Help a Reporter Out is a free service that offers a lot of marketing and public relations potential in exchange for a modest time investment. To make HARO work for you, though, you must play according to its rules. Cutting a corner or making an accidental mistake could lock your whole organization out of HARO.
To make HARO useful, just let these 10 simple tips dictate your use of it:
1) Learn The Rules By Heart
HARO has five simple rules. Unless you can recite them, right now, without reference material, you’re not ready to start responding to HARO queries. You have to have a thorough command of the service’s rules to make sure you follow them. Breaking one is the easiest way to get your organization banned from HARO, and pleading ignorance won’t undo such a ban.
2) Read Every Email
Every day, HARO will deliver three emails full of journalists’ queries. Read every headline in every email; it’s okay to skim and this whole process should take less than two minutes. Make a note of any headline that looks promising and come back to read the full query attached to it; this is when you decide whether or not you should respond.
3) Cultivate Long-Term Respect
As long as you have the time to give a reporter a hand with a knowledgeable response, do so. Don’t worry if there’s no way to promote your product or client in the short term. Any sort of journalistic exposure does you some good, bolstering your reputation as a reputable source. Also, establishing a friendly, mutually-beneficial relationship with a reporter may open up much bigger opportunities with him or her in the future.
4) Collaborate (According To The Rules)
While you shouldn’t (in fact, you can’t, according to the rules) publically call for help with answering a HARO query, do feel free to consult with friends and associates who you know have relevant insight. This will expand the HARO network, leading to more queries and more journalists — thus, more opportunities for you.
5) Strike Fast
When a query looks promising and you decide to respond to it, do so as quickly as possible. Here’s a personal example: While preparing a blog post about pet care, I sent out a HARO query. It brought me hundreds of responses in just a few hours. The faster you respond to a query, the better your chances of being quoted in the finished piece.
6) Don’t Use Boilerplate
Although a speedy response is important, don’t go overboard by sending a canned response. If you can’t be bothered to compose a personal email to the querying reporter, don’t bother. The HARO system isn’t built to swap press releases. You need to respond with a brief, relevant, and tantalizing email.
7) Follow The Query’s Instructions
Lots of HARO queries come with their own instructions. Ignore those instructions at your peril; responses that don’t comply with them are often discarded. Double-check your response against the query before you send it to confirm that you’re complying with its directions.
8) Don’t Ever Go Off-Topic
Reporters who submit HARO queries aren’t looking for “something kind of sort of related to what you’re talking about.” If your pitch is irrelevant or barely relevant to the query, don’t send it. It may be handy to get a second opinion from a knowledgable friend if you’re wondering about your pitch’s relevance.
9) Be Unique
Remember that replying to a HARO query will only make you one of hundreds of potential sources. Give your response a personal touch and a unique, compelling hook. I’ve personally seen a unique hook in a HARO response turn into a prominent spot in a magazine, including a photoshoot.
10) Capitalize On Networking
If a HARO connection gets you quoted in somebody’s work, make sure you follow up — politely. Ask if it’s alright to connect with the reporter through social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) Make an open-ended offer to help out if the reporter needs you — but never pester him or her with unsolicited pitches!