With the right techniques, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help you build links and brand awareness for PR efforts, regardless of your industry.
The HARO platform, which PR/Communications giant Cision owns, connects information-seeking journalists with relevant sources willing to provide that information.
The journalists come from various platforms, from The New York Times to Forbes to niche-based bloggers.
HARO stories can tackle anything from real-time news stories to blogs looking for quotes about specific topics like SEO.
HARO is a great tool because it benefits both parties; reporters get their source, and responders get a link.
Unfortunately, the HARO system has become oversaturated over the years, which means receiving a reply for an answer to an inquiry is much more difficult than it once was.
But when used correctly, HARO offers a valuable system for acquiring links and building valuable business relationships, even if the competition has increased.
I know this platform from both sides, as a link/brand-building tool for clients and personal businesses – and as a journalist seeking info for articles I have worked on for multiple sectors.
This article provides some unique insight from both sides of the platform.
The following tips can help you achieve successful link building and brand awareness results with HARO.
How To Filter HARO Results
If you subscribe to HARO’s master list, you will be bombarded with hundreds of queries daily, which can be difficult to sift through.
At the very least, I recommend that you set up a filter in Gmail for all upcoming HARO emails, set them to Read, and direct them to a specific label.
You could also try setting up a more detailed filter in Google Mail by filtering any emails with the email@example.com address and any relevant keywords, automatically sending them to a labeled inbox.
Both strategies will ensure you’re not overwhelmed by daily emails, which helps keep productivity high, and the latter will help you filter emails by specific keywords.
In addition, HARO offers the option to upgrade to a paid plan where it will only email you queries that match specific keywords you want to respond to.
Generally, you should only reply to queries that meet the following criteria:
- You are qualified to respond to them.
- They’re relevant to your industry.
- You’ve read the guidelines carefully.
- You’re able to add unique value to them.
You’ll increase your chances of getting published by responding to the correct queries.
Now, let’s talk about creating the perfect pitch.
How To Craft The Perfect HARO Pitch
Begin With The Right Subject Line
First, to receive a reply to your HARO response, you need to create an appropriate subject line that won’t be thrashed.
Keep things simple by using brackets to stick out among the other subject lines and to establish immediate credibility:
[HARO Response] My Job Title/Expertise + Powerful Adjective + Repeat Query Subject
For example, let’s say I was responding to a query looking for a quote on productivity tips for entrepreneurs. I would write a response line as follows: “[HARO Repsonse] CEO/Author’s Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs.”
You could also experiment with subject lines to help you get noticed, such as “Time Management Tips You Won’t Get from Anyone Else.”
Continue to test to see which typically has the highest conversion.
Lead With Expertise And Credentials
Next, begin your reply with some background information.
Replies should open with a one-to-two-sentence paragraph bragging about your credentials to help you get chosen. Reporters love authoritative sources, so don’t be afraid to brag – just don’t be spammy or sales-y.
Follow these guidelines to help craft the perfect introduction:
- List your name and current job title.
- Cite any publications you’ve been featured in.
- Link to any businesses or websites you run.
- Mention any credentials that help you stand out.
For example, your reply could begin as follows:
“Hello (Query Author),
Hope all is well.
Ron Lieback here, author of ‘365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide’ and CEO/Founder of ContentMender. My articles have been featured in several top publications globally, from Forbes to Search Engine Journal to Cycle World…”
After your introduction, you’ll pitch a response that should satisfy the requirements of the query.
Know How To Format Your Reply
The key to creating a perfect response is giving journalists exactly what they want. These requirements include:
- A short reply (1 paragraph, 2-3 sentences).
- A good quote (actionable information).
- Proper grammar (spell-checked and using proper punctuation).
- Concise writing (no fluff, or BS, ever).
- Easy to scan reply [spaced nicely, easy to follow, incorporates bullets (optional)].
Get the formatting down, and then you can create the perfect template to use for your pitches and streamline your responses.
Pitch A Unique Angle
Adding value is the key to getting your quote or reply included in a story.
However, you’re not doing much to help yourself stand out by adding mundane or recycled information.
Here are a few pitches you can try to get your response included in a reporter’s story:
- Cite personal anecdotes that relate to your business or job title.
- Cite original research you or your business has completed.
- Add a controversial point that goes against the grain.
You could take a dozen angles, but ultimately, providing an original response helps ensure you stand out from the crowd.
Also, if the journalist’s name is listed on the HARO request, research them and add some personal notes.
That shows you’ve put effort into the reply, which will stick out among the noise.
Read And Follow Pitch Rules Carefully
This goes without saying, but be sure to respond directly to the terms and conditions of the query.
Often, when people use templates or try and game the system, they end up hurting themselves.
And if a name or publication is listed on the HARO request, please use them. Again, the more personal it sounds, the more appealing it’ll be.
Read HARO Requirements
This final point is essential because many people skip over these points and end up ruining their replies by violating one of HARO’s rules.
Keep the following in mind when replying to a HARO inquiry:
- No quid pro quos (link swaps or payment for a link).
- No pitching products.
- Link all images (HARO’s system can’t render images).
- No attachments (HARO will mark your reply as spam).
While HARO is an effective system for link building, I have a few more tips to help you unlock greater benefits using this style of PR link building.
5 Tips To Use HARO More Effectively
1. Answer Emails Quickly
According to HARO, the HARO infrastructure reaches about 75,000 journalists and over 1 million sources.
With this amount of competition from fellow link builders and entrepreneurs, you need to answer queries quickly and effectively.
While creating a template can help with formatting, I recommend just building a template for your introduction and then practicing fast responses for HARO queries.
Responding to requests on the same day can greatly increase your odds of being mentioned in an online publication.
2. Choose Quality Over Quantity
HARO sends out three emails a day with seemingly endless queries. Trying to respond as fast as possible to hundreds of queries will ensure you don’t receive a single response.
Instead, focus on a few a day, taking the necessary time to think and add a valuable response.
It may feel like an inefficient use of your time, but I guarantee you’ll hit a higher conversion rate using this strategy.
3. Build A Relationship With Journalists
The best link building strategies are the ones that build fruitful relationships for your business or brand.
Just because you got published in one article doesn’t mean you must end the relationship there.
Consider the following strategies to become a repeated source in a blogger or journalist’s articles:
- Share and promote published content, tagging the journalist directly.
- Send a follow-up email relaying your interest in future articles if sources are needed.
- Request to talk with the reporter or blogger directly using their personal email.
I’ve even used HARO to score new clients and form relationships that led to future business opportunities by keeping in touch with journalists and bloggers.
4. Keep Track Of Contacts
Streamline your HARO link building strategy by gathering contact information for all sources you get links from to contact at a future date.
Create a spreadsheet and keep track of the stories and contact info related to your HARO reporter list.
You can also cross-reference your sheet with your link building software to see which backlinks are driving the most traffic and which sources are valuable to use again in the future.
5. Contact People Outside of HARO
Finally, if you want to improve your conversion rate using PR link building, consider contacting reporters outside of HARO.
Many reporters get bombarded with replies in the HARO system, so it’s easy to stand out by emailing reporters directly.
Use a site operator search on the business website they write for to uncover their email address. This strategy is not guaranteed to work, but it can be a way to stand out.
HARO is a valuable link building tool that can be difficult for beginners to master.
While conversion rates are typically low, these backlinks are often a valuable source of traffic and link equity to websites, helping them scale their business in the long run.
Use HARO and other strategies to promote your brand and elevate your business to the next level.
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