Help A Reporter Out (HARO) Joins Vocus Family

Vocus kicked off its 2010 User’s Conference with a huge announcement of interest to PR professionals and journalists alike: Vocus has acquired Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO has built an impressive base of users over the past two years, becoming one of the most popular PR services. HARO’s success is largely due to its foundation as a journalist-friendly PR service.

From day one, HARO founder Peter Shankman (@skydiver) has gone to great lengths to protect journalists from the persistent problem of PR spam – the sending of off-topic pitches to journalists. By being strict about the rules of engagement for pitching journalists through HARO, the service has also become one of the most popular tools used by journalists in the newsgathering process.

While I suspect a lot of long-time HARO purists will worry about how the service will change once it becomes part of the Vocus offering, both sides know users don’t want that. According to Peter Shankman, “Nothing will change.” He’s joining the Vocus team and will be working with the company on further extending the value of HARO to users, as part of the Vocus family – while preserving the integrity of HARO, and finding ways to make it even better.

Bill Wagner, CMO for Vocus, reinforced that HARO will not change, assuring me that the company plans to keep HARO free – but they want to make it even better. He says, “HARO is staying free, we’re just going to make it more valuable for users. We’re still exploring our options here, but want  users to know we’re not getting rid of anything that’s there.”

Wagner hinted at some ways Vocus might expand HARO in the months to come. For starters, he said Vocus will work to educate its 500,000 U.S.-based journalists about HARO. “HARO currently has about 30,000 journalists using its service, while we have more than 500,000 U.S. -based journalists in our database. The first thing we’ll do is work to educate those journalists on the benefits of using HARO.”

This is the most significant piece of this announcement for me. Vocus has the reach and ability to significantly expand the number of journalist users for HARO – which means more queries and PR opportunities for PR users. It’s realistic that Vocus could grow beyond 100,000 journalists within the next year.

Another area Vocus may expand on HARO is social media monitoring and analytics. While users can subscribe to different categories of queries through the service, Wagner envisions being able to customize searches and monitoring to alert users as soon as relevant queries are generated.

It will be exciting to see how HARO evolves as part of the Vocus family.

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