If you work in public relations or a related field, HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a free service that can yield a substantial return for a minimal time investment-if you play by the rules, that is. One slip-up could get not just you but your entire company booted from HARO.
Keep these ten tips in mind in order to get the most out of HARO.
10. Read Every Email
You’ll get three emails full of queries every single day. Read every single one. It takes all of about 30 seconds to skim the query headlines in each email. If a headline strikes you as promising, you’ll spend a further 60-90 seconds reading the full query and determining whether or not to respond.
9. Memorize the Rules
Without clicking away from this page, recite the “Five Rules of HARO.” Don’t respond to a query until you can do so. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t be sure you’re following them. Breaking a rule could lead to a ban for yourself and your firm.
8. Look for Long Tail Value
If you can help a reporter out by responding to a query, do so, even if there’s no immediate opportunity to get exposure for your product or a paying client. This is a good idea for two reasons: First, the more often your name shows up in reputable publications, the better you’ll look. Second, an existing and friendly relationship with a reporter means you’ll have a better chance of being sourced for future stories by the same reporter.
7. Share the Love
Don’t post queries in any public space (see Tip #9), but do send them to personal friends with relevant expertise. It’s good karma and it’ll help HARO grow, which means more journalists on HARO and more queries for you.
6. Don’t Delay
If you see a query that you want to respond to, reply immediately. When I sent a HARO query seeking sources for a post on a blog about pet care, I got hundreds of responses within a few hours. The first, best sources are most likely to be used.
5. No Canned Jargon
If you don’t have time to compose a brief and personal email to a reporter, you probably don’t have time to be interviewed for a story. Stale press releases won’t get you noticed. A brief, polite, on-topic and tantalizing email will.
4. Use As Directed
Many HARO queries include specific instructions for responses. Replies that don’t follow directions will be discarded and may not even reach the intended recipient at all. Check to make sure you’ve followed the reporter’s instructions before sending a pitch.
3. Never, Ever, Ever Pitch Off-Topic
Don’t pitch off-topic. Don’t pitch kinda-sorta-on-topic, either. If you aren’t sure whether or not your pitch is relevant, forward the query to a knowledgeable friend for a second opinion.
2. Be Unique and Personal
A personal touch and unique hook are especially important when you need to stand out among hundreds of potential sources. Because of one unique personal detail included in a response to a HARO query, I was featured prominently in a magazine and had a well-known photographer sent to do a photo shoot with me.
1. Network, Network, Network!
When a HARO reporter quotes you, don’t be afraid to politely ask, “Can I connect with you on Twitter, LinkedIn or another social networking site?” If the reporter agrees, keep in touch and use that connection responsibly-never send unsolicited pitches! Do make an open-ended offer to help with future stories.
This article, written by Jelena Woehr, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.