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HARO: A Useful and Important PR Tool

Meet HARO; it’s like a press release but flipped in reverse. HARO (or Help A Reporter Out) is a free online subscription service that connects reporters with PR teams and experts. HARO (at helpareporter.com) is run by Cision, the company that operates the PR Newswire press release distribution business and the Cision media database service.

Cision describes its mission as ‘Empowering PR and Marketing Pros to Target Reach and Engage Their Audiences.’ The reporter, journalist and blogger presence on HARO is upwards of 75,000. These journalists hail from major outlets, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and Time. HARO also has a user membership of experts that numbers over 1 million. The reason why HARO is so big and successful is because it provides benefits to all its users – for free. It’s a platform for journalists to get expert sourcing and for experts to get a chance at media exposure. HARO requests are sent out two to three times every day.

For example, a recent HARO request asked for “Women who pivot from big business to social enterprise” in the Biotech and Healthcare category. The query said, “I’m looking for women in Canada who decided to pivot away from a professional, corporate career to launch a social enterprise. Changing the world and leading a team while making a profit? I’d love to hear from you. I’m conducting phone interviews this week…”

See the opportunity there? If you’re a woman who has made that transition, or you represent a PR client with that story, this reporter is giving you a chance to be featured in the news. Getting from the query to an interview, and ultimately media exposure through HARO, means approaching the process the right way. With that in mind, here is a list of important tips and tricks that are a must know for all HARO beginners. The list is aggregated from the Cision website and various expert voices in the field:

  1. Actually Read the Query

Are you the expert they are looking for? Or are you a hungry PR exec who will try anything to get attention (even haranguing journalists, your best asset, with useless information)? If you read their query, you will know what they are looking for. Some say that it’s best to copy and paste the actual query into your response. This helps you align your written answer with their question and helps them see that you’ve considered their words carefully.


  1. Give Them What You Want

Do not use this as your chance to send them a press release. There’s a time and place for a press release. This is not one of them. Do not advertise your product. Do not do self-promotion. These journalists have come to HARO in search of valuable expertise. They have already decided on and researched the topic of their article, podcast or video. They don’t want your promos. They do not want to do the advertising footwork for your company. They aren’t even asking for these things. Simply provide them with the information they ask for. EXACTLY what they ask for. You must be relevant; if you’re not, then you will not get a response. (The key is to realize the publicity gained by the journalist mentioning your expertise is the promotion or advertising.)


  1. Respond Like Lightning

Here is a little secret: You are not the only person responding to the queries. In other words, you have competition. Some journalists get between 30 to 50 responses to a single HARO. That means, with the clock to their deadline clicking away, they are waiting for a fast response from their sources (sometimes the journalist has mere hours before their deadline). Let that information settle in for a second. Good. This means you must be fast. The faster you are, the higher the chances of a response.


  1. Edit Your Work

Make sure your writing and grammar are immaculate, even though you’re racing for the clock. (Here is a bonus tip: the software running HARO automatically cuts out all email attachments to protect journalists from potential viruses. If you want to include extra add-ons, like a headshot, use a link instead.)


  1. Be Brief, No Life Story

Again, the journalist has a deadline, which means you also have a deadline, as you are their source. So don’t tell them about the summer your Auntie Gertrude drove in from Nebraska or the time your life hack on how to lick a pole in sub-zero temperatures backfired. Keep things brief. They don’t want to read Hamlet.


  1. Write in Soundbites

Journalists are looking for an expert source, provide them with pre-packaged quotes to make it easier.


  1. Include Alternative Contact Info

Different reporters will have different preferences when it comes to getting in touch with you. Provide them with all the avenues of communication: phone numbers, email addresses, websites, social media handles, etc.


  1. Mention Your Creds

Mention your credentials, which back up your claim to be an expert source. Don’t be shy. Include all the capital letter groupings that are appendaged to your name (after all, this is the only socially appropriate time to bring them up). Obviously, if the journalist is writing about beekeeping, you don’t need PhD attached at the end; you need something like Ohio beekeeper Jane Doe says blah blah blah. So, make it worthwhile for the reporter who has come in search for expertise by making it clear you are one.


Use this list of tips as a springboard to start your HARO adventure. If you need help with a media pitch for HARO, we can help.


Photo by Leah Kelley: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-gray-typewriter-952594/