How to use HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – Quick Tips

If you're already using HARO, skip to here. If you're new to the service and want to understand the benefits, how to pitch, and learn some tips on best practices, read on.

Building links to a website is a top priority for business owners, content marketers, and website managers in order to improve SEO and drive relevant clicks from Google. It’s no revelation that backlinks and Public Relations (PR) are important for helping grow a website’s organic traffic. But building quality backlinks and doing PR outreach can be expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, there is an increasingly popular and free service called Help A Reporter Out that can help small businesses compete with the big players.

Once the secret weapon of PR professionals, HARO has now become a hunting ground for free PR and links. You can make this free service work for you if you put in the effort.

It’s true that many business owners fail to produce results from HARO and dismiss it as too difficult. But they fail because they approach the service incorrectly. There are proven methods for pitching journalists and positioning yourself or your business as a reliable source of information.

If you follow the simple advice in the following HARO tips, you will make progress.

How does Help A Reporter Out work?

HARO works like this: journalists seeking quotes and input from experts (and non-experts) for articles add requests to the HARO email list. HARO sends daily emails with requests. Subscribers scan the emails for topics in their fields of expertise and pitch the reporters. The expert could get credit with a mention and a backlink if a reporter uses their pitch.

As a business owner, Help A Reporter Out is a great service for getting free press and links to your website.

Reporters get free content, research, and quotes from expert sources in their articles. Sources (bloggers, SaaS companies, and small business owners) get valuable SEO backlinks and industry exposure. It’s a win-win for everyone.

How to save time on HARO emails

As a source, you can spend a lot of time reading through email, so it might be worthwhile outsourcing this task to a Virtual Assistant or using email parsing software (try Pabbly Email Parser or Parseurr). Gmail has a fairly good filter feature as well. 

But having a human read the HARO requests is still the best method. This is because people can spot opportunities in related industries that algorithms may not. I’ll give an example. Many gym owners have expertise in areas other than fitness. They are often business experts as well. They can have startup experience, social media expertise, and digital marketing expertise. In addition to fitness experts, fitness facility managers may employ freelance writers, productivity experts, sports apparel experts, nutrition gurus, and presenters who provide in-person presentations.

The more requests you read, the more opportunities you will find.

How to pitch your answer

A perfect email pitch should be no more than two or three paragraphs long. A journalist doesn’t want to read through an entire blog post’s worth of content unless they specifically ask for more details.

  • Include quotable text snippets. Think like a copywriter! Provide engaging, bite-sized statements that a journalist can copy and paste into their article or project. By making the process easier for the journalist and by providing higher quality content, you will have a higher probability of being featured (and, as a result, get more traffic).
  • Don’t write an article. Use short, snappy sentences. Imagine writing a headline or title for social channels. Use short sentences or short paragraphs.
  • Differentiate your response from what everyone else would write. If the reporter is looking for the best abs exercises, don’t suggest the plank or crunches. Instead, think outside the box. Stand out!
  • Give a brief overview of your qualifications, why you are an expert, and why you are qualified to answer the query. Here’s an example: “I’m a personal trainer with 10 years experience – BA in exercise science – My specialty is [query subject]”
  • You should explain the concept as though you were explaining it to a complete novice or a child. Avoid jargon and assume the journalist and their audience are not at your level of expertise. 
  • Think about why your answer is the best and briefly explain this to the journalist with examples. If you’re talking about personal training, show how your advice helped someone lose weight. If you’re answering a relevant queries on business books, explain how a particular book helped you double your income/revenue. 

Best Practices – How to use HARO effectively

Quick tips on using the service for maximum effect

  • Include anecdotes, stories, facts, or experiences from your own life.  
  • Do not include attachments.
  • If the reporter requests a headshot, add a link to an image on your website. 
  • Keep it on point. If you can’t write a response without going off topic, it’s best not to send anything. 
  • The sooner you respond, the better. 
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Proof read our work. Use US English if the journalist is in the U.S.
  • Add your name, full title, and link to your business website – paste the naked URL into the email, e.g.
  • Include social media links only if the journalist requests them. 
  • Briefly detail the website’s readership and social media follower count (if they are worth bragging about). Offer to share the article on social media once it’s published. 
  • If the journalist uses your content, share the article on social media and your newsletter. Share a screenshot, PDF, or link on your website’s media page. Reply to the journalist with a quick thank you note. Try to connect with the journalist and build a relationship. This could lead to the journalist contacting you first for future articles).
  • Follow HARO on Twitter for the latest updates
  • Don't be vague with the subject line. Use a reference from the request.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some HARO alternatives?

ProfNet, MuckRack, and KITI are three popular alternatives. Prowly helps you keep track of all your media contacts, create bios, and easily follow up with journalists and media outlets. The Twitter hashtag #journorequests is also worth following for new opportunities.

Is HARO free?

The basic service is free. For that, you get media opportunities delivered via daily email. If you want to receive pitches before everyone else, have more control over the emails, get text alerts for media coverage, use automatic profile insertions, and have the ability to search requests, you will need a subscription. Sign up here.

What is HARO link building?

HARO link building is a term that has been coined as a result of positive results for businesses that use the service as part of their link-building strategy. By writing replies that journalists accept, you can auto-generate links without paying for them. It's like a mini guest post, but more efficient and is a great SEO strategy to build links for new businesses.

How do I get HARO backlinks?

If your HARO pitch is accepted, you will generally get a link from the published article to your website or channel. You will often be notified but sometimes the only way to find out is to monitor backlinks to your site.

How can I tell if HARO is worth my time?

Basic Help A Reporter Out services are free, so for most businesses, the cost is in time. Most HARO pitches will not generate results. However, the ones that do can be very valuable. Consider the cost of each link in your niche and weigh the benefits against the time spent. Don’t forget the other benefits, like relationship building and idea generation.

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