If you haven’t heard of HARO yet, you probably aren’t a journalist, blogger, or public relations professional. HARO, an acronym for “Help A Reporter Out”, is a wildly successful and FREE service designed to help journalists request expert interview sources for the stories they produce. Approximately 9,000 or so journalists use HARO to request sources via an email blast that is distributed to more than 56,000 sources and PR professionals three times per day.
How HARO Works
Similar to PR Newswire’s ProfNet service, reporters can request suggestions for sources or ‘pitches’ from the PR community using the HARO service – but the HARO service is free for everyone. Users of ProfNet have to pay an annual subscription fee to use the service. Though it’s fair to point out that ProfNet also enables sources to create expert profiles in a database that can be searched by journalists looking for sources.
In a little over a year, HARO has become the most popular service for connecting journalists with sources – quickly growing from 1,200 followers in a Facebook group to more than 56,000 email subscribers today. In comparison, PR Newswire claims to have 14,000 ProfNet users via its website.
I think the main reason we like HARO so much, beyond the highly entertaining emails written by HARO creator Peter Shankman three times a day, is that it was built to literally help reporters out. Many journalists have complained about how frequently they receive off-topic pitches from PR folks – pitches that have nothing to do with their coverage area or the stories they write. Peter Shankman designed HARO with this reality in mind, requiring all users of his service to promise not to send off-topic pitches or “PR spam” to the journalists issuing queries.
On the signup page for HARO, Peter Shankman asks anyone joining the list to ask themselves “Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter?” He encourages PR professionals and sources to not send responses to journalist requests unless it’s a perfect match for what they are looking for. This is how it should be.
Does HARO work?
We talked to several journalists who have recently used the service and they all agree, HARO results in better, on-topic responses than similar services. Do the journalists still receive off-topic pitches through HARO? Yes. But if any journalist alerts HARO of the offense, the sender is warned by Shankman personally or removed from the distribution list immediately. HARO is looking out for journalists and sincerely working to “Help A Reporter Out.”
Likewise, we’ve heard from several PR professionals who have successfully landed interviews and coverage for their clients using the service – many of whom are impressed by the quality of journalists that use the service.
Food for Thought
Shouldn’t all PR tools and services be designed with the best interests of the media in mind? So many products and services in the market are designed to help PR professionals distribute information to the media with ease, yet few solutions take into consideration the working environment of today’s overworked (and often overwhelmed) media professionals. It’s no wonder Peter Shankman has amassed a cult-like following for his service in record time.
If you’re a journalist or professional blogger looking for sources, we highly recommend HARO as a resource for you. If you’re a public relations professional working in media relations, be sure to signup for HARO’s daily email alerts. Just remember to follow the five rules of HARO, or you might be kicked out of the pitch club.