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The 5 Reasons You’re Being Ignored On HARO

  |   Business Tips, PR   |   28 Comments

The 5 big reasons your publicity efforts are being ignored by Help A Reporter Out, + how to fix that.

 

When people first hear about Help A Reporter Out (HARO), they freak.

 

“You mean I can get quoted in The Huffington Post or CNN with no PR firm or marketing budget? Where has this BEEN all my life?!”

 

Shortly thereafter they usually embark on a binge emailing session, cranking out response after response to the dozens of journalists’ queries landing in their inbox (in full — yet deeply misguided — expectation that by the next day they’ll be #BreakingTheInternet along with Kim Kardashian).

 

But after about a month of this, a new reality sets in. And it sounds wayyy different than the first:

 

“Why are none of my responses being published? Why are reporters not contacting me?! Is this HARO thing a scam or what???”

 

The problem, of course, is not with Help A Reporter Out.

 

The problem is with the way people approach the reporters.

 

So with that, here are the top 5 reasons why people are not getting published on HARO.

 

Whip out your fanciest pen, my friends; it’s time to take some PR 101 notes!

 

 

1. NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS

 

The typical reporter’s query through HARO looks like this:

 

HARO reporter query

 

The reporter, Lisa, has made it crystal clear what she’s looking for:

 

1. A marketing expert for service-based businesses (that has experience with email)

2. ONE tip about emailing

3. Access to email examples

4. A one-line bio

5. A response no later than 7:00 pm Eastern on December 4th

 

So all you need to do? Follow the directions!

 

(I can hear every teacher I ever had chanting in my ear right now, can’t you?)

 

Do not email two tips, five tips, or zero tips (as in, “contact me and let’s chat if you’re interested in hearing my tip”).

 

Do not copy and paste in your five-line bio.

 

And for goodness sakes, do not try to find her personal email and send in a response at 11:00 am on the 5th!

 

Journalists have a thankless, stressful job and most get paid little for their efforts; they don’t have the time OR desire to struggle with a pitch that doesn’t give them what they need.

 

(And with HARO, they won’t bother struggling with it. A reporter can have potentially thousands of high quality responses in their inbox by the end of the day. People who don’t play by the rules happily get deleted.)

 

If Lisa can’t take your response as-is and pop it into her article while she’s sitting bleary-eyed at her laptop trying to meet deadline, your chances of being published are…

 

Precisely zero.

 

 

2. FAILING TO WRITE A COMPELLING HEADLINE

 

Lisa titled her query above, “Email marketing for service-based businesses.”

 

So what do most people use as their subject line?

 

You guessed it:

 

Email Marketing For Service-Based Businesses

 

(Or, if they’re feeling wild: “Response to your query on email marketing for service-based businesses.“)

 

Now put yourself in Lisa’s shoes. What would it look like to see a hundred of those subject lines staring at you?

 

(“Dreadful” is one word that comes to my mind…)

 

But now imagine that if in the middle of all of them there was one that said:

 

Why Every Service Business Should Be Sending 3000+ Word Emails

 

Not only is that subject line likely to get clicked, it’s going to be the one Lisa remembers. Others may have an excellent tip (or even the same tip!), but if their subject line is indistinguishable from the others in Lisa’s inbox, she’s likely to pluck yours out of the mix first.

 

This post on Writtent has some excellent headline examples you can use for your next HARO pitch. Check them out.

 

 

3. USING POOR SPELLING OR GRAMMAR

 

While I almost left this point out, I (obviously) decided otherwise.

 

That’s because every now and then I meet a business owner or blogger who insists that they “don’t think people care” whether they make frequent spelling and grammatical mistakes.

 

(One entrepreneur I spoke with recently told me that she didn’t feel the need to double-check her writing because she felt that anyone she encountered in her business who cared that much about spelling or grammar was not “meant for her.”)

 

This may or may not be true, but let me just tell you this.

 

Journalists care.

 

They care a whole awful lot.

 

(Hey, I like to quote Dr. Seuss on my blog! You should, too. Just don’t do it when you’re angling for a feature in the U.S. News And World Report.)

 

Choosing not to edit your own blog posts is your prerogative, but I assure you: a reporter that receives a pitch that has blatant misspellings or awkward run-on sentences instantly thinks one of two things.

 

1. This person doesn’t care, and therefore should not be taken seriously.

2. This person is uneducated, and therefore not a reliable expert on this topic.

 

Both impressions mean you don’t get published.

 

If you’re serious about making a top-notch first impression with the media and building your publication portfolio, it pays off to edit each response with a generous helping of TLC.

 

Personally? I recommend using a comprehensive grammar checker, especially if you’re at all doubtful about your writing abilities.

 

Grammarly is one popular resource that will help you, and yes, I’m a proud affiliate. You can test-drive it for free:

 

Grammarly: The World's Best Grammar Checker

 

Also, if you’re the type to supplement with guidebooks/desk references (and I recommend you do so because — surprise! — humans are still better than computers when it comes to catching every error), Ann Handley’s new book Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is excellent, too.

 

 

4. SUPPLYING LACKLUSTER QUOTES

 

I know it’s a tad ambiguous, imprecise, and horribly cliche (my apologies to my type A readers)…but boring quotes are buried quotes.

 

They won’t ever see the light of day.

 

Reporters want their articles to grab people’s attention and get read. What does this mean?

 

It means they’re looking for soundbites that are strong, bold, and have some swagger.

 

If a HARO query is asking career coaches to speak on whether it’s appropriate to wear red lipstick to a corporate job interview, the reporter is NOT looking for a response that goes like this:

 

“Red lipstick is really nice on some people. I’d say it’s great if you already have red lips. I think some women should if they are confident, but it’s okay if they don’t feel comfortable in it. Some employers will notice, but others won’t. It really depends on the individual business.”

 

Not only does that response fail to answer the question adequately, it is uninteresting and sounds scared. 

 

Compare it to this:

 

“Shelve your inner temptress. Employers want to focus on your skills, not your sex appeal. (As a bonus, you’ll also save yourself the embarrassment of showing up with red lipstick all over your pearly whites.)”

 

See the difference?

 

 

5. BEING A DEMANDING PEST

 

We’re all itching to know if we’re going to see our name in the New York Times, but sending reporters follow-up emails like, “I’m surprised that I haven’t heard anything from you. Did you get my email? I need to know no later than Thursday if you’re going to publish it,” are not just a waste of everyone’s time, they’re downright obnoxious.

 

Remember: the reporter is not your employee, and beyond that, they’re doing YOU a huuuuuge service. (For free!)

 

They also have a job to do, and it doesn’t entail holding the hand of each and every person who sends them an email.

 

It’s fair to say that if you make yourself known as high-maintenance and overbearing, that journalist may very well decide to forego using your response entirely.

 

Both now and at every point going forward.

 

So please, leave them alone. 

 

If your quote makes it into their article, 99% of the time the reporter WILL contact you with a “thank you” and a link to the live post.

 

(But don’t expect this to be the next day or even the next week. I’ve had people contact me up to 3 weeks later with news that the post was going live and I was included. This happens a lot, especially if it’s not a time-sensitive topic.)

 

And don’t sweat it: in the rare chance the person doesn’t notify you, you can still be alerted if you’ve set up search engine monitoring on Google Alerts for your name, business name, domain name, and key phrases that you use in your bio.

 

(You have done that, right? I thought so. 😉 )

 

Now it’s your turn.

 

Have you tried HARO? Do you have a tip to share? Have you ever pitched a reporter and had it go horribly wrong…or wonderfully right? Let’s talk about it!

 

 

Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)

 

 
The free 21 day ecourse that creates pro online impressions for business owners!
 
 

  • I love HARO! I recently rejoined after a long absence away and really enjoy them. I have had luck with it in the past (Trulia, Lifehackers, etc.) and will continue.

    Loved your suggestions and the headline tip was new to me! Of course they are getting thousands of responses. My submissions need to stand out!

    • Isn’t it a neat service? I think it’s so extraordinary that anybody can access all these publications for free. When I first discovered it I was floored! It holds so much potential for people; I think the key — aside from the above — is to be patient and keep trying.

      Thanks for your comment, Naomi. 🙂

  • Julie Durand

    Thank you so much for these tips! I am wanting badly to becomes published in more areas to poise myself better as an expert in my field, not only as an interior designer but also as a design industry business consultant. I’ve been interested in Halo and was introduced to it by Naomi but haven’t understood much how to go about all of it. I’m going to investigate more after reading your post and put your tips to use 🙂 I do have one other question though. At the very end of your post you recommend certain keyword searches to that then you know if you have been posted somewhere. Do you have a post that has tips on how to set this up or a place you’d recommend that I can look into it?

    • Julie, you are welcome! HARO is a fabulous resource, it really just takes some patience. 🙂 Another thing to know is that you want to respond as soon as possible to a query that comes in. If you wait until the deadline is almost up, it’s likely the reporter has already chosen the quotes they want to use.

      I don’t have a post about setting up Google Alerts, but that’s a great idea! I need to do that. Until then, here’s what you do:

      Go to Google Alerts at https://www.google.com/alerts
      Enter your keywords into the box at the top and click “Create Alert”
      (Keywords would be things like your name, your name with your business name, your domain name, etc. Do each one separately.)

      Also, in the little drop down menu on the right you’ll see more options for refining your alert, such as how often you receive the alert (every day or as it happens), what country you want the alerts to focus on, etc.

      Does that help? Let me know. 🙂

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and ask your question!

      • Julie Durand

        Thank you for the instructions Erika! You’re awesome! I’m going to start setting these up now! With a complete rename/rebrand going on, I think it will be very helpful for me to know when things are being posted/linked out there and to what business name they’re going under. I also think I have some links or publishing out there that I’ve forgotten about and would really like to find them to show in my Press section for my new site. Thanks again, great work!!

        • You are so very welcome. 🙂 I’m glad I could help you out a little bit. And I think that a Press section is a super smart idea; definitely find those links out there and include them! What is your website URL, Julie?

          • Julie Durand

            My current url is idesignbyjulie.com and was designed by the FABULOUS Regina 🙂 The new site is under construction for the rebrand, rename, new services, etc, etc and is elancreative.co

          • Ah, she did a GREAT job! And your new site is looking great, too. I can’t wait to see it go live!

  • Christina Channell

    I’ve never heard of HARO before this post. Fascinating!

    • It’s wonderfully useful for publicity purposes. It still shocks me that it’s free, haha.

  • Wow I had never thought about using HARO. I am definitely going to have to check this out. Do you use it often, Erika?

    • I used it a lot this summer, Marianne. Then I checked out for awhile because I had so much going on that it was hard to dedicate time to publicity. I’m back to using it again now!

      I recommend just getting on the list and checking out the queries every now and then. There’s not always going to be articles fit for you, but for instance I just saw a couple queries come through a few days ago that were asking for input from people familiar with graphic design, web design, Photoshop, etc. 🙂

      • That’s really good to know Erika, thanks!!

  • Julie Harris

    This is fantastic, Erika! I remember you mentioning this before on FB and I was curious about this strange acronym, “HARO”. I am so glad you shared this post. Not only for the amazing new resource I will DEFINITELY be taking advantage of, but for the applicable tools and best practices that writers, bloggers, business owners… pretty much any professional should be doing on a daily basis.

    My educational background is heavily in the performing arts, and one thing that is constantly encouraged is to audition EVERYWHERE – all the time. Practice your interview skills, prepping materials, meeting deadlines, casting requirements, improv skills, and personal marketing. Even if you aren’t super interested in the show, or doubt that you’ll be cast at this point, it’s an invaluable practice to invest your time into. The more you audition, the more experience you’ll have working with other professionals and marketing your unique skill set, helping yourself stand out from all others auditioning for the same roles.

    The same goes for writers. Even if you aren’t super interested in the article at hand, getting into the best practice of writing eye-catching headlines, following editorial directions, engaging on a professional level with other writers and journalists, crafting concise compelling content, being grammatically aware of the content you’re sharing, and working within deadlines. All of these are incredibly important professional and personal life skills to master.

    Thank you for all the fantastic links and resources!! So much to take in with this one.

    • I love your insights from the performing arts perspective, Julie! Such excellent points. 🙂 Pitching to reporters is a learned skill and it pays to practice. There’s so much value in the process of DOING it, even if you don’t get published for quite awhile. I couldn’t agree more when you say that, regardless, we’re learning important professional and personal life skills.

      Thank you so much! I value your input greatly; you always offer such wonderful wisdom.

  • Anne|Craving Something Healthy

    I just found your website recently via BlogHer and wanted to say thanks! Your posts are so incredibly helpful!

    • Anne, that is so exciting to hear. 😉 Thank you!! I really appreciate your time in reading and commenting.

  • debbielq

    These are great tips. I haven’t been making use of HARO, but your ideas encourage me to take a second look. Thanks!

  • DietExpertNJ

    Ive had great success with HARO as an expert source and as a writer. Its absolutely true- follow the directions and have unique quotes! I was amazed when using it as a write how many people just send emails with their credentials and no response to the answers asked in the query. Its a fantastic service and I am so thankful it exists!

    • Thank you for your input! It’s really incredible how just following the directions will set one apart from the crowd.

  • A

    Great article! I am guilty of the uninteresting subject line…oops. I’ll fix that going forward.

    I am exceedingly careful in what I “pitch” to reporters, as we are a very specialized firm that isn’t appropriate for 99% of the queries, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. However, I did get my Chief Investment Officer published in the WSJ recently, using HARO! And I am not a PR person, just a solo marketer. Just another testimony that it works if you use it properly – keep it short and compelling.

    • I love that. Thank you. Yes, it provides such a fantastic opportunity for everyone – it’s really amazing the kind of reach it provides to even small businesses and individuals.

  • Thank you for the article. I’m new to the service and was making some of the mistakes you identified.

  • Mellanie True Hills

    Great article! And I LOVE HARO! I’ve been using it for a long time (since approximately 2007 or 2008). My best media using HARO was a pitch about traveling (flying) with my CPAP machine for sleep apnea, which resulted in my photo and a quote in the New York Times. I got to do the photo shoot at DFW airport on my way out of town. The article appeared while I was in Budapest, so all my friends were emailing it to me and mailing me copies! Really cool!

    • That is SO awesome. I wholeheartedly believe that it really is such a tremendous tool for anyone. I’m thrilled you took the time to tell that story, thank you!

  • Holy Smokes! This was so helpful!! Thank you so much – setting up google alerts now (Can’t believe I didn’t know about this!)

    Xo,
    Kara
    http://www.fcnextdoor.com