Help a Reporter Out.
Have you heard of it?
Help a Reporter Out (or HARO, as it’s abbreviated) is a website that connects reporters and journalists looking for information with knowledgeable sources on a wide array of topics. It’s also quite possibly one of the best tools small business owners and entrepreneurs have when it comes to getting the word out and generating press about your business.
By creating an account as a source, you can get daily emails from HARO detailing the queries journalists are looking to have answered. It’s a simple and free way to build authority in your niche and get mentioned in publications ranging from Grasshopper’s blog to The Wall Street Journal.
The Proof in the Pudding
There are a lot benefits to getting your business mentioned in leading publications within your industry or niche. Being active on HARO can bring you:
Exposure. Simply getting your business and what you do out in front of more eyeballs.
Link building. Links to your website from prominent, related sites can boost your overall SEO rankings.
Referral traffic. Referral links can also have a more direct positive in that they lead people back to your website.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? But does it work?
As a publisher, Grasshopper has had a lot of success finding sources on HARO. We have less experience using the site as a source, so we checked out their success stories for sources to see what people have accomplished.
Trisha Beausaert of Voices.com said:
We’ve landed some significant mentions via HARO, including those in Fast Company, CNBC, VentureBeat, Examiner.com, Workopolis, Monster, The Globe and Mail, and The Guardian, to name just a few.
Bob King of Legally Nanny had this to say:
Nancy Cleary’s company, Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, uses HARO to get press for their authors. She noted that HARO "relieves our authors of the huge expense, and often huge disappointment, of hiring a publicist to cold-pitch – 90% of our massive media success has been due to HARO."
Step 1: Sign Up
The first step in getting started is to create an account as a source (if you’re in publishing, you can also use your account as a journalist.) Fill in your contact and other info so your profile is complete.
As soon as you create the account, you’ll automatically start getting 3 daily emails from HARO, and they’ll include a mix of topics related to business and finance, lifestyle, technology, etc.
Set Your Targeting Preferences
When you sign up, you’ll notice a space labeled "HARO Preferences" – this is where you can opt to receive additional emails each day specifically tailored to the categories you’re an expert in.
Whether you choose to target specific topics or not is a matter of preference. If you’re really looking to dive headfirst into PR, it’s a good idea to opt for the additional, targeted emails because you’ll see more relevant queries that have the potential to earn you mentions. On the flipside, you will get more emails each day, so if you consider inbox real estate invaluable, you may not want to choose any additional targeting preferences.
Step 2: Respond to Queries
When you’re an expert in a particular subject matter, the response can seem like the easy part. But HARO is competitive, especially for popular media outlets like Inc. and The Huffington Post. Putting a lot of thought into which queries you respond to and how you approach your pitches can help you get chosen over the hundreds or even thousands of other sources.
Reporters are looking for sources and information that makes their lives easier – in fact, they’ll often copy and paste quotes directly from HARO into their articles. That means your role is to provide that info in a way that eliminates as much work for them as possible. Because of this, journalists will often provide detailed and explicit instructions and guidance on what to include in your response.
In addition to following any specific guidance in the individual query, follow these best practices in all of your HARO pitches:
Give as much information as you have. Reporters work on tight deadlines – they may not have the time to contact you for more info, so include all the pertinent and compelling details right up front.
Include your contact info. On the flipside, some journalists may want to follow up for additional information or context, so be sure they can get in touch easily.
Don’t pitch your business to them. While it may sometimes be necessary to give background on your qualifications to answer the query, avoid trying to sell them on yourself or your business.
Keep it concise. As we’ve noted, reporters may get hundreds of pitches through HARO, so ensure you provide your input in a concise way – they’ll appreciate your respect for their time.
Follow a template. To save yourself time and ensure you’re hitting the important points, follow the template outlined in Brigitte Lyons’ guide.
For example, here’s a really good pitch I received that got Adam featured on the Grasshopper blog:
It’s concise, includes all of the information my query asked for, and provides contact info for follow-up questions if necessary.
Choose Queries You’re Knowledgeable About
Remember: you aren’t simply providing information – you’re also competing against everyone else who pitches. That’s why it’s important to not only choose only the queries you’re truly knowledgeable about, but to invest a little time crafting the most comprehensive and compelling pitch you can put together.
When deciding whether to respond to a query or not, ask yourself these three questions:
Am I knowledgeable about the subject? The most basic requirement is, of course, that you know a lot about the topic.
Do I have a unique perspective, anecdote, or data to share? If you have information that’s exclusive to you, you’ll be more likely to stand out among myriad other pitches.
Do I want to be featured in this publication? While you’re looking for free press, you should still be a little selective about where you want your business to show up.
Follow Key Influencers on Twitter
Like anyone, different reporters will have varying preferences for who their sources are, their qualifications, and how they pitch their expertise. For journalists who use HARO heavily and receive tons of pitches for each query, it’s not uncommon for them to throw out tips on Twitter or other social media sites about how best to pitch to them.
Make a list of key influencers and outlets you’d like to get mentions from and follow them online. At the very least, you’ll be able to get a feel for the type of content and information they write or publish – and best case scenario, you’ll find little nuggets to help you get a leg up on other sources.
Step 3: Look Out For Mentions
Many reporters and publishers will let you know if they’ve chosen to quote or mention you in an article. When that happens, all you have to do is follow the link and share, share, share.
It is possible, though, for some mentions to go unmentioned (heh). To avoid those falling through the cracks, you’ll want to have a system in place to catch them.
First, set up Google Alerts for your name and your business’s name. That way, Google will email you a link to the article any time your name or your company is mentioned online.
We’ve already noted that it’s a good idea to follow the writers and media outlets you’re pitching to online. This is another use for that – if you see a tweet promoting an article you think you pitched for, quickly scan through to see if you made it in.
Once you’ve been mentioned in an article, share it everywhere from your social media accounts to relevant LinkedIn groups – even email it to your mom!
Get Free Press Using HARO
Whether you use Help A Reporter Out as a robust PR tool or simply on the side to drum up a little chatter, it’s an incredibly powerful and versatile tool for spreading the word about your business.
Simply follow our guide and craft the best pitches possible, and you and your business will reap the benefits.