10 tips for success using Help a Reporter Out

You’ve likely heard of HARO if you’re a PR pro, but do you know how to get the most out of the service? Follow these tips.

If you work in public relations or a related field, HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a free service that can yield a substantial return for a minimal time investment—if you play by the rules, that is. One slip-up could get not just you but your entire company booted from HARO.

Keep these 10 tips in mind in order to get the most out of HARO.

1. Network, network, network!

When a HARO reporter quotes you, don’t be afraid to politely ask, “Can I connect with you on Twitter, LinkedIn, or another social networking site?” If the reporter agrees, keep in touch and use that connection responsibly—never send unsolicited pitches! Do make an open-ended offer to help with future stories.

2. Be unique and personal

A personal touch and unique hook are especially important when you need to stand out among hundreds of potential sources. Because of one unique personal detail included in a response to a HARO query, I was featured prominently in a magazine and had a well-known photographer sent to do a photo shoot with me.

3. Never, ever pitch off-topic

Don’t pitch off-topic. Don’t pitch kinda-sorta-on-topic, either. If you aren’t sure whether or not your pitch is relevant, forward the query to a knowledgeable friend for a second opinion.

4. Use as directed

Many HARO queries include specific instructions for responses. Replies that don’t follow directions will be discarded and may not even reach the intended recipient at all. Check to make sure you’ve followed the reporter’s instructions before sending a pitch.

5. No canned jargon

If you don’t have time to compose a brief and personal e-mail to a reporter, you probably don’t have time to be interviewed for a story. Stale press releases won’t get you noticed. A brief, polite, on-topic, and tantalizing e-mail will.

6. Don’t delay

If you see a query that you want to respond to, reply immediately. When I sent a HARO query seeking sources for a post on a blog about pet care, I got hundreds of responses within a few hours. The first, best sources are most likely to be used.

7. Share the love

Don’t post queries in any public space (see Tip #9), but do send them to personal friends with relevant expertise. It’s good karma and it’ll help HARO grow, which means more journalists on HARO and more queries for you.

8. Look for long tail value

If you can help a reporter out by responding to a query, do so, even if there’s no immediate opportunity to get exposure for your product or a paying client. This is a good idea for two reasons: First, the more often your name shows up in reputable publications, the better you’ll look. Second, an existing and friendly relationship with a reporter means you’ll have a better chance of being sourced for future stories by the same reporter.

9. Memorize the rules

Without clicking away from this page, recite the “Five Rules of HARO.” Are these “Five Rules” going to be included on the page? Or are they part of the 10 tips? Don’t respond to a query until you can do so. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t be sure you’re following them. Breaking a rule could lead to a ban for yourself and your firm.

10. Read every e-mail

You’ll get three e-mails full of queries every day. Read every one. It takes all of about 30 seconds to skim the query headlines in each e-mail. If a headline strikes you as promising, you’ll spend a further 60-90 seconds reading the full query and determining whether or not to respond.

Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel.

Topics: PR

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