Regardless of your company’s size or scope, Help A Reporter Out can be a great resource for scoring press mentions that might otherwise be unattainable. Manuela Bizzotto of StratPad — a source I originally met through HARO and have continued to cite in articles — puts it like this: “As a startup with very little money for PR or marketing, HARO has been invaluable in helping us secure earned media to raise brand awareness. It’s also a great way to build relationships with reporters and establish credibility as a source.”
To start building your credibility as a HARO source, sign up with the service and indicate your fields of expertise. You’ll receive emails three times a day with queries in your chosen categories, and from there you’re set to start firing off responses. Here are ten tips for vetting and answering queries, as told by a handful of Help A Reporter Out sources.
1. Analyze the quote’s value
When deciding whether or not to answer a query, Julianne Coyne, a Public Relations Specialist at Fahrenheit Marketing, says that while she does consider numbers like page rank and Alexa score, it comes down to two key questions based on relevance:
- Does the publication align with my company’s service area?
- Would the link look good on the company’s press page?
2. Be wary of anonymous queries
When it comes to source, we found that while answers varied on the importance of the publication’s size and stature, one commonality was avoiding anonymous queries. “Those tend to make me suspicious – how do I know that the pitch or information I am sending isn’t falling into the wrong hands?” asks Shawna Bell, Marketing Director for Nerds On Call.
3. Urgency matters
Dozens of sources listed speed as the most important factor for responding to queries. Journalists often turn to HARO because it’s too late to go through the process of researching a qualified source, so be ready to work with that schedule. Respond to queries quickly but thoroughly to boost your chances of being quoted.
4. Give the reporter what they want
Again, reporters are crunched for time, so keep that in mind when penning your answer. “The better a source is at putting their thoughts in bullet format, three paragraphs or less, and with relevant links and examples the more likely I will be to use them,” says Adam Torkildson, Senior Associate at Snapp Conner PR. And if the reporter asks for something specific, like bullets or answers to a series of questions, be sure to give them exactly that.
5. Show your expertise
A reporter won’t want to quote just anyone in their article, so it’s important showcase your expertise. “Reporters don’t have time to go back and forth with someone to determine if a source is credible,” says Kristine Tanzillo, President at Dux PR. Demonstrate your credibility within your response through a concise summary of your background and qualifications, and throw in a link to your website.
6. Edit your response carefully
Remember that sloppy responses won’t get you placed in top publications. “Edit your response with a fine-tooth comb,” says Marjorie R. Asturias, President of Blue Volcano Media. “If you know you are a poor speller or that grammar isn’t your strong point, find someone who is and have them proofread it. Reporters make a living with their facility with words and thus are particular about language. Plus, reading a poorly written response takes a LOT more work than reading a well-crafted one, so make their jobs easy for them.”
7. Don’t pitch irrelevant products
This one seems obvious, but for every HARO query I submit I receive at least one completely irrelevant product pitch that reads, “I know you asked for this, but how about writing about my product instead?” Since this really isn’t helpful to the reporter, you’re better off spending your time elsewhere.
8. Don’t expect an interview unless they ask for it
With a tight turnaround time, organizing a followup interview isn’t always possible. If the query is soliciting interviews, go ahead and offer your time. If not, you’re better off answering the question than offering to follow up. “I answer questions to the best of my ability so they can use the information without having to follow up,” says Sabrina Kidwai, APR, who is Senior Manager of Public Relations at ASAE.
9. Streamline the response process
Responding to even a handful of HAROs per week can be time consuming, so take the steps to make this process as efficient as possible. “I use Gmail’s Canned Responses feature to save myself from typing most of the body for my emails to HARO reporters,” says Hank Coleman, a personal finance writer who has been quoted in NBC News, MSN Money and Tech News Daily thanks to HARO. “Except for a few key things like the reporter’s name and the actual response I would like to be quoted from by the reporter, everything populates in the email automatically.”
10. If you’re quoted, follow up
When the article quoting you goes live (hopefully you’ll get a heads up from the reporter), it’s important to follow up. Manuela Bizzotto from StratPad recommends publicizing the article to your audience via your own press page and social channels. Also take the time to send a genuine thank you note to the reporter and connect through appropriate channels like LinkedIn. This opens up the opportunity to be used as a trusted source for future articles.
Are you an active HARO source? What tips would you add to our list?