The Ultimate Guide to HARO
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a popular online service that enables expert sources to connect with journalists and bloggers. It provides them with a powerful database of sources for their upcoming stories that will help them secure valuable media coverage.
There are amazing, reputable journalists who use HARO from the likes of Forbes, Washington Post, New York Times and many other big media outlets. It has over one million sources and over 75,000 journalists and bloggers within its database, so if you are a business who wants to share their expert knowledge, there are plenty of opportunities for you to do so.
We have created a guide that will walk you through the process of using HARO to level up and maximise your current digital PR strategy - with quick tips and steps on how to get HARO notifications on Slack.
The pros and cons of HARO
Let’s start with the big one; it’s free! Paid plans do exist but we have had great success in getting great quality backlinks with the free version, so it really isn’t necessary to pay.
There are many great publications with high DRs requesting quotes and expert opinions that can really help with your own site's traffic and visibility.
They allow you to brand your business as an industry expert.
The journalist will generally link back to your website which will boost your site's domain authority and visibility online.
They allow you to build relationships with journalists in industry specific publications that are relevant to you.
Going through every single media query can be really time consuming.
You have to be quick at responding to the query as journalists/bloggers have tight deadlines. Once the deadline has elapsed you are unable to send your email.
If you are UK based, these requests are sent EST so if the perfect query comes in the evening you will have to be quick the next morning to respond.
The success rate can differ depending on how many HARO requests you respond to; you can send 10 emails but only get one reply back.
You may have to wait a few months before you even get a response or link back to your site.
How to get started
The first step is to sign up! You can either sign up as a reporter, a source or even both.
You are able to pay for various memberships within the platform but we suggest choosing the “Basic Free” level.
Once you have selected the membership level, all you need to do is enter your details in the form shown below:
You then personalise your profile to ensure that you will get specific industry requests straight to your inbox.
Once you have completed all these steps you will start receiving HARO emails. You will receive three emails every day; Monday - Friday. If you are from the UK, we must alert you that these emails are sent out EST:
These times are the same every single day, so be sure to set up a folder in your emails that these HARO requests can go straight into, to allow you to monitor them regularly. Email subjects will look like this:
When you open the email you will be able to see something like this:
If you are subscribed to the Master List (which we would recommend) you will get over 70 queries per email so you will need to ensure you monitor all three emails daily.
How to pitch to the journalist once you’ve found the perfect request
Once you have filtered through your HARO email and found the right one for your business, it's now time to pitch. Writing the perfect pitch to a journalist can be tough. Not only does it have to include everything the journalist has requested, but it also should be relevant to them so that it really stands out. Journalists are getting pitches left, right and centre so you need to ensure you are clear, concise and include the right content.
We have sent out so many HARO pitches, yet only a handful of them have actually landed us a link. We now have a template pitch we always follow, as we know it works. Follow the guidelines within the request. Each HARO query is made up of four key elements; the email, deadline, the query itself and requirements.
Email - Every query has a unique email address so be sure to send your pitch to the right person.
Deadline - The query will also state the time and date the journalist or blogger wants pitches by. In our experience the sooner you reply to the query, the higher the chance of the journalist seeing your email.
Query & Requirements - Journalists are looking for specific quotes and opinions which they will state within their query. They will also include specific requirements, whether that be an image, link and any contact information. Ensure that your content is right for the journalist before pitching, as not only will you be wasting the journalist’s time but also yours.
Below is an example of a pitch we sent to a journalist which was successful. We try to stick to the same format as we know it works and saves us a lot of time. Be clear in the subject line so that the journalist knows you are responding to their HARO request. Also be sure to add every relevant bit of information as possible to increase your chances of success.
Quick tips for pitching:
Make sure each sentence in your pitch is a standalone sentence as this enables the journalist to copy and paste easily. As we have mentioned before; journalists have tight deadlines so they don’t want to be skimming through huge paragraphs of your pitch.
You are able to make life easy for yourself and the journalists by experimenting with bullet points.
Keep paragraphs 2-3 sentences.
While you never want to come across as promoting yourself, it’s okay to mention your authority or relevancy to the pitch in the opening sentence. For example; “After X years as a Digital PR specialist, I have developed a checklist of email link building hacks which you can see below.”
The pitch above was accepted and we earned a link from Uscreen which has an DR of 80.
How to manage your HARO requests
Managing HARO requests can be tricky if you are sending multiple pitches every day. To help with this, we have created a tracker on Google Sheets to keep them all in one place. We ensure we include dates, specific sectors, the publication, deadlines and much more which you can see below. This enables us also to see how successful or unsuccessful we are at pitches and whether we need to change our strategy. If you have a team of digital PRs, this tracker enables everyone to see what pitches have been sent already so they don’t go after the same one.
Quick tips from Contrast
DO - Respond quickly! Journalists have extremely tight deadlines and want quick turnarounds with their articles so be sure to get your pitch over to them ASAP.
DON’T - Send basic responses, journalists want pitches that can provide value to their article - no waffle.
DO - Log every query as not doing so can get overwhelming.
DON’T - Give a sales led response, be sure to research and be sure your pitch is right for them. Journalists will know if you just want them to link your product!
DO - Answer every question the journalist is asking, they don’t want to chase you for missed information.
DON’T - Add large attachments as your responses are sent via the HARO platform. Instead, link your images via WeTransfer or DropBox.
HARO isn’t the only source you should be using as a business, but it should be included within your marketing strategy. It is much easier and effective to use these sorts of sources, rather than cold pitching as with HARO you know exactly what the journalists want.
How to get HARO notifications on Slack
Keeping on top of HARO requests is time consuming, especially when you have lots of other marketing tasks to do. So wouldn’t it be great to be able to switch off to this and just get a notification based on target terms you care about?
Here’s how to send yourself a notification for HARO requests that are relevant to you and your business.
Step 1) We’ll assume you’ve signed up to HARO and you’re receiving the daily emails containing the ~100+ expert opinion opportunities. From here we want to define a list of target terms related to our business.
For example, we run a side project called Eat Sleep Kayak which is all to do with paddle sports like kayaking. So in this case we’d want to be notified about topics like: kayaking, canoeing, river, white water, SUP and rafting.
Step 2) Head over to Gmail and click on the down arrow in the search field which you can see highlighted in red in the image below.
We’re now going to set up a custom filter.
To do this we first need to specify the “from” email so we are only targeting HARO requests. In this case we receive the HARO request emails from: firstname.lastname@example.org so this is the email we want to add into the “from” field.
Secondly we want to add in the related terms/topic we came up with in step one into the “includes the words” field as seen in the image below. To connect multiple topics, use the “OR” search operator. Then to save this click “create filter”.
Step 3) At this point you could just receive these emails around your target terms, but we can take this a step further and get these notifications sent to Slack. To do this we now need to set up an email forward. Simply click the “add forwarding address” highlighted in red in the image below.
It will then take you to this next screen where you want to click “Add a forwarding address”. A pop up box will appear where you can now add in the email address we’ll get from Slack.
Step 4) We need to get the forwarding address from Slack. To find this, go to the Slack channel you want these emails to be forwarded to. In our case we have a channel called “Link building” and we’ve clicked onto the channel details (the small “i” highlighted in red). Next click “More” and “Send emails to channel” like below.
A pop up will then appear with the new forwarding email address.
Step 5) We need to authenticate and set up the forwarding address in Gmail we left in step three. To do this we need to paste the forwarding email address we just got from Slack into the Gmail field as seen below and click the “Next” button.
It will then ask you to confirm you want to do this by asking you to click the “Proceed” button. Next it will want to authenticate this action by sending Slack an email to the channel you are wanting to get the HARO requests sent to.
In that email there’ll be a verification code you’ll want to add into the field as seen below and click the “Verify” button.
Step 6) The final step is to now go back to the custom filter we set up in step two and confirm the forwarding address from the drop down which we have just created and authenticated in Gmail. Also make sure you have ticked the check box next to “Forward it to” as seen in the screenshot below, and then finally click the “Create Filter” button.
And it’s as simple as that! You'll now get these relevant HARO opportunities emails forwarded to you in your Slack account as they become available.