OK, let's just say that you are in marketing, and you are being asked to work miracles with your marketing efforts. (Probably not a stretch, we're guessing.)
You are already doing the hard, hard, hard work of creating content. You take care of social media every day. Heck, you're probably even managing an intern or two.
Then, the boss comes and tells you that PR is now a part of your job description, too. "Awesome!" you tell your boss, but inside your stomach is turning into a pretzel because you know you don't have the time to do it all.
Well, we've got a tool for you to make you look like a PR god, and it won't eat up your whole day.
The tool is called HARO, an acronym for Help A Reporter Out. HARO provides a great opportunity to connect with press you may not normally have access to.
Imagine the PR boost for your business if it were mentioned in The New York Times or ABC News. The problem is, how do you get a Times reporter interested in your business? The answer: help that reporter by providing him or her with expertise that reporter is looking for right at that moment. This is what HARO does, and has done well for years now.
How Does HARO Work?
HARO is, at its core, an e-mail newsletter published three times per day.
News outlets or blogs that are ranked by Alexa as being in the top 1 million websites in the world can get qualified to ask questions. Once they are qualified, they can go post a query. They are almost all legit and can help people get on TV shows or appear in major newspapers and magazines.
These requests for expert information are then analyzed by the HARO staff and are included in the e-mail newsletter, typically within a day or so of when the request goes in.
As a free subscriber, you receive three different e-mails per day. When you find a request for information in which you specialize, you reply to the reporter via a HARO link.
Typically there are some instructions in the query. The reporter may be looking for sources in the hometown of the paper; writing from a different city just annoys the reporter and will turn them off to working with you in the future, so just don't do it.
Keep in mind that a reporter may get dozens of replies, if not more. As such, you must make your response compelling enough to warrant a request for additional information from the reporter. We have some tips for that below. But first, how legitimate is HARO—and more importantly, does it work?
Does HARO really work?
HARO is completely bona fide, and the results are well worth the efforts on your part. But as with everything else, patience and consistency are required. At BlogMutt, we read every single HARO e-mail and send in a response once or twice per week (depending on the requests).
For instance, in August of this year, we submitted a response to a request from the Associated Press. After some back and forth exchange of information, we were thrilled to be mentioned in an article about small business owners. The article was published by the AP, and picked up around the world.
Clearly, being mentioned in an Associated Press article provided us with great exposure, brand awareness, and an increased level of legitimacy. Yet, as great as we felt about our success, there was also a down side: AP used no links within the story. We can only imagine what a link within the story would have meant, not only for our traffic, but to our organic search results as well. This was an AP story, so it appeared in literally hundreds of newspapers and websites around the world, but we got no "linkjuice" out of it because the story didn't have a link. Oh well.
Other publishers are happy to provide links. Thanks to HARO, BlogMutt has also gotten links from TechCocktail, Inc.com and a bunch of others. This not only helps you with inbound link growth, it also aids you in reaching new audiences.
An Approach to HARO Success
Part of the level of success BlogMutt has had getting published revolves around these tips:
- Read every e-mail sent by HARO (if possible). Some e-mails contain nothing of interest while others may have two or three interesting topics.
- Keep it Relevant. If it doesn't match up well with your business, it's probably best to skip it. That request from the AP was for CEOs who were skipping summer vacations. Although it was tempting, we didn’t reply with “BlogMutt makes it possible for you to take a vacation.” Instead we replied with real stories of working during time that was supposedly “off.”
- Answer the question. If a reporter is doing a story about apples, we really try not to reply with oranges. Sometimes it feels like we're just doing a favor for the reporter because it won't help our message at all. That's OK, because doing favors for reporters is a good thing in the big picture.
- Have the CEO (or decision-maker) send the final version of all responses. Having a CEO respond to a reporter is much more effective than having a marketing person respond. (Sorry, no disrespect to my fellow marketers. Think of this as a chance to make your boss look good! How do you think you'll look if you get your boss quoted in in a key story?)
- Keep track of what you've replied and to whom. This will help you avoid sending too many replies to the same publisher.
- Tread carefully around anonymous publishers. True, some may turn out to be Inc.com but it could just as easily be a competitor looking for information.
- Avoid replying to the usual suspects. There's just something fishy about a reporter who needs help every single week on similar topics. That's why it helps to read HARO every week, and stick with it. You'll get a sense of the ones that are just fishing.
Signing up as a subscriber is free and easy. The form is found on the HARO home page. If you're a publisher looking for experts, signing up is a tad more involved, and you need to follow a specific set of rules, but the reason so many reporters use HARO is that it consistently gets them the sources they need to research the story they are working on.
HARO is a unique, free tool which really works as envisioned and does indeed connect reporters with small business experts.
If getting the links and PR boost that goes along with getting your business mentioned in a big publication is something you only dream about, HARO may be able to make that dream come true. As we’ve mentioned in our tips, it does require consistency, perseverance and a compelling reply—but given enough attempts, that dream can become a reality.
BlogMutt Co-founder Scott Yates had help writing this post from one of the 3,500 BlogMutt writers, just as he gets help writing his own content writing services blog. If you need help getting your blogging DONE, then check it out.