a different angle than indicated in the HARO inquiry. Doing so can get you thrown off the e-mail list.
Keep it short, five sentences or about 175 words or less.
Write in soundbites.
Many reporters quote directly from responses. Make your reply “quotable” and you’re more likely to be mentioned.
Include alternate contact information.
Make it easy for journalists to reach you. At the very least, include your phone number, email address, website and social media handles.
Build relationships with the media.
Connect with the reporters on LinkedIn and Facebook. Track their work; comment on their articles. Your first pitch might not be successful. However, if you develop a relationship, you’ll have a better chance when you respond to future inquiries.
Turn HARO into a content marketing machine.
If your pitch isn’t accepted, turn your reply into content for your blog.
Track your efforts.
Monitor your work with HARO. Test subject lines, email copy and media relations tactics.
As I said, HARO is one of the best tools for long-term, consistent public relations. I encourage you to use it. You can sign up at www.HelpAReporter.com. The entire HARO Best Practices tip sheet is available here.