The Lowdown on HARO & Best Practices

Sam Wormser
By Sam Wormser

What is HARO?

HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and is a tool that brands and publicists can sign up for to get an automated email right to their inbox for stories editors are looking for information on. These are referred to as “queries” and essentially ask for information for an article that an editor is already working on. This takes off a TON of research time from your plate because you can quickly scan to see if there is a fit for your brand or client.

You can think of it as similar to editorial calendar pitching since the content is already in the works on that topic and you don’t have to shoot in the dark, except HAROs can have a very short lead time.

HAROs come in morning, afternoon, and evening “editions,” meaning you have three opportunities every single day to capitalize on low-hanging fruit opportunities with press for your digital PR efforts. Did I mention it’s FREE?

Topics HAROs Address

HAROs are organized by subject, which includes biotech and healthcare, business and finance,  entertainment and media, general, high tech, lifestyle and fitness, sports, and travel. Within each of these subjects or categories is a quick list of the queries, which might read “Need source for article on supplements for women,” or “Marketing tips for startups.”

As you scroll down in the HARO email, you’ll find the full query for each one listed with all the information you need to vet and submit a response. The full query includes a summary, the name of the editor, the name of the media outlet, the email you can submit your response to (note that the email is anonymous and goes to a HARO alias to protect the editor’s information), the deadline, an outline of the full query (what they are looking for), and the requirements.

Requirements for certain HARO queries may include that you need to be a medical doctor, you need to have a certain number of years of experience, you need to be a CEO, the response need to be a certain word count, you need to include a bio and headshot etc. Another thing to note is that sometimes the editor and publication will be listed as “anonymous.” We’ve found that often times when the publication is anonymous it’s actually a top tier publication that doesn’t want to list the outlet name as they may get responses that don’t actually address the query directly but instead those pitching are trying to bend the story to fit in their client or brand since it’s a top tier outlet.

Related: PR Resources for Startups that Are Free

There are certain times of the year when HARO is super hot, meaning there are lots of queries and the turnaround times and competition are tight. The main time for this is the holidays, whether that be Mother’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc. During the holidays and fall season leading up to holidays HAROs are packed with these quick turnaround, low hanging fruit opportunities for gift guides. Gift guides mean editors are looking for specific round-ups on a topic and typically have a very short turnaround time. One way to ensure you are hitting deadlines as quickly as possible when it comes to gift guides is to have a short one pager of all your products or brands you work with that has the answers to everything a HARO will ask for for this type of post, which typically includes the product name, a brief description, where someone can find to purchase, pricing, and an image.

Having this in your backpocket will streamline your process and will allow you to quickly reply.

Who Should Be Using HARO?

If there is a trending topic in the media, whether it’s holiday gift guides, or about the opioid epidemic or trade regulations, there are bound to be HARO queries on a weekly basis that cover these topics. If there is a trending topic that applies to your business, HARO should be a great resource to you and you should scan daily to see if there is something that you may be able to lend your expertise to.

Digital + Traditional PR

If you’re looking at the type of business that can use HARO, basically any business can benefit from HARO since the categories range from such diverse topics. We have secured coverage for b2c and b2b clients, as well as ecomm and lead gen clients.

HAROs often ask for experts on specific topics, so if you have in-house experts, then having a bio and headshot for those people on hand is a must if you’re responding to HAROs. For example, if you are a skincare brand, and you have an expert dermatologist with years of experience and lots of credentials, that would be a great thought leader to have on deck for HAROs that involve skincare. Similar to your media pitching strategy, where you should be establishing thought leaders within the business who might be able to speak with press, sometimes queries are looking to speak with an expert and only request a brief bio in order to evaluate if this person is a good fit and then set up an interview.

7 Quick Tips to Get the Most Out of HARO

With this in mind, here are seven ways you can get the most out of HARO and take advantage of this amazing free tool!

Check Deadlines First

The first thing to pay attention to with HARO is the deadline. The typical deadline for HAROs is about 48 hours, but I’ve seen some with less than 24 hours and I’ve seen some that have a whole week until submission is due. The reason you want to look at this first, is because you don’t want to waste time on a HARO that has a deadline you can’t hit or a deadline that might have passed if you are referencing a HARO from earlier in the day.

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you will submit a response within the deadline and you will get an email bounce-back if the editor already received what they were looking for and closed the query.

Don’t Send Attachments

HARO does not allow you to submit attachments with your response. If the editor is looking for a submission that includes a headshot or product image, which is pretty standard, then you can upload a headshot into a link using a tool like Lightshot, which lets you upload an image and send as a URL.

Stick to the Word Count Limitation

Don’t be verbose in your HARO response. Just like pitching, you want to be short and sweet. Not all queries have a word count, but if they do make sure you are paying close attention. If you submit a lengthy response, they might just breeze over because they don’t have the time to read through and find the golden nugget they were looking for.

Always Include A Link to Your Website

Just like with online PR, there is a ton of value when working with a HARO opportunity to include the desired URL you want them to link to if it’s for a digital media outlet. Rather than include a hyperlink, make it crystal clear to the editor and include the full URL to your website so they have that on hand and don’t have to go searching for it. If you don’t provide the link, they might not link out to your website and you could be losing out on some great SEO value from the backlink.

If the Deadline Has Passed, You Might Not Be Out of Luck

HARO sometimes has very tight deadlines, as I’ve mentioned. If you don’t have exactly what you need on deck and are trying to find your expert’s opinion on the query but the deadline has passed, try to look up the name of the editor and their recent articles to see if you can locate contact information. That way you can pitch them directly, without having to go through HARO. If you came up with a great response and the deadline passed, or the query was closed before the deadline passed, it’s worth it to shoot a direct note to the editor that they might be able to include in the article or in future articles.

Set Proper Expectations

While HARO is an amazing tool, it’s not a secret to publicists and brands with small budgets that want a free and easy PR tool and can’t hire an agency, which means you may be competing with hundreds or even thousands of other submissions. That’s why it’s so important to submit a response as quickly as possible and deliver everything that is within the requirements of the query. You need to set expectations with your client or expert lending their advice when it comes to HARO because we have found that over 50% of the time your response will not be picked up due to competition and how quickly you submit. If you miss a deadline or if you submit and never hear back, keep a running doc of all your responses that you can repurpose for future HAROs so all your effort is not lost!

Check in On The Article

The last thing you should keep in mind with HARO is that you might not be notified if an editor uses your response. One trick here is to set up Google alerts, which is something you should have already for your brand mentions online. That way if an article goes live you’ll get an alert that your brand or client was mentioned online. Another way to monitor to see if you were included is to check in on that editor’s column and recent articles and quickly scan the headlines for the query topic to see if it was the HARO you submitted for. Also, don’t lose hope if it’s been weeks since you submitted a response and you haven’t seen live coverage yet. We have waited up to six months before seeing something come to fruition, so be patient!

Wrapping Up

To summarize, the main point here is that you should absolutely be using HARO because you will see good results and pick-up, but in order to get picked up you need to have attention to detail on the requirements and be speedy with your response! The tool is only as good as how you use it, and following the above tips will help you get the most out of your HARO pitching.

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Samantha is a PR manager and account manager at Power Digital where she executes on everything from top tier media relations, to SEO outreach and social media influencer outreach. After spearheading the influencer marketing arm of the PR department, Samantha has created strategies and partnerships with social media influencers to elevate both brand awareness, engagement, and ROI for our clients. Outside of the office, she's obsessed with all things food and exploring the outdoors.