How to Write the Perfect HARO Pitch [Easy-to-Follow Outline]
One of the best ways to get some Google love is to get a shoutout from one of the big guys.
Hey I write a lot about the best life insurance companies and want to get that information out to as many people as possible!
So, who doesn’t want a juicy backlink from Forbes or the Wall Street Journal?
But if you are like most entrepreneurs, those publications seem unobtainable.
… Enter HARO.
(*Newbies, learn the basics about Help A Report Out at HelpAReporter.com)
I’ve used HARO to get featured in Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, Nerd Wallet, Forbes, and many other notable sites.
In this article, I’ll tell you the exact steps I take to get my responses included.
… and there are no special skills needed here. Anyone can follow these steps and have success with HARO.
Our Guiding Principle
The first thing to understand when responding to reporters is they’re busy, are often working on tight deadlines, and they get a lot of emails like anyone else.
So remember this guiding principle when responding:
Give the reporter everything he or she needs to quote you without needing to contact you.
Our #1 goal is to make the reporter’s job as easy as possible.
Holly Johnson, a journalist writing for The Simple Dollar and Club Thrifty, regularly uses HARO as a source for quotes and says:
A lot of people respond to queries and just say:
“Hey, this is so and so. Happy to help! Here’s my number: XXX-XXXX”
That simply isn’t going to cut it.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the exact steps you can take to get reporters like Holly Johnson to feature you in their next article.
Success Formula for the Perfect HARO Pitch (Quick Outline)
Generally speaking, 20% to 30% of the queries I respond to use my quote, and quite often, they will backlink to my site as well.
Here’s the quick success formula outline I use:
- Respond Quickly
- –> Stand Out – How to Get the Reporter to Read Your Pitch <– IMPORTANT
- Establish Your Credibility
- Offer an Interesting or “Lesser Known” Tip
- Tell the Reporter How to Quote You
- Provide Availability for an Interview
That’s it! Apply these principles and you’ll improve your HARO response by 50% to 80%.
Now let’s cover the steps in a bit more detail.
Success Formula Tip #1 – Respond Quickly
Reporters might get 10 to 20 responses to a query, and sometimes they’re on a tight deadline.
They may only ever read and use the first few responses they get!
So it’s important to respond quickly. Here’s how I do it.
Review AM & PM Queries
The first thing I do each and every morning is grab my cuppa coffee, open my gmail and read the AM Haro queries. I scan through the requests to see if there is anything I could respond to without too much research.
Knowing my areas of interest and expertise makes it a pretty quick and easy process to filter out what works and what doesn’t. I wrap up my day the same way.
Get Advanced Notice of Queries You Can Answer Using a Paid Subscription
If you sign up for a paid subscription, you can tell HARO what keywords you’re interested in responding to and they’ll send you the query before the non-paid subscribers.
As you can see from the subject, I am set up to receive advanced notice of any queries that include the words “life insurance” in them. I received the query above a full hour before non-paid subscribers.
Under the paid subscription, HARO also sends you a text you letting you know to check your email.
This is gold, and I highly recommend a paid plan if you aren’t currently on one. Here are the different plans. (No affiliation)
Success Formula Tip #2 – Stand Out – Get the Reporter to READ Your Pitch
By far, the most important tip I can give you is to write your email subjects like article headlines.
Get creative and write something “eye-catching”!
After all, your response will never be used if the reporter never opens your email and reads it!!
Remember reporters typically receive a LOT of responses.
Put yourself in their shoes. If you have 15 emails to read, you’re going to scour through the subject lines first to find the most promising ideas.
This is your opportunity to shine.
Create a subject line that will grab their attention by using phrases such as: “Insider Tips”, “Lesser Known Ways to…”, “Myth” or “3 Shocking Facts about…” or “The Best Way to Land Beginner Proofreading Jobs”
Here are some of the subject lines I’ve used, and why they’re effective:
- Drop 5 lbs, Save 37% on Life Insurance – Here I was responding to a basic “need savings tips for life insurance” query. Now I could have responded with something generic like “My best 3 savings tips”, but do you see how this one piques curiosity and was almost certainly different from anything else that reporter received?
- Niche Marketing for Eye-Popping Conversions– Again, I’m responding to a prompt about “best marketing tips.” You can see how much better this is than a generic subject like “My Top Marketing Tips for Your HARO Article”
- Myth – You Must Constantly be Producing New Content – Right from the start here, I show the reporter that I’m not only going to give them some good content, but I’m also going to dispel a commonly misunderstood belief.
- Why My Boring Life Insurance Page Converts at 20% – This piques the curiosity because the words “boring” and “converts at 20%” are counterintuitive. The reporter must be wondering what secret I have to getting great conversions, even when my topic is boring.
- 3 Lesser Known Tips on Buying Life Insurance – This one stands out because of the words “lesser known.” Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes. He/she wants the insider’s scoop, not the vanilla answers that can be found anywhere online. Bring your best stuff and tell them it’s “lesser known.”
- “Out-of-the-Box” Criteria for Selecting a Life Insurance Company – Again, this works because the tips I’m providing are “out-of-the-box.”
Not a great headline writer? No problem. Just use any of these templates for great results.
- 7 Proven Headline Formulas That Convert (and Why They Work) – Crazy Egg
- 30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails – Buffer
Ok, now that the reporter has OPENED our email, here’s how to draft the perfect response.
Success Formula Tip #3 – Establish Your Credibility
“When I receive a HARO request, I look for someone to introduce themselves and the credentials they bring to the table.” – Holly Johnson
Reporters do not want to receive anonymous offers of help. The whole point of HARO is to save the reporter time. You want them to know upfront who you are and why you are qualified to respond to their query.
This being said, DO NOT write a book. Be succinct. This is not the time to educate them about your brand. A couple of lines will do.
Take a look at mine:
I like to keep this short and sweet, but here are some things you may want to include:
- your name and your business name
- any special education or licensing you have
- how long you’ve been in business
- your website
- where to find you on social media
- a couple publications you’ve been featured in
Just Starting Out? Get Creative: When I first started responding to HARO’s a few years ago, I hadn’t been featured in many big publications, so to show credibility, I offered up the amount of visits my site gets per month. Over the years, this has worked well, so I’ve never changed it.
Depending on the prompt, you might be able to get really creative with your “experience”. I sometimes reply to parenting queries. My experience here is having 3 daughters. Once I responded to a query about efficiency in the workplace saying I had “read the 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss 16 times.”
If you’re credibility is weak, at least introduce yourself and your company, and tell the reporter why you’re excited to respond to his or her query.
Success Formula Tip #4 – Offer a Useful, Interesting Perspective
At this point, the reporter was interested in your subject headline and knows who you are.
If you submit the same old tired content, it’s unlikely a reporter is going to want to regurgitate it.
They are looking for fresh concepts and perspectives.
… it’s time to bring your A game.
A few guidelines for the corpus of your response:
- Write Professional, Quotable Responses: Write fantastic copy, so your contribution can be used with minimal editing.
- Don’t Cut & Paste Responses: It is effortless and shows lack of creativity. Reporters need unique content, and they’ll often use tools like Grammarly’s Plagiarism Checker to be sure your content hasn’t already been written online.
- Actually Answer the Question – Be sure to read directions thoroughly. It’s very frustrating for a reporter to have to sift through irrelevant responses because you did not take the time to digest their request.
- Add Value and Keep Your Promise – You may have promised a “lesser-known strategy” or “insider tip” in your subject line, so now you’ve got to deliver on the high quality your subject promised.
This is simple stuff, right?
… yet very few people take the time to do it!
Donna Freedman, who writes for Surviving and Thriving and also sources quotes from HARO, says:
I’m looking for a response to the question — a RELEVANT response. If I’m asking to interview people who have gotten out of debt through sheer hard work, please don’t respond with “I have this *awesome* online course that teaches people how to get out of debt! Wanna interview me?”
In some cases, queries say, “I’m looking to interview someone about (insert topic).”
You STILL shouldn’t just send your name and phone number!
Remember our guiding principle. Write them the answer they need without having to contact you, and 9 times out of 10 they’ll use your quote instead of having to pick up the phone and actually perform an interview!
Length of Response
As for the answer itself, the length depends on the prompt.
It’s about quality.
Some queries require short sweet responses while others ask for a more in depth analysis. I have written two sentence HARO responses and *1200 word “articles”. It really does depend on the query. Be sure to follow directions to be seriously considered for articles.
*Note: If you do write longer answers, keep a folder of them. The ones that don’t get used can be repurposed for blog content.
PRO TIP: ADD A ONE-LINE SUMMARY
At the end of my answer, I like to add a “bottom line.”
This has two benefits.
First, if reporters are in a hurry and “skimming,” it will stand out.
Second, may be looking for a quick, quotable nugget that succinctly sums up your thoughts on the matter. I was recently featured in Entrepreneur.com, and of the 3 full paragraphs I sent the writer, she used one tiny sentence.
… sometimes that’s all they need from you!
In short, the bottom line gives you a better chance to reach those busy reporters who may not read your whole response, (even if your subject line was awesome).
Success Formula Tip #5 – Want a Backlink? Ask for It!
Don’t assume that a reporter will add a link to your site because they are quoting you.
Ask for it.
… and be specific.
Success Formula Tip #6 – Provide Your Availability
Here’s one I haven’t done before, but I’m going to start, at the suggestion of Holly Johnson, who wrote:
Occasionally, interviews require more than a quick email and a phone call instead. In that case, it’s best to introduce yourself and your credentials, letting the writer know you’re available by phone that day or right away.
You should end your email saying something like, “Thanks and good luck with your article! If you have any questions, call me anytime today at XXX-XXXX or you can reach me by email.”
Bottom Line: Offering your availability for the next day or two will ensure that you also catch the more thorough reporters, the ones who want to be sure they understand your reply and how it will fit into their article.
PRO TIPS FOR SENDING YOUR EMAIL:
Be sure to personalize your email – and spell the reporter’s name right for Pete’s sake 😉 It will help you make a more personal connection.
Remember these are real people who have the potential to be long-term connections for you. (For more on this, see my article about Return on Relationship Marketing “ROR”).
Headshots: Create a dropbox folder with your press kit and some great images that can be easily accessed if and when needed. There have been many times when reporters have asked me for more information or a headshot. How wonderful is it when you can just share a folder with a click of your mouse? Speaks volumes about you and your business.
5 Things to Do After You Are Selected for An Article
1. Be Polite: Thank the reporter! Everyone likes to be acknowledged.
2. Review: Read through the article to make sure you were properly quoted and your link works.
3. Ask for a Link: If your link was not added, reach out to the reporter to see if a backlink would be possible. This doesn’t always work, but in some cases, you can almost demand it. I recently sent a very thorough answer (3 paragraphs) to a writer for QuoteWizard.com, who heavily relied upon my content when writing her article, and didn’t include a link. I politely requested that she include the link, (since half of the article was mine anyway), and she got it added that very day.
Be thoughtful and polite in your email. You don’t want to be pushy, but there is no harm in asking. Sometimes it’s just an oversight.
4. SHARE, SHARE, SHARE: Reporters love it when you share their articles with your social network. It’s an added bonus for them and makes it more likely they will use you again in the future.
5. Keep in Touch: Reporters are a fantastic resource and you should make them part of your network if you can. Feel free to reach out if you have something of value to offer in the future.
NOTE: Don’t Stalk Reporters: If you have been turned down for a piece or haven’t heard from them about one of your replies, don’t bug them. The only time I email a reporter a follow up email is when they have written me saying they would include my quote. Otherwise, leave them alone. If they didn’t use your reply, either it wasn’t good enough or didn’t fit their article.
In some cases, as personal finance freelancer, Miranda Marquit, writes, the reporter may have loved your response but couldn’t use it for that particular story, and they may have saved it and tagged it for late use.
This is easy, my friends.
So many people are submitting puff pieces for their businesses.
Reporters are looking for GREAT content. Keep this in mind when you are drafting your responses and you will be noticed.
Then thank and keep in touch with the reporters who use you, and they’ll keep coming back.
THANK YOU for these tips! I can see how some of my HARO responses may not have been so helpful after all. I am absolutely following these ideas – implementing them starting tomorrow.
I so appreciate this information!