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What is Help A Reporter Out (HARO)? It is a free email subscription service that allows business owners and entrepreneurs to provide news, tips, stories and expertise to journalists, writers and bloggers. Businesses get exposure, and journalists get content.
Have you ever wanted to get your business featured in Inc, Entrepreneur, CNN, or the Huffington Post? It could happen through Help a Reporter?.for free!
But you need to know the rules of the game.
And this guide is your one stop to learn everything you need to know.
Peter Shankman invented HARO in 2008. It was originally a Facebook page, but quickly took off and was converted into an email platform.
It's success is largely due to the explosion of content marketing.
Why has content marketing grown so much?
Well, anyone can now be a publisher - whether it is free (social media), or through your company website, which is almost free.
And everyone wants website traffic. Because web traffic provides you an opportunity to generate more leads, build a brand, develop a following, and make sales.
Take the American Express Open Forum blog for instance.
They have created a community where small business owners can continually read their blog and get advice on how to run a better business.
That in turn makes people more loyal to their brand.
And more likely to use their products.
Here they are giving leadership advice.
Leadership advice? From a credit card company? Whaaaaat?
The basic marketing principle is that your target market has interests outside of your industry / product. Therefore if you can provide value to them online when they are searching for other things, you will be more top of mind (and tip of tongue).
...and less likely to worry about the transaction fees American Express charges :-).
In American Express' case, here is the strategy....
Take this blog post you are reading right now for example, what does HARO have to do with commercial lease reviews? The common thread is that businesses want PR, and many of them also have leases.
So eventually every small business reading this article may also need a commercial lease abstract at some point too. Sorry - shameless plug...back to our story...
In other words, everybody is a publisher today. And HARO connects 35,000 reporters, journalists and bloggers with over 400,000 sources.
Ok, so you are interested in becoming a source for some reporters. Great!
Let's just summarize the benefits - because you will be making a commitment to answering some queries and that will take some time and effort.
So here they are:
Authority / Thought Leadership
This one is the most obvious. If you are quoted in a credible news story by a credible news outlet, it can have a profound impact on your business.
Here is an example of small law firm in Irvine, CA - Legally Nanny - who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
Here is their "in the news" page, which lists where they have been featured (they have been busy): http://www.legallynanny.com/In_The_News.html
Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / Google Rankings
Google built their empire on an algorithm that counts backlinks from other sites as the primary method for knowing how to rank sites.
That is changing (Google is now trying to simply rank the best content), but the strongest ranking factor still remains links from quality sites on the internet.
(a full list of the Google ranking factors: The 200 Ranking Factors)
Guess what? HARO only brings you story opportunities from extremely strong sites (well?mostly).
So being successful with your submissions means you will get a nice backlink to your site from an authority site.
That means you will now rank higher in Google for keywords you want to rank for, as some of that trust is spread to your site.
Like this, the movement we experienced in June
More Website Traffic Through Referrals
Not everyone who reads those articles online will end up clicking through to your website. But any that do are people that never would have known about you.
Each time you are quoted on an article, that link back to your site will now live on the internet, acting as a little soldier that send over referral traffic from time to time.
For instance, this contribution we made to Recruiter.com. It only took a few minutes to make the contribution and so far we have received 17 new visitors to our site that we would never have seen otherwise.
You can check out the entire article HERE: 10 Workplace Productivity Tools
So even if you do not end up ranking any higher in Google, you will end up having more traffic from the referrals.
And guess what?
Those people will already know, like and trust you more than someone who is just clicking on a search result.
The sign-up process for HARO is seamless, but ensure you do one thing regularly that will really boost your web traffic.
1) Make sure you fill in your website address
2) Modify your company name every month or so
Here is why:
Just in case Google gives any weight to your website in your profile, make sure it is filled out and it will count as a backlink to your site (making it easier to rank).
Newbies: reminder - other websites that link back to your site is a good thing?it pushes you up in Google rankings.
The second tip is an advanced SEO technique.
You see, when you submit your story or tip, it is intercepted by HARO and they put a stamp on it. That stamp essentially says ?Hey, you received a response from?:
Company: ABC Flowers
Name: Rose Smith
It looks like this:
If the reporter likes your response she may just copy and paste your response and then give the attribution to abcflowers.com with the words used in the link being "ABC Flowers.
What is wrong with this?
The "ABC Flowers" keyword combination is called anchor text.
This link is not only a "vote" for your website, but it also gives Google a signal to rank your website for the search term "ABC Flowers".
But ABC Flowers is probably already ranking # 1 for that search term. Google has probably already figured that out.
So we want to modify that to include other keywords that are useful to rank for.
Let's say that ABC Flowers is located in Denver.
And margins on roses is higher than tulips.
But ABC Flowers does not rank well for things like "Denver Flower Shops", and "Roses in Denver".
By rotating the anchor text, ABC Flowers will have a better chance of ranking for those terms.
So ABC Flowers should go back into the profile and change the company name periodically to things like:
ABC Flowers | Denver's Best Roses
ABC Flowers - Denver's Best Flowers
Best Denver Roses - ABC Flowers
See what I mean?...
Now there is no guarantee that the writer will be willing to add a slogan or description to the anchor text - they may truncate it back down to just your company name.
But for every link you acquire with the expanded version, it will provide a more diverse array of keywords that you can rank for.
As you can see, there are a number of categories. My advice is to pick what you want to be known for.
The General category is quite broad, but I recommend you sign up for it - you can always change your preferences later.
If you happen to have knowledge on a topic that is not related to your business, feel free to answer, but the link / PR mention will not have as much value than if it is right up your alley.
If your Alexa rating is in the top 1,000,000 (meaning you are one of the top 1M most visited websites worldwide), then you can also sign up as a "reporter" and you can get input from sources to add content to your blog. You can check out your ranking HERE.
If you are just starting out, do not worry about being a reporter. Worry about being a source.
Ok peeps. Time for the tips you have all been waiting for. After all, we are only using HARO to actually get our submissions accepted, right?
At the time of writing this article, Lease Ref has been successful 21 times on Help a Reporter.
Here is a screen share:
We recently spoke with a PR specialist in NYC and he said Holy &@$#!?
By the way, that guy was a great guy and he works on a performance basis (although there is an onboarding fee). Here is his website in case you are interested in finding a credible PR guy: Chis Barrett.
(tip: he is pretty well established and normally only accepts clients by referral so if you reach out, ensure that you are not just kicking tires).
So before we get into the pro tips, feel free to check out what our submissions looked like:
Like this one from Kabbage (see full post HERE)
And this one from Fit Small Business (see full post HERE)
And this one from Invoiceberry (see full post HERE)
So hopefully checking out those submissions you have picked up on the cadence of what a successful submission looks like.
Did you notice that almost none of them had anything to do with real estate? LOL. But they were business related. And our customers are business owners.
By the way, in case you are wondering what is a good success ratio for HARO submissions, that can really be all over map. Ours currently is 21 out of 94.
Folks, talent has a way of rising to the top. Not everyone is a great writer. We all have our own set of unique talents.
Many of the HARO requests are designed for short, useful, insightful tips from multiple experts - "round up" type of posts. If you can deliver on that, then stay in the game. If it is not your forte then you should focus on one of two things: get better or move on.
In order to get better, I would suggest following up on the articles when they are published and see what the successful submissions looked like. Ask yourself why those were accepted and yours were not.
For instance, I realized on a few submissions that my content was a little too skinny and I did not tie it back into a real-life example. So I beefed up my submissions a bit and got better at story telling.
If the story is about tools you use for your business don?t be the guy who submits Dropbox or Evernote. Come up with something that makes the reporter go "Hmmm... I have not heard of that tool before".
You have stories and experiences that are unique to you. So when responding to HARO queries, ask yourself what unique knowledge you have that nobody else has. Make it so your reporter cannot say no because you are putting something so unique and compelling that they just HAVE to include your submission into their story.
Afterall, they want to look good and create an article that people will bookmark, share and link to. So your job is to make them look good.
Evan Tarver, an author, business writer, screenwriter and HARO veteran (as a reporter), has the following Help A Reporter advice:
My number one tip is to respond as if you're being quoted directly. Reporters are looking for quotes that support their articles rather than novel-sized responses that explain things they might already know.
Unfortunately, a lot of people try to "data dump" their answers to HAROs without taking the time to clean it up and make it quotable. This isn't good. When you respond to a HARO, assume that the person will copy / paste your response into their article. Of course, they probably won't actually do this, but it's good practice to make sure your responses are up to snuff.
To that end, you'll want to include some stats when possible. The best way to get chosen for a quote is to write a 2 - 3 sentence pithy response that has a fact or figure that supports your claim. This helps reporters and other HARO users quickly skim your response, understand the value you're delivering, and include it in an article.
Maggie Aland from FitSmallBusiness (a popular blog for small business owners) had similar advice:
As a journalist, I get tons of responses every time I use HARO. In order to stand out, I recommend not pitching the first response that comes to your mind when you read the query. It's likely that your first thought was also the first thing multiple other people thought as well. Instead, dig a little deeper and get creative with your response. It's way more likely that your pitch will be accepted if it's unique and doesn't sound similar to multiple other pitches. If you're struggling to come up with a unique spin, consider adding insight from your own personal experiences. Journalists like to include this in their articles as it adds a different perspective than reporters are able to provide on their own.
Do Not be Salesy
This is not about you. Do not try to sell your stuff on this platform. Answer the queries and be helpful. That is it.
Do Not Follow Up
Following up in business is always good advice. But not here.
Remember - there are over 400,000 sources on HARO and under 40,000 reporters. So the inboxes of the reporters get filled up with plenty of story submissions.
Do not be the annoying person.
This is a transaction - they provide the story opportunity, and you fill it with good content. Don?t bother the authors as they have plenty of other people providing content for them to choose from.
Take that time and energy and channel it into the next submission.
Follow Up on the Articles to Learn
Do follow up on the articles once they are live. You can do this by keeping track in a spreadsheet all of your submissions.
Editorial calendars will differ from site to site, but as a general rule it seems like websites publish their articles about 4 weeks after you see their query on HARO. Although some turn around articles just a few days after they post their query.
So in the above spreadsheet example, go back and search for the title of the query + publisher website (or author). If the post has gone live, read it and see what the successful submissions looked like.
This is important.
HARO sends out their emails 3 times per day: 5:35am EST; 12:35pm EST and 5:35pm EST.
HARO reporters will tell you that they receive a flood of emails shortly after the email blasts go out. Especially if they are writing an article for a prestigious outlet like the Huffington Post.
So ask yourself, if you were a HARO reporter and you get a ton of email in 3 spikes every day, wouldn't you cater your schedule to be checking those emails starting at 5:40, 12:40 and 5:40?
Of course you would.
And the quality of those initial responses is probably high. Because it is the keeners who are really dedicated to HARO being a part of their business strategy.
Add in the fact that sometimes these writers are on a short deadline. Now they are not necessarily taking the absolute best content, but taking the best content that comes in early.
So your odds go up dramatically by being a first mover.
In fact, if you have not responded to a HARO query within 12 hours, you might as well move on.
With so many sources compared to reporters, follow instructions carefully. If they ask for your social media links with your submission, do it. If they want less than 200 words per response, follow the rules.
Do not eliminate yourself by forcing the reporter to roll their eyes on your submission and hit delete.
For me the #1 thing is to be relevant and on-topic. I use HARO for sources for Side Hustle School, my daily podcast that is downloaded millions of times a month.
I'm very specific about what I need to feature someone on the show. Quite often someone will write in who doesn't meet the criteria or doesn't want to share real details about their side hustle. That doesn't work! But when you do meet the criteria and have a great angle, I'd love to hear from you and the odds are good that we could feature you.
In case you may be wondering what a HARO query looks like, this is one from from Side Hustle School:
Research Your Reporter...But Don't Email Them Directly
Ok, so do not get creepy, but a quick Google search and a scan of social media could give you a bit of insight into your reporter. Many of them have their own blogs and you can see what they write about.
And guess what guys? They are human. And so are you. So be human.
Make them laugh. Give them a helpful tip. Follow them on Twitter. Like their Facebook page. Comment on a blog post they wrote.
But don't email them directly. Matthew Kosinski, who uses Help a Reporter to crowdsource blog content for Recruiter.com's blog, advises:
"People often email me directly to respond to our HARO queries, rather than using the website itself. I understand the urge to get in touch with the human being behind the query, but in all honesty, sending your response to my inbox instead of to HARO is only hurting you. Part of the reason why I use HARO is because of how easy it is to organize and sort through responses. My inbox, on the other hand, is a constant mess of press releases and story pitches. If you're emailing me instead of responding via HARO, there's a good chance I'm never going to see your response ? and if I do, I'm probably going to delete it. Everyone else responded through HARO ? what makes you special?"
If you really want to geek out on this stuff, go ahead and create a Word document with some pre-planned responses.
Let's say that your niche is digital marketing. Go ahead and type up your top 20 tips. There are always queries that will ask for these kinds of tips and having them all in one place will allow you to just copy and paste your responses so you can act quickly.
Since all reporters also require your name, position, company name, social media handles, etc. you can also have this in your Word document, ready for copy and pasting.
This pre-planning can really pay off, given the number of responses each HARO reporter receives.
Constantina Kokenes at Kabbage (a leader in small business loans - now over the $3B mark for small business owners) tells us they typically receive 80-120 responses for each story request they submit. You can read their blog HERE.
Researching the News Outlet
Before you submit a story, you may want to check out the website of the news outlet to see if it is a good fit.
Additionally you may want to check out the domain authority of the site as well (somehow some fairly low authority sites somehow can manage to show up on HARO).
To do this for free, head over to moz.com and follow these steps:
1) Click on Free SEO Tools
2) Click on Open Site Explorer
3) Type in the website you want to get a link from
Most sites will have a domain authority of 50 or 60. You may not want a link from a site with a domain authority of less than 20.
Monitoring Your HARO Mentions
Unfortunately reporters are busy and they do not always email you back let you know if they have included you in their story.
I would recommend doing two things,
1) Sign up at brandmentions.com.
They monitor the web and will email you when a term you have inputted shows up on the web. So sign up and input your company name.
2) Do the same for Google Alerts. Between the two you should be covered off.
Pro Tip: from time to time you may find a random website mention your company name. When you see that, reach out to those websites, thank them for mentioning your company, and kindly ask them to turn the text into a hyperlink back to your website.
Most of the time they would be willing to do it, and a simple email like that boosts your SEO.
There are not may sites similar to help a reporter out. The second best option is SourceBottle.
But they are second place like I would be to Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. They have about 5 stories per day compared to HARO's 100+.
Here is what Rebecca Derrington, Founder of SourceBottle says on Quora about Sourcebottle
We have been successful in getting a mention / link using Sourcebottle, and technically are success rate is 100%...but just do not think it is going to solve all your problems when you only get one email from them per day and it only has 5 story opportunities.
Note that a lot of the stories are Australian based. Mate.
We just stumbled across expertisefinder.com. You can sign up as an expert and it is free to search and contact experts. It appears to be mainly academics, however, you may have to get creative to figure out how that ties into promoting your small business.
If you have had any success using this platform, please reach out to us (we may even give you a media mention).
Similar to Help a Reporter, but it?s not free. To sign up you have to "Request more information" and then that leads to a sales call. So we did not bother to learn more about it. If you want to check it out, go to www.prnewswire.com/profnet.
From what we can tell, Muck Rack is HARO on steroids and the target market is Fortune 1000 type of companies. The sign-up process involves a software demo, so it is for serious PR users. They have an impressive list of clients. If you want to find out more, visit https://muckrack.com/.
Originally focused on tourism, Media Kitty now has 10,000+ journalists and they are reaching new alleys like design, entertainment, mobile technology and style. It is free to sign up, but it looks like it is a $99 minimum after the free trial period.
Although it is not free, it could also mean that there is much less competition amongst other sources and may be worth checking out. They say that their 28,000 editorial pitches each year result in 240,000 interviews and reviews.
Their slogan is Speedy Media Match Making. We just signed up for PitchRate so the jury is still out, but it looks promising. There are quite a few categories to choose from.
Although not free, Blogdash hooks you up with bloggers who have agreed to hear from brands. We have not had any experience with this platform, but Kari DePhillips, owner of The Content Factory posted this on Quora:
The world's question and answer site. Although any links on the site are "no-follow" (meaning Google does not count them to improve your search rankings), if you genuinely add value to people's questions you can end up getting the benefits of authority, website traffic, and trust.
You are not answering reporter story requests, but you are answering questions the general population has, so do some searching on your industry, answer some questions, and over time if you are helpful you should see an increase in your website traffic.
Afterall, there are now 400M people visiting Quora every month?
Did you think that 400M was a lot? How about 1.3 billion (yes, that is billion with a B).
Be careful of this though - Reddit has a very particular culture. Nobody wants to be sold to. So do not do any selling. It is a community of hardcore people who have very passionate interests.
So if you sell widgets, go on to Reddit and just educate people about widgets. Do not push your widgets.
Facebook groups are booming as it has become the perfect way for people to network online and get to know others quickly, while coming together and helping each others businesses out.
You can get all the free publicity you want through Facebook groups, but as per above, do not go on and say "Hi everyone, nice to meet you, please buy my stuff."
If you are interested in building your our Facebook Group, Moz has a great article here: How to Build a Facebook Group.
Want people to talk about you? Create something that people love and talk about online. Make it a no-brainer for bloggers to link to and for people to click their social share buttons (hint hint).
If you are interested in a simple, 9 minute video from Moz, the authority figure on epic content, here is their Whiteboard Friday on 10X Content.
There are plenty of other ways to get free PR as an alternative to HARO - we thought we would list of a few of the big ones. Let's keep moving along.
HARO is a freemium model. You can use it for free, or get more benefits from paying.
The paid options range from $19 per month to $149 per month. You can see the packages below, or you can click HERE.
The two most interesting upgraded features are:
1) Building profiles so that reporters can find out more about you (not sure what real value there is on this, given how easy everyone is found on social media these days)
2) Getting a head start - get the story requests before the general public. The Fast Pass!
It would be very difficult to quantify the value of the fast pass, as they do not indicate how much of a head start you get.
Also, while speed is important, if you answer HARO requests quickly (and provide useful content), that should be good enough.
If you want some more information on the benefits of an upgraded HARO profile, check out this article: How to Build Backlinks and Get Press Using HARO. Christopher Gimmer of Snappa shows you how a premium profile can help build your credibility with reporters through your profile.
Remember people - we want to get to the point as quickly as possible and want to provide value.
Here is a sample template response:
Subject: <Pick a flashy subject that will stand out - do not be boring>
Great article idea!
Here are my best tips on <subject>:
I hope this helps! Good luck with the article. If you happen to use my contribution I am happy to share on social as well as link to it!
To save some time, all of my social media handles are below, and if you link to my site, please feel free to use: Lease Ref | Commercial Lease Reviews Online (website: www.leaseref.com).
Since many times the blogger will just copy and paste the response directly, write it as if you are placing it directly into their blog post.
Beware of HARO reporters that are actually gaming the system for their own financial gain.
I have noticed that there are reporters that have the exact same topics that they seem to run over and over. And it is all designed to get small business owners to trip into the products or services they sell.
It is a brilliant strategy actually.
But ethical? Well...
Here is how it works.
The reporter runs a story that tons of small business owners will respond to. Something like "Do you do your own PR for your small business?" or "Are you seeking influencers to promote your product?"
And the story is to be run in a household name news outlet like Entrepreneur or Inc. or the Huffington Post.
Obviously there are tons of small business owners that would want to be featured in that article.
What is beneficial for the reporter is that a whole bunch of new leads come right to that reporter's inbox.
Now I am not insinuating that there are any scams on HARO, but you should be aware of the fact that you may think you are on a platform to provide stories to reporters, and then find yourself being offered to join a mastermind, online course, private Facebook group, etc.
Just be careful that when you think you are building a relationship with a credible journalist that can open doors for you, that person could have been using HARO as a platform to get customers.
You should also be aware that if a reporter offers you a placement in exchange for money, that is against Google's guidelines so you could be in the sandbox (that means they will take away your rankings).
I am not here to tell that you once a HARO reporter accepts a submission from you, then you are now best friends and you will be featured over and over.
But on the other hand, if it was a positive transaction for both sides, the door may be open for you to pitch ideas to journalists rather than waiting for stories to come to you through HARO.
My advice is act like a normal person. Do not hound journalists. Be real. Add value. Ask yourself "what's in it for them?"
Here is what Jake Johnson, Head of Content and Creative at Infusionsoft (and HARO reporter), has to say about building relationships:
Props to Ksenia Newton of Crosscap for emailing us this question.
Sometimes you will come up with some good content in your submissions. Good enough to use on your own blog! When should you go ahead and use that material on your own website? (hint: Google hates duplicate content)
The problem is that often reporters will forget to let you know if they used your material (if they do not use your material you most likely will not get an email to let you know).
General rule: give it 4 weeks. Worst case scenario - if they use your submission after you have put it on your won site, then either delete that page from your site, or dramatically renovate it so that it is not duplicate content.
If you google "help a reporter our reviews" and follow those links and read blog post comments you may see a wide range of reviews on HARO.
But Help a Reporter Out is just a platform.
The people that are upset with HARO should not hate the game. Not everyone is going to win.
There are a lot of people in the HARO game now, so it is competitive. Everyone wants media mentions and links to their website.
We can speak from experience that it has been a positive experience (and a lot of hard work). We continue to get free referral website traffic and our rankings continue to improve, thanks to the backlinks we have created for our site.
Well, you managed to get through over 5,000 words on this topic!
Hopefully you are ready to sign up and start getting media mentions and links.
Good luck with HARO!