Getting Media Attention Using HARO

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In this article, I will cover 1) an introduction to HARO, 2) the importance of media attention, and 3) getting media attention using HARO.


What is HARO?

As you would know, HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out. It is a publicity service that was founded in 2008 to help journalists, writers and bloggers put questions to and receive information from a large audience in a short period of time in order to add more perspectives to news.

HARO helps its users to target the right audiences, get opinions, and generate publicity. It is a free social media tool that has, over the years, provided media mentions and has become an indispensable tool for both reporters and sources alike. On a daily basis, HARO connects over 45,000 reporters and 475,000 news sources.

Short history of HARO

Help A Reporter Out was started by public relations expert, Peter Shankman in 2008. Initially started as a Facebook group to connect sources with reporters, HARO quickly grew into a serious business and soon it had reached its user limit on the social networking site. So, Shankman shifted the platform out from Facebook and created the present platform of HARO – an email list.

The immense initial popularity of HARO brought it into the public eye. HARO was acquired by Vocus in 2010, and it remained under it until 2014, when Vocus itself was bought by a Chicago-based private equity company called GTCR. With a current turnover of more than $1 million per year and at least 100,000 members in the network, HARO’s idea of free and accessible press has by now very much become a reality.

Over the years, HARO has helped both reporters looking for a story or people to interview and small startups and enterprises that are looking for free press. HARO is especially useful for people looking for material in the fields of business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, technology, lifestyle and fitness, sports, travel, and government.


Why it is important to be in the spotlight

Of course, you understand the importance of being in the spotlight, most so when you are a startup or a small business owner. Any good publicity is always very desirable for your business prospects. Let’s discuss some of the main objectives of publicity.

  • Spread your message to as wide an audience as possible: When you start your own business, you have tons of information that you need to get across to your audience. The various forms of media like radio, television, Newspapers and, of course, the internet, and social media can help you a great deal in getting your message to as wide an audience as possible.
  • Target the right audience: What’s even more important than targeting a large audience is targeting the right kind of audience. By correctly picking your medium of publicity, you can make sure that your message is reaching the right audience. For example, if you deal in real estate, it would be worthwhile to get featured in a newspaper or a tabloid that focuses on real estate. Focussing on the right audience creates engagement. Remember, it’s not enough to just get coverage. With proper engagement, your product or service begets the right kind of conversation in the circles of influence. This conversation is vital for the media image of your business.
  • Get free (and positive) publicity for your company: If you have a small business, chances are high that your advertising budget is tight. In such circumstances, news media coverage is a big advantage. Since news coverage is free, proper exposure to such media channels will not only help your event or news get free media hype but will also boost your business. In order to receive exposure to news media, you will need to form genial relations with the media and be prepared to meet correspondents and give interviews.
  • Establish legitimacy and enhance reputation of your company: When you get covered in the media, you are also gaining credibility by way of familiarity with the thousands of consumers who learn about you. When people read about your business as a news article rather than as a paid advertisement, they subconsciously place a lot more weight into what they read. To the human mind, something that has made it to the news is always important and legitimate.
  • Create and change public opinions: The media is omnipotent as far as creating and changing public opinions about topics is concerned. Positive media attention guarantees you a favourable public opinion regarding your business. In the same way, a lot of damage can be caused by negative publicity in the media. So, the best thing to do is to try and convince news media to portray you positively and at the same time, be prepared for any media crisis that is likely to hit your business.

How to get into the spotlight

Build relationships in advance. Building relationships is an all-embracing and time-consuming task. To build an amicable rapport with the media, you will need to make preparations in advance. A clever step is to make your presence felt in social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You will need to keep track of popular hashtags in your sphere of operation, connect with reporters, not only via social media sites, but also personally, and compliment them on any of their articles that you liked. You can go further and create blog posts about such articles and provide backlinks to them in your post. You would do well to look out for reporters that have a national readership, while also keeping an eye out for smaller publications that have more targeted readerships. Sending these smaller publications your press releases should guarantee publication. Also, primitive as it may sound, the radio is still a wonderful medium of mass communication; so it would definitely be worthwhile to communicate and form a rapport with radio hosts.

Make a smooth sales pitch. Remember, when you are corresponding with a reporter, you are selling communication to him. You need to treat him like a client – always be affirmative about giving out interviews, whether in person or on the phone, and offer suggestions and follow-ups whenever possible. Also, it would be great if you are able to offer the reporter an even deal by introducing them to experts in your know that they might like to meet. Whenever possible, share with them content on topics within your domain of expertise, along with photographs.

Do your homework before you run to the media. When you have a story to share with the media, make sure to prepare in advance a short description of the story. Include all associated people in the story. Also, make sure that you are empathetic about the reporter’s perspective of your story and take steps to ensure that it comes across as interesting to him. It is always a great idea to host events, however small, and invite reporters to take part and avail the opportunity of collecting news and photographs. You can even shoot videos and post them on easily-accessible sites like YouTube and share links with media.

Bait media correspondents. Let’s face it, most reporters are attracted to sensationalism and hype. You can take advantage of that by hosting conspicuous events like contests, fundraising drives, anniversaries, new/unique product launches, and the like. If possible, frame your event to be in tune with a local or national issue. For example, if one of the current national issues under debate is internet security and you are selling internet security software, make it a point to make your sales pitch based on the issue. Apart from hosting events, you can use other forms of media-baiting as well, such as publishing and distributing free e-books and circulating interesting facts and trivia based on your business.


Setting up HARO

The first thing to setting up HARO is signing up – it’s completely free. Signing up will immediately provide you with access to numerous emails, based on your area of interest. The second step is to scan your emails daily to look out for any opportunities coming your way. When you come across an email that matches your interest or level of expertise, you can send in an email back with your comments. Responding appropriately to emails can get you an audience with a reporter who is looking to interview someone like you.

Why HARO is your best friend for effective PR

  • HARO helps you establish and position yourself as an expert: You can be the best in your business. But without publicity, what good is your expertise? HARO brings to you email requests that pertain to your field of expertise and lets you respond to them, thus building your credibility. Being seen as an expert in a field sets you apart from the crowd. Also, if you are a small business owner offering a unique product or service, HARO helps you publicize as well. What is most important is that HARO gets you quoted as a source, and the more you get quoted, the more are your chances of being used as a source by people.
  • HARO helps you get backlinks: There are more advantages to being quoted as a source. Since HARO is widely used by bloggers and other social media users, chances are that when you are quoted as a source, these bloggers, and social media users will create backlinks to your website. Getting backlinked will boost your website’s chances of being pulled up in search engine searches, thus maximizing the number of visitors to your website.
  • HARO brings in the best contacts: HARO connects you to some of the best bloggers and journalists around the world. When you are used as a source, you can make the most of that opportunity by providing interesting and helpful insights. Being a helpful source will increase your chances of making great contacts that will turn to you recurrently for more insights.
  • HARO is spam-free: HARO is a 100% spam-free. HARO hides the email addresses of reporters, and so it becomes impossible for spammers to get access to those. This has increased people’s confidence in HARO and has led to increased participation. However, there is a possibility that HARO emails themselves may be incorrectly routed to the spam folder by your email client. This can be averted by pushing HARO emails off the spam folder and into the inbox.
  • HARO allows a high level of personalization and relevancy: HARO allows you to select what emails you receive without having to browse through emails that are irrelevant to you. HARO emails are highly industry-specific and only contain inquiries pertaining to your field of expertise.
  • Tracking results is simple with HARO: Since HARO uses a web-based protocol, it significantly reduces email volume, thus making it far simpler to track results. HARO keeps track of your entire activities, so it is possible for you to see at a glance all the reporters you have contacted thus far. If you are a journalist, HARO can be immensely simple to use because it allows you to store your favourite sources on the site. HARO also helps you in your learning curve by providing you feedback on your pitches and correcting you when you send a wrong pitch to a reporter. With this kind of personalization tools and ease of account management, HARO makes sure that you will be using it effortlessly.

How to effectively use HARO for media coverage mileage

  1. Getting organized: Certain subtle methods of organization go a long way in getting you your much-deserved media attention via HARO. A great tip is to organize all important mails separately along with their corresponding email addresses, preferably in a document on your local hard drive. By doing this, you won’t have to browse through the HARO emails time and again to search for a query. Also, when you are selected as a source for a story, it is probable that you would be asked for high-resolution photographs and write-ups pertaining to that story. Your best bet is to keep those ready whenever feasible.
  2. Finding leads: Signing up to your HARO account will ensure that you receive three emails daily. These emails are known as “master emails” and they contain PR leads, categorized by specific areas of interest, like travel, business, lifestyle technology, etc. This kind of filtering is good enough to provide you all the opportunities you will need to get a media mention.
  3. Selecting the right opportunity: While browsing through emails in HARO trying to sort out the relevant ones, it is very important to scan and identify any leads that might look opportune enough. Scanning the index should suffice in locating all the good leads. Also, it is a best practice to delete any email that was unread in the last 12 hours.
  4. Researching media outlet: It is important that you run a research into the media outlet in hand to check if it actually serves your interests and is worthwhile to be associated with. Always check to see if the media outlet is a mainstream publication, whether it has a good readership and above all, whether it is really credible. If you feel that it doesn’t represent you well, it is best to reject it and move on. For example, you might specialize in Victorian furniture and antiques, but the query is for Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture. In that case, it is best to move on.
  5. Responding to queries:
    • You need not respond to every mail: Even though HARO emails provide high levels of personalization and relevance, there may be many emails you would be getting that you do not need to respond to. When you do come across an email that you would need to respond to, respond and forget about it. If you get a reply back from the reporter, consider that a bonus. There will be many relevant emails soliciting a response from you, but responding is entirely your prerogative. Ideally, one would commit to responding to the best leads.
    • Prioritize a query that applies to you: Whenever you find a query that applies to you, you will need to respond immediately. The deadlines for a response are pretty tight in HARO and people always attempt to be the earliest respondents. It would be especially wise to own a smartphone that has email, because that will enable you to respond to your emails regardless of where you are. Remember that it is enough to draft your response concisely and wait for the reporter’s mail in case he needs further information. If possible leave your phone number along with your response.
  6. Getting media placements through HARO: It is worthwhile to use a template to solicit media placements on HARO by drafting a pitch-perfect response to a query. The draft should primarily contain information about you and explain why you are perfect for the job. Make sure to follow the requirements of the query precisely. Also, never forget to highlight all your strengths. A good way to end a response is to include a call-to-action for the reporter – it could be a query from your side, or an offer to provide more information. However, it is of utmost importance while soliciting a media placement that you DO NOT follow up. Reporters are very busy people, and if they didn’t respond to you, it might be because they did not think you were fit for the story. Just move on; you will get many more such opportunities in the future. You just need to keep your eyes open! Last, but not the least, you would do well to set up a Google Alert for your name, so that whenever there is a mention of you in a reporter’s story, you will automatically get a heads up via a mail to your inbox.
  7. Sharing your success: It is important not only to get a media placement via HARO, but also to celebrate and share your success. Remember, many factors contributed to that media placement, but the most important is the reporter that got you placed. Thank him elaborately, in person or via a note. Also share the post on your blog, and through emails and social media connections.

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