A PR Professional’s Best Friend: HARO

Newspaper layoffs; One reporter on three beats; The journalism landscape has changed and the practice of public relations has to change with it. These days getting a lead story comes down to relationships. Or, does it? Perhaps it comes down to seeing the right lead at the right time, to putting yourself and your client in the way of opportunity. PR pros must be more “plugged in” than ever before. HARO will help.

HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, has changed the way public relations professionals pitch journalists. Over 5,000 journalists nationwide use HARO to locate experts for on-air interviews, article quotes, and more via an email blast distributed to over 56,000 resources three times a day. The best part: HARO is free.

HARO is the brain-child of PR professional, Peter Shankman, an international author, entrepreneur, and speaker in the social media, public relations and advertising industry. HARO initially started as a Facebook group that kept track of journalists seeking a particular expert source for a story. The free service quickly became a PR professional’s dream and a journalist’s ideal resource for finding credible sources. HARO is now more than 20,000 members strong.

How does it work?
First, the site requires that members must be credible sources in order to participate. When signing up, program rules emphasize that potential members ensure their responses are truly on target and will help the journalist. Shankman recommends that PR practitioners and sources do not send responses to journalist requests unless it’s an absolutely perfect match. Once you sign up, you will start to receive the three-time daily emails with journalist queries listed categorically.

On the other end, journalists fill out a form online to place their request on the daily email distribution list. When a member sees a story they want to contribute to, they are able to reply directly to the query.

The nine categories a request may be listed under are:

  • Biotech and Healthcare
  • Business and Finance
  • Education
  • Entertainment and Media
  • General
  • High Tech
  • Lifestyle and Fitness
  • Public Policy and Government
  • Travel

It is a good idea to get in the habit of scanning the daily emails quickly. If a topic jumps out at you, read through the request thoroughly and keep your reply brief and to the point. Journalists love trends and ideas backed by data, and it is always helpful to write a short paragraph explaining why you or your client are an expert on the topic at hand.

There are specific rules participants must adhere to, and replying off topic may get you kicked off the list. According to the website, here are the five rules to remember when using HARO.

The FIVE RULES OF HARO. Keep them as a sign upon thy hands.

1) You will get three emails a day, M-F, with reporter queries from reporters and outlets from all over the world. Scan the emails, and if you’re knowledgeable about any of the topics, answer the reporter directly.
2) Don’t SPAM reporters with off-topic pitches in response to their queries.
3) You MAY forward queries to friends, but DO NOT post them on blogs or anywhere on the web.
4) You’re not allowed to harvest the reporter email addresses in the HARO emails for any reason. (With the new system implemented in January, you can’t anyway.)
5) Be excellent to each other.

Be prepared to see all types of media personnel on HARO: podcasters looking for guests; bloggers gathering research for a post; authors needing case studies for a book; and journalists writing a story for a major daily.

Remember every time you answer a query, there are several PR professionals vying for the same journalist’s time. The more relevant your response, the better chance you have in being used as a source. HARO is indeed an excellent “add on” to ongoing PR practice strategy and tactics. However, there is nothing like the old-fashioned relationship building via email and phone call that will get your story heard.

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