HARO has become an integral part of outreach programmes. It’s one of the most popular tools for online marketing and PR. Also, it’s a great way to source legitimate backlinks from authority sites. But a lot of businesses are new to this. They’re not sure ‘what is HARO’.
That’s what we’ll decode today. If you’ve heard the term ‘HARO’ before and were intrigued, we’ll unravel the mystery behind it. Stay with us.
What is HARO?
HARO is an acronym for “Help a Reporter Out”. It’s a free service that connects journalists with sources for news stories. Journalists send out queries (questions) on specific topics they’re researching. Sources can then respond to these queries with information and quotes that may be used in the final story.
Now here’s the fun bit. You’re not always helping the reporter out, even though that’s what it’s named. You can use HARO to get links from high authority websites. We also use it for brand awareness and other marketing goals.
How does HARO work?
HARO is a platform that connects journalists with sources, which in this case can be you. A journalist may be looking for a source on a topic related to their audience interest. Or they may need some information/facts/quotes on a particular subject that they’re covering for a media outlet.
They then send out queries via the HARO platform. HARO will email these queries in 3 daily messages Monday to Friday to their database. Sources, who also use the same platform, can then reply to these queries with relevant information.
For instance, let’s assume that a journalist who works for the BBC wants a subject matter expert on ‘business tax rules’ in the UK. They post a request for anyone who has 10-years of expertise in business taxation. You’re a business accountant and Rockstar Marketing is handling digital marketing for your business. (Lucky You!)
Our PR team will respond to this query and connect you to the journalist as the subject matter expert. You help them with the information they need and in the process, you get a juicy backlink from BBC and every other site that also shares this story.
What is HARO – How much does it cost?
HARO offers a free account. It works great for someone who’s starting off with it. But if you’re a big brand, you can opt for one of their paid subscriptions. The standard plan costs $19/mo, the advanced plan costs $49/mo, while the premium plan comes at $149/mo.
The paid plans let you create profiles that you can insert into your pitches. This saves you time and you don’t have to enter the same information repeatedly. Also, you can search and filter queries by keywords.
Who can use HARO?
As implied by the name, HARO was created primarily for journalists seeking sources for their stories. However, anyone can use the platform to share their knowledge and expertise with the media.
Here are some of the potential uses for HARO.
Brand building – As a business, you can use HARO to get links from high authority websites as well as build brand awareness. You don’t even have to be an expert on the topic at hand. All you need to do is offer your insights and perspectives to the journalist.
SEO – You can also use HARO for link building and improving your site’s SEO. By providing expert quotes and information to journalists, you can get links from highly authoritative websites. These are links that are otherwise next to impossible to get for a normal business website.
Pitching – HARO can help you pitch new content ideas to journalists and media outlets. As a source, you may be able to pitch your article/story idea as an expert on the topic to the reporter asking the queries. Again, this works for both brand building and link building.
Bloggers – HARO is a great way to connect with bloggers for writing guest posts. Journalists often reach out to HARO sources for expert opinions that they can quote in their stories. As a source, you can then reach out to these journalists and suggest your blog as a guest post opportunity.
How to use HARO
Since we are a digital marketing agency, we’ll focus on the SEO and brand building benefits of HARO. HARO is one of the best free resources for getting links from high authority websites. But, you need to know how to best utilise it.
First things first, set up an account and subscribe to the right industry.
- Register for an account with HARO. There are three types of accounts to choose from. You can register as a source, a journalist or a sponsor. In this case, choose ‘source’ and complete the registration.
- By default, HARO subscribes you to the ‘Master List‘. This is an email list that contains queries in a wide range of categories. A lot of them will be irrelevant to you. So subscribe to the industries of interest. However, there are occasions when journalists miss selecting the relevant industry themselves. So, the master list may have a lot of queries that may in fact be missing in a sub-category.
- Now it’s time to keep your eyes open and catch the queries as soon as they come in.
The set of best practices we follow for HARO
Not all queries that you receive in your inbox will be useful for your marketing goals. It’s important to know how to spot a valuable lead and also how to respond to it. That’s why we have created this set of best practices. This is not the Holy Grail of HARO usage.
But it has worked phenomenally well for us. So it might work for you too.
What is HARO – Best practices #1 – Filter the leads
You’ll be tempted to respond to many of the leads that come to your inbox every day. Don’t do it. You’ll be wasting too much time. That said, it’s important that you do not let go of even a single potential win. Here’s a checklist that we use to filter HARO leads.
- Is it a legitimate & popular publication?
- Does placing your brand name in that story give you legitimate value?
- Is it relevant to your business/brand that you are looking to place in the story? For instance, if you are a nutritionist who also runs an advertising agency, you cannot send your ideas in a nutrition feature, and get a link back to your advertising business website.
- Do your target audience use this publication?
- Will it help brand awareness if you are featured in it?
- Will it get you a juicy backlink?
You are not the only brand that’s trying to get its hands on that HARO lead. So, your response time is a very important factor in getting the link. The faster you respond, the more chances you have of locking it down for yourself. For us, 8-hours is the cut off time.
If we’re not able to respond within 8-hours, we don’t bother. Because chances are, that a million others did already. Remember, 8-hours is not a rule set in stone. The sooner, the better, is though.
It’s important to keep it personal when you are responding to a HARO query. But, if you try and personalise every pitch, you’ll spend hours doing just that. This is where a skilled content marketing team comes into the picture. At Rockstar Marketing, we have a set of templates that we use for HARO pitches.
By now, we don’t spend more than 15 minutes on one pitch. But if you’re not working with a content marketing team, here’s how you can maximise your chances.
Offer value to the query
Journalists are always looking for interesting stories and fresh perspectives. So, don’t offer them the same old stuff that they can get from any other source. Be creative with your response and suggest something new.
Information that’s easy to process
As a subject matter expert, you may have to provide technical information. But jargon is boring. So try and make it interesting. Break it down into tiny bits. Use quotes. Make boring seem interesting.
Social proof helps
Send a thank you note
Journalists rarely bother to inform you if your pitch is accepted. So you’ll have to do the monitoring yourself. If the pitch works, share it on social media. A mention, no matter how small, in a reputed media outlet will garner eyeballs.
Secondly, send the journalist a thank you email. This helps foster relationships. The next time they need a quote on this subject, they may reach out directly to you.
What is HARO – An invaluable resource
Competition is sky-high in the PR landscape. HARO is one of the few resources that can get you in front of the right people. That too, without spending a fortune. It’s an invaluable resource if used correctly.
The Rockstar Marketing Team uses HARO regularly as part of our PR tools. If you wish to speak about using HARO, we are all ears. We can help you get started and devise a strategy that works best for you.