You’re looking for publicity and for links, and reporters are looking for authorities to quote. Help a Reporter Out - also known as HARO - connects reporters and sources (like you) in a daily email.
(More detail here, if you’d like more detail on how it works.)
HARO’s an excellent way for a local business to earn links. But most people send in pitches that reporters aren’t interested in, conclude HARO won’t work for them, and never bother with it again. Meanwhile, someone else gets the exposure and the links.
We've had great success securing quality media links for our LocalSpark clients through HARO. Here are some of my tips...
My Top 10 Tips (in no particular order):
1. Reply within the first 10 minutes of getting the HARO email. When I started sending in pitches fast, my success rate improved significantly.
2. Subscribe to too many categories rather than to too few. It’s easier to skim and delete an email than not to see it at all. If you’re a physician you might think you need to only subscribe to “Medical Health,” but you’re only going to get hyper-direct inquires with that approach. What about “Entrepreneurship,” “Human Resources,” “Local Regions,” and “Technology”? You’re not just some “expert”; you’re also a business owner.
(image credit - Andrew Malone)
3. Don’t send your reply to their HARO email address, if possible. Like Craigslist, HARO will give you an anonymous email handle, however, nearly every time the reporter lists their name. A little Google-Fu and you can typically find something from Twitter, their blog/portfolio, etc. I think this shows you’re serious about outreach and all things Internet. Also, it provides you with a follow-up address for future correspondence, as opposed to one that self-destructs at the end of the allotted timeframe.
4. Remember that reporters are busy. If they are asking for something specific, see if you can hand them a good chunk of it in your pitch. Scour current blog posts or industry conversations that your client has recently shared an opinion about. In your email you can link to their work and say, “I am certain my client can answer your question quickly and with authority as you can see they have recently addressed this here.” This allows the reporter to examine your link and see if it fits their narrative. If it does, they will typically reply for a new one-off quote or interview.
5. Keep your clients out of it at first. Don’t ask your clients if they will be available before you send your pitch. Pitch first and ask questions later. If you hear back from a reporter and they are pumped to speak with your client, say you’re on it. Then make a mad dash to get your client available. I’ve found this approach works much better, because it eliminates potentially hours of time where the reporter is getting other pitches and when yours comes in they are no longer in need.
6. Personalize the whole email. Start by using your contact’s name in the introduction, but don’t stop there. Dig deep for factoids and common ground that you can use to build rapport, and that show you cared enough to dig for a few minutes. We’ve all received emails that address us properly but then devolve into generic drivel. Reporters see a lot of pitches every day, so stand out. No-canned emails. Be 100% original each time.
Part of personalizing means being yourself, right from the start. Sure, maintain a level of professionalism, but don’t let it straightjacket you. Show your professional side and your easygoing side in the same email. Using a serious “Dear Jane” salutation and a winking emoji or movie quote aren’t mutually exclusive.
7. Keep it snappy. I didn’t use to respect the number of pitches HARO reporters received, so I thought sending a super-glossy, professional email would get me more takers. It didn’t. So one day I just pretended I was Tom Cruise in Risky Business, said to myself, “Oh, what the fu…dge” and just started rattling off short and simple emails. That worked better.
8. Read, re-read, and follow the reporter’s instructions. Not following the reporter’s instructions is a common mistake, but an easily avoidable one. Many times they will say something like, “Reply to this inquiry with the title XYZ and submit the follow information with your reply.” I’m guilty of having strayed from the specs too, and kicked myself when I realized I blew the pitch. Now, I make sure to read and re-read the submission instructions.
9. Know that nice guys and gals finish first. Think about how you engage with people in every part of your life. Do you smile, ask questions, and thank your server at dinner? If so, did you have a more pleasant experience due to the care you put into it? Do you think the server gave potentially better service, because you cared and made their table experience personal? If so, what stops you from doing that in all areas of your life? I try to give the same attention and care to a reporter I have never met and might not hear back from as I would to anyone. Sincerity goes a long way.
10. Leave the door open for future stories. Whenever you successfully “Help a Reporter Out,” mention that you’re available for future inquiries. Mention that you have a variety of clients, and would do your best to help them hit their deadline in the future.
Some Recent Examples of Successes
Here are some nice recent links we’ve earned for our LocalSpark clients through HARO outreach:
- Bustle.com ran a piece about the 25th Anniversary of Home Alone. The reporter was clever and wanted to do a piece on how much damage Kevin McCallister did to the family’s home in Chicago. We have a client, House Doctors, that was sourced in the article.
- ChiroEco.com needed chiropractors to discuss imaging hardware and software. We have a client, Pure Chiropractic in British Columbia that uses digital X-ray equipment. He was featured in an article and subsequently was featured in another. Considering this cost the client a fraction of time for my services, he became so amped on the success he started doing it on his own. He has now landed 3 more links from other sites by putting himself out there!
- MyDallasMommy.com needed some fun activities for DFW area children in the winter. We have a client across Texas called Urban Air Trampoline Park and they fit the need perfectly. She wrote an article about her visit and it led to many other blog opportunities in the market.
I’ve also gotten clients in publications like USA Today, ESPN Magazine, Shape, Huffington Post, and many industry pieces.
Have you used HARO before, or want to? Any tips or questions? Please leave a comment and let me know!