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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About HARO

by Marian Schembari on July 6, 2011

Ever seen my Press page?

If you haven’t, there are dozens of links to features and quotes in publications from all over the world, including TIME, Real Simple Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

While nothing about me or this site screams front-page news, it IS surprisingly easy to land yourself top media coverage, whether it’s online, in print or on TV/radio.

The magic resource I use is a funky little newsletter called HARO.

What is HARO?

HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and is a three-times-daily email with a mission to connect journalists with sources. More than 100,000 experts are registered with HARO and more than 1,200 media queries are sent weekly to a global audience.

Emails are sent in the morning, afternoon and evening, with queries categorized by topics like business, lifestyle, health, etc. Queries range from journalists looking for an expert in business insurance to a middle-aged woman in Detroit who’s been through a divorce. Queries are varied, and can be incredibly specific or incredibly vague. Each request contains the topic, journalist name, category, media outlet and deadline. It also includes an email address provided by HARO that expires the day and hour of deadline, meaning you have to be quick about responding! (Sometimes the journalist will provide their own personal email, but it’s rare.)

HARO is an incredibly valuable tool for any promotional campaign as members come from publications like Glamour, Mashable, the Huffington Post, and more.

The beginning of the emails include a list of queries, which are then linked to longer explanations of sources needed. The emails look something like this…

How to Respond to a HARO Request (and actually get a response)

Now, in response to those of you who know all about HARO, but haven’t found it valuable (yet), let me tell you something – HARO is only valuable if you’re valuable. Meaning it pays to only email if it’s appropriate and make sure you approach the journalist in the right way.

And even for those of you who aren’t signed up yet, here’s a handy guide on best practices for responding to requests to ensure you actually get a response and coverage:

Ensure you’re a good fit. Read the query carefully. Don’t respond to a post that asks for wedding photographers in France if you’re based in Australia.

Be enthusiastic! You’re promoting your product/business/website and the best way to capture the journalist’s attention is to show how much you love and believe in what you offer. Don’t just send a press release or a list of stats. Start off by saying how you came across their ad and just had to email because. Do not – under any circumstances – launch immediately into a pitch. Journalists get dozens, if not hundreds, of responses to their queries. Stand out by really caring about your project and writing something personalized.

Answer the questions. Never say, “visit my website to find out more.” Put all the info they ask for within the pitch without providing extra work. Make it incredibly easy for them to get back in touch and/or schedule an interview.

Keep it short. Don’t send them a whole media kit, press release or essay about your business unless they ask. Unless they’re pulling quotes directly from responses (which they’ll specify), you’ll get an email back asking for more details should they need it.

Think outside the box. If your product is different from others on the market, spell out why. If the reporter asks for opinions on dating, don’t give the same tired old tips. The media loves controversy, different points of view and discussion. The best way to get publicity is to be different, so always have that in the back of your head.

Write a compelling headline. While simply putting “HARO request” in your subject line is fine, if the reporter is getting tons of responses, you wont stand out. Let’s say the article topic is vegetarian cooking in Auckland and you own a school that specializes in just that – list in the subject line by saying, “I own a vegetarian cooking school in Auckland.” Some queries will tell you exactly what to put in your subject line so do make sure to follow instructions if they’re available.

Bullet points = awesome. If the reporter is looking for tips, bullet points are the way to go. It makes your pitch easy to read and if said tips are useful, it’s a great way to highlight your expertise and get an quick response.

Provide contact information. While the reporter will obviously have your email address, end your message with a phone number, website, Twitter handle, etc. This makes it as easy as possible for them to get in touch.

Quality over quantity. Sometimes you can respond to multiple queries in a day, sometimes you might not find anything for weeks. Remember to be patient and only apply to queries that are relevant. Your efforts will pay off!

Respond in a timely manner. If the journalist gets back to you and wants to schedule an interview or have you answer a few questions via email, respond as soon as you can. Ninety-nine percent of the time, journalists are on deadline, so if you want to be featured you need to be on your toes and quick to provide help.

Miscellaneous Tip That Makes Life More Manageable: Send HARO emails to a separate email folder and sift through them all at once instead of as they come. This tactic will make responding to queries more manageable.

Anyone have good HARO stories? Ever been featured somewhere super cool thanks to my favorite service?


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