Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free database that connects reporters and sources. Using HARO, journalists get the information they need for their articles, while you get press coverage for your small business.
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Here at Fit Small Businesses, we have a lot of experience using HARO: both as sources and journalists– and know that when done right, HARO can grant you access to some of the most authoritative news outlets out there. In this article we will demonstrate how to best use HARO, covering:
- What is Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and Why Should You Use It?
- How Does HARO Work?
- How to Create the Perfect Pitch
- HARO Dos and Don’ts
- What to Do After the Article is Published
What is Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and Why Should You Use It?
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free service that connects journalists with sources for their upcoming articles. Anyone can subscribe to the emails, read the journalists’ queries, and respond with their expertise/advice.
Tons of media outlets use HARO to find sources, including TIME, Refinery29, New York Times, and us here at Fit Small Business. The goal is to have a media outlet use you as a source so that your name and business name are included in the article with a link to your small business’s website.
As a small business owner, responding to HARO queries has three noteworthy benefits for your business:
1. Look like an expert in your field.
Reporters often use HARO because they need an expert opinion for their article that they are not able to provide on their own. If you respond to a journalist’s question with a smart, well thought out answer, then your business will come across as an authoritative voice on the topic. Here’s an example of a HARO query:
If you are a doctor, dietician, or psychologist who specializes in patients with this problem, by responding you are demonstrating to your target audience (people who read this type of article) that you have expertise in this area. Having a mention in an authoritative news outlet is also social proof that your business is credible, and you can include the news site’s mention of your business on your website.
2. Get quality links.
Using HARO is one of the best ways to get many different well established news sources to link to your small business website. When high quality news websites include a hyperlink to your website, it sends a signal to search engines that your site is relevant enough for others to link to it. This increases your website’s credibility and helps your website show up higher in the search results on search engines like Google.
3. Brand awareness.
By getting your business name on popular news articles, you are greatly increasing the number of people who will read about your business and visit your website. HARO is a great way to increase the exposure of your brand.
“I’ve had a handful of successes in becoming a published source through HARO, and it has really helped me in my career to make new contacts within my field, and to be recognized as a reputable player in PR, marketing, and advertising domains.” – Alli Williams, PR Manager, Amplify Relations
How Does Help a Reporter Out (HARO) Work?
HARO is very simple to use, and you can get started by visiting www.helpareporter.com and selecting “I’m a source.”
You can then choose your subscription level. As you can see in the screenshot below, there are several different plans to choose from:
Breakdown of options:
- Free: With the free option you will receive 3 daily emails with dozens of queries from journalists. This should be a good enough option for most small businesses, and we use the free version here at Fit Small Business.
- Standard: With this option, you will be able to search in the database for all active media opportunities. This is helpful if you can only respond to really specific requests, and want to search for a certain keyword instead of having to click through every email.
- Advanced: If you go with the advanced option, you can get a head start with your pitch. You will receive the HARO query as soon as it is approved by HARO staff, instead of having to wait for it to come in the daily email.
- Premium: I don’t see a real advantage of going with the premium option, but if you have a bunch of different keywords that you want to get alerts for, you have unlimited options with this package.
After choosing your package, the last step is to fill out some basic information about yourself. After you submit that, then you will begin receiving the 3 daily emails with queries from multiple journalists.
If you don’t have the time to go through three emails a day, you can use third party software to set it up so you only receive queries that are most relevant to your expertise.
As you can see below, the media outlets are numerous and varied, including highly reputable outlets like U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Washington Post.
Each journalist writes up a short query mentioning what they are looking for from their sources. They usually include specific questions they want answered, and sometimes have certain requirements for their sources. Make sure you read this carefully so you don’t waste your time pitching someone who is not willing to use you as a source. Pay attention to the deadline as well, because the system won’t allow your email to go through if you have missed it.
How to Create a Pitch That Gets Published
Now that you understand how HARO works, it’s time to focus on the most important part – the pitch. Here are the steps for crafting a pitch that will get noticed by journalists:
1. Respond Quickly
HARO queries from journalists can get dozens or even hundreds of responses, depending on the topic. The earlier you respond, the greater the chance that your pitch will be read and used. Plus, if you give the same information as someone else, it’s way more likely yours will be used if you’re the first to say it.
“The thing I’ve noticed about success with HARO is a correlation with speed and being published. The more timely my responses are to the three emails I receive every day, the more chances I have of being included in the article.” – Bryan Clayton, GreenPal
2. Qualify the Journalists
It’s important that the media outlet is one that you want your business associated with. If you’ve never heard of it before, do a quick scan of the website to make sure that you are comfortable having your name associated with it.
3. Make Sure You’re a Good Fit
The journalists have the option of listing requirements for their sources. For example, they could specify that they only want responses from people in a certain location, or working in a particular field. These types of requirements are actually good, since you will know immediately if you qualify to respond or not. Don’t waste your time working on a pitch if you’re not a match.
4. Write Your Pitch
Once you’re ready to write the email, make sure it’s clear, concise, and straight to the point. If the journalist has posed questions in the query, answer the questions directly. Write the pitch as if your response could be quoted directly, because many times journalists will take exactly what you wrote and put it into the article. Journalists are busy people, working on deadline, so make sure your answer hits all the important points clearly and concisely. The easier you make it for the reporter to use you as a source, the better your chances are of getting published.
Definitely include your website and also consider including other useful information, such as Twitter handle, LinkedIn, and a headshot.
“Make sure you give the journalist an intelligent, succinct, and useful bit of quotable text—after all, your name will be attached to it. Keep your quote under 3 sentences, and write it in a separate line (don’t bury it in a paragraph of text).” – Jonas Sickler, ConsumerSafety.org
Sample HARO Pitch
Subject Line: Interesting/informative/useful tip for [Query Topic]
Hi [First Name],
My name is [name] and I am a [job title] for [company name with link to website]. I have extensive experience in this subject because [put here why you are qualified to respond].
In the first paragraph you want to succinctly put who you are and what relevant experience you have that enables you to answer the query. Put the name, title, and website that you want to appear in the article. If you are writing the pitch on behalf of a client or your CEO, say that in the pitch and give his or her information instead of yours.
In reference to your query on [subject], I can [answer query requirements].
Answer the question in the query and follow all requirements. This section should be between 2-4 sentences. Get straight to the point and write it as if what you are writing could end up as is in the article (which happens frequently).
Let me know if you need any more information! I am happy to speak with you more about [topic].
By letting them know that you are willing to provide more for the story, the journalist will feel comfortable reaching out to you if they need further information.
[Title and Business with Link to Website]
[Phone number and email]
[Twitter handle, LinkedIn, etc.]
HARO Do’s and Don’ts
Follow these tips to make sure you are on the right track when writing your pitches, and not committing any HARO faux pas.
- Don’t forget to answer the question. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Sometimes a pitch will give you all this information about why they are qualified to answer your query, and then not actually provide an answer. The pitch is not a teaser. You don’t want to leave the journalists wanting more. Journalists are busy and will probably not follow up for more information.
- Don’t go off on a tangent. While journalists will surely appreciate a well thought out and informative response, they aren’t looking to read an essay. If they have more questions, they’ll reach out to you for more information.
- Don’t include attachments. HARO strips all attachments from the emails that are sent to journalists. If you want to include an image, you will have to link to it instead, or let them know that you can provide pictures if needed.
- Don’t be cliche or generic. You will probably be tempted to submit the first response that pops into your head. However, if it seemed like an obvious answer to you, it likely occurred to another person responding to the same query. This puts the journalist in the position of having to choose one over the other. If someone else responded more quickly, your chances of being published are even slimmer. Try to be original.
- Don’t be too salesy. Journalists will be able to tell if you just making a straight pitch for your product with only a tiny response to their question. The point of getting your response published is not to get direct sales, but instead to get quality links to your website.
- Don’t miss the deadline. If you submit your response a few minutes after the deadline, HARO’s automated email system will block your email. Keep an eye on when the reply is due, so you don’t miss the chance to submit your reply.
- Don’t harass the journalists. I understand that you’re eager to get as much buzz about your small business as possible. However, keep in mind that journalists are busy. If there is no response to your pitch, move on to the next query. Only follow-up if you have your heart set on this publication and feel like you would be a really great source. You also don’t want to email a bunch of times to ask when the article will be posted.
- Do say as much as you can in as few words as possible. Your initial response should be a quick pitch of your qualifications and your response to the query. Our typical responses fall in the 70 – 300 word count range.
- Do stand out. If you want a better chance at being published, you need to respond with something that other people are least likely to submit as an answer. This gives you a better chance of standing out and getting published.
- Do offer quality advice and expertise. If you want your pitch to run in an article, you will need to make sure it has a value to the people who will be reading it. Read the query carefully and respond with something you only know because of your experience on the topic.
- Do stay positive. If you do miss the deadline, all hope is not lost. Do your research and see if you can find the journalist’s email or twitter account and reach out to them directly. Apologize for missing the deadline and offer them your insight and response to the HARO. However, if you’re days late, don’t bother. The journalist will probably have moved on to another story by that time.
- Do set up a Google alert for your name or your business. By setting this up, you will get an email if someone publishes a blog or news story that includes the name of your business. Since publishing an article can take anywhere from days to months, this is a great way to get a reminder when the article goes live. Journalists will sometimes, but not always, inform you if they use your pitch. Here’s an article about how to set up Google alerts.
After the Article is Published
You want to complete some follow-up after the article that cites you as a source is published. Here are three simple steps that you can take to get the most out of the experience:
- Share on social media – Tweet it, share it on Facebook, and post in on LinkedIn. Not only will you impress your followers by being listed in an established news outlet, you will also make the publication that posted the article happy.
- Publish on your website – If you have a “news” section of your website, make sure to post a link to the article.
- Send a thank you to the journalist – Let the journalist know that you appreciate being included in the article, and you would be happy to be used as a source for any future articles that are about your area of expertise. This will build rapport and let the journalist remember to think of you for future articles.
“Glean from the feedback. Whether a reporter uses your story or not, you can always find some tidbit of value-added knowledge from each HARO interaction. If you are published, then draw from the reception you receive from reader feedback on social media and in emails.” – Adrian Holmes, Adrian D. Holmes
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a great resource for small business owners who are looking to get press from reputable news outlets. Just make sure you follow best practices when submitting your pitch so you increase the chance that you will be used as a source. Most importantly, be quick to respond, answer the question clearly and succinctly, and provide useful information for the journalist. Armed with the information in this guide, you’ll be used as a source in no time!
Have you had success using HARO? Let us know in the comments section below!