With the right techniques, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help build links and brand awareness for public relations efforts, regardless of your industry.
The HARO platform, owned by PR/communications giant Cision, connects journalists seeking information with relevant sources willing to provide that information.
Journalists come from a variety of platforms, from the New York Times to Forbes to niche bloggers.
HARO stories can cover anything from real-time news to blogs seeking quotes on specific topics like SEO.
HARO is a great tool because it benefits both parties; journalists get their source and speakers get a link.
Unfortunately, the HARO system has become overloaded over the years, which means that it is much more difficult to receive a response for a response to a request than before.
But when used correctly, HARO offers a valuable system for acquiring links and building valuable business relationships, even as the competition has intensified.
I know this platform from both sides, as a link building/branding tool for clients and personal businesses – and as a journalist looking for information on articles I’ve worked on for several sectors.
This article provides unique insights 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 setting up a filter in Gmail for all incoming HARO emails, setting them to Read, and directing them to a specific label.
You can also try setting up a more detailed filter in Google Mail by filtering out all emails with address [email protected] and all relevant keywords, automatically sending them to a labeled inbox.
Both strategies will keep you from being overwhelmed with daily emails, which helps keep productivity high, and the latter will help you filter emails by specific keywords.
Additionally, HARO offers the option to upgrade to a paid plan where it will only email you queries that match specific keywords you wish to answer.
As a general rule, you should only respond to queries that meet the following criteria:
- You are qualified to answer them.
- They are pertinent to your industry.
- You have read the guidelines carefully.
- You are able to add unique value for them.
You will increase your chances of being published by answering the right questions.
Now let’s talk about creating the perfect pitch.
How to create the perfect HARO pitch
Start with the right subject line
First, to receive a response to your HARO response, you must create an appropriate subject line that will not be overwritten.
Keep it simple by using parentheses to stand out among other subject lines and to establish immediate credibility:
[HARO Response] Job Title/Expertise + Powerful Adjective + Repeat Subject of Query
For example, let’s say I was responding to a query looking for a quote on productivity tips for entrepreneurs. I would write an answer line like this: “[HARO Repsonse] CEO/Author Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs.
You can also experiment with subject lines to help you get noticed, like “Time management tips you won’t get from someone else”.
Keep testing to see who generally has the highest conversion.
Lead with expertise and references
Then start your answer with some background information.
Responses should open with a one- to two-sentence paragraph bragging about your credentials to help you get chosen. Journalists love authoritative sources, so don’t be afraid to brag, but don’t spam or sell.
Follow these guidelines to help you create the perfect intro:
- List your name and current position.
- Cite any publication you were featured in.
- Link to all companies or the websites you manage.
- Mention all credentials that help you stand out.
For example, your answer might start like this:
I hope everything is okay.
This is Ron Lieback, author of ‘365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide’ and CEO/Founder of ContentMender. My articles have been featured in several leading publications around the world, from Forbes to Search Engine Journal to Cycle World…”
After your introduction, you will present a response that should satisfy the requirements of the query.
Know how to format your answer
The key to creating a perfect response is giving reporters exactly what they want. These requirements include:
- A short answer (1 paragraph, 2-3 sentences).
- A good quote (usable information).
- Correct grammar (spelling correction and respect for punctuation).
- concise writing (no lint, or BS, ever).
- Easy to scan answer [spaced nicely, easy to follow, incorporates bullets (optional)].
Cut down on the formatting, then you can create the perfect template to use for your presentations and streamline your responses.
Throw a single angle
Adding value is key to getting your quote or response included in a story.
However, you don’t do much to stand out by adding mundane or recycled information.
Here are some arguments you can try to get your response included in a reporter’s story:
- Cite personal anecdotes that relate to your business or job title.
- Citing original research you or your business are done.
- Add controversial point which goes against the grain.
You could take a dozen angles, but ultimately delivering an original response makes you stand out from the crowd.
Also, if the reporter’s name is on the HARO request, research it and add some personal notes.
It shows that you have put effort into the response, which will stand out from the noise.
Read and follow the presentation rules carefully
It goes without saying, but be sure to respond directly to the terms and conditions of the query.
Often when people use patterns or try to outwit the system, they end up hurting themselves.
And if a name or publication is on the HARO application, please use them. Again, the more personal it feels, the more appealing it will be.
Read the HARO requirements
This last point is key because many people jump on these points and end up ruining their answers by breaking one of HARO’s rules.
Consider the following when responding to a HARO request:
- No consideration (link exchange or payment for a link).
- No product pitch.
- Link all images (HARO’s system cannot render images).
- No attachments (HARO will mark your reply as spam).
Although HARO is an effective system for link buildingI have some additional tips to help you unlock greater benefits using this style of PR link building.
5 tips for using HARO more effectively
1. Respond to emails quickly
According HAROthe HARO infrastructure reaches approximately 75,000 journalists and more than one million sources.
With this competition from other link builders and contractors, you need to answer questions quickly and efficiently.
Although creating a template can help with formatting, I recommend that you simply create a template for your introduction and then practice quick responses for HARO queries.
Responding to same-day requests can dramatically increase your chances of being mentioned in an online post.
2. Choose quality over quantity
HARO sends out three emails a day with seemingly endless requests. Trying to respond to hundreds of queries as quickly as possible will ensure that you don’t receive a single response.
Instead, focus on a few a day, taking the time needed to reflect and add a valuable response.
It may seem like an inefficient use of your time, but I guarantee you will achieve a higher conversion rate using this strategy.
3. Establish a relationship with journalists
The best link building strategies are those that build successful relationships for your business or brand.
Just because you got featured in an article doesn’t mean you have to end the relationship there.
Consider the following strategies for becoming a repeat source in blogger or journalist posts:
- Share and promote published contentby directly tagging the journalist.
- Send follow-up email relay your interest in future articles if sources are needed.
- Ask to speak with the journalist or blog directly using their personal email.
I even used HARO to score new customers and build relationships that led to future business opportunities by staying in touch with journalists and bloggers.
4. Keep track of contacts
Streamline your HARO link building strategy by gathering contact information for all the sources you get links from to contact at a later date.
Create a spreadsheet and keep track of stories and contact details related to your HARO reporter list.
You can also cross-reference your sheet with your link building software to see which backlinks are generating the most traffic and which sources are useful to reuse in the future.
5. Contacting people outside HARO
Finally, if you want to improve your conversion rate using PR link building, consider reaching out to journalists outside of HARO.
Many journalists are bombarded with responses in the HARO system, so it’s easy to stand out by emailing journalists directly.
Use a site operator search on the website of the company they are writing for to find out their email address. This strategy isn’t 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.
Although conversion rates are generally low, these backlinks are often a valuable source of traffic and link equity to websites, helping them grow their business in the long run.
Use HARO and other strategies to promote your brand and take your business to the next level.
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