Used to be if a company wanted to get some free publicity, they would fax or mail a press release to a news organization such as a TV station or newspaper. That’s how it was when I worked for the Nightly Business Report back in the late 1980’s.
Times sure have changed.
If you want to reach a reporter today, you can look up their email address on the media company’s website or engage them on Twitter. But there’s another way you can get free publicity — with a service called HARO or Help a Reporter Out.
HARO matches reporters from publications like The New York Times, ABC News, HuffingtonPost.com and more, with sources. When you sign up for the service as a source, you’ll get 3 emails a day covering topics you’re interested in. Each of those emails has a query from a reporter who is writing a story about a particular subject. Anyone can sign up to submit a query – even small business owners who are writing a blog article and need case studies, etc.
Here’s an example from my own experience. Earlier this year, a gentleman submitted a query to HARO because he was looking for Tips on Facebook for Small Business Owners. Since I have expertise in Facebook, I responded to the query by sharing a tip that I’ve found effective in promoting my own Facebook page. A few weeks later, I heard back from the gentleman thanking me for the tip. He told me that he had included it in a blog article, and gave me the link to the article so that I could share it with my social media followers. Here’s what it looked like when it was published:
What’s great about this technique is that my expertise was exposed to a new audience, I got a backlink to my website from the article, and I was able to share the article with my own social media followers, so they could benefit from reading my own tip as well as the tips from other experts. A win-win all around!
Effective Strategy for Responding to a HARO Query
There is an art to becoming a reporter or blogger’s source. Here are 3 tips on how to improve your chances of getting free publicity:
1. Respond right away – Your best chance for success will be to craft a response to a reporter’s query as soon as you get the HARO email. There a couple of reasons for this. First, there could hundreds of people responding to the same query. You know the saying, “the early bird gets the worm”? Act quickly, before the reporter’s email inbox fills up. Second, the reporter is also on a deadline. You’ll see that deadline in the email. Respect that!
2. Craft a subject line that gets noticed – When you write the subject line of your email, start it off with the word, “HARO” and then add the query title. In the above example, my subject line was HARO: Tips on Facebook for Small Business Owners. This type of subject line will stand out in the reporter’s inbox from the volume of emails he or she typically receives each day.
3. Keep your query response short and to the point – Don’t bore the reporter with too much information. Start your email with a brief sentence about who you are, and why you’re uniquely qualified to answer the reporter’s query. Then, provide the information requested. Make sure you adhere to any word length limits. If the query states the answer should be no more than 300 words – don’t go longer! If the query asks you to provide any additional information such as a profile picture, your website URL, social media profiles, make sure you provide it! Finally, let the reporter know that you will be happy to answer any additional questions.
TIP: Save a draft in your email folder with your bio, so the next time you see a query you’d like to respond to, you’ll already have the email started.
HARO is a terrific tool for getting your name and your company’s name out in the media. One of my early successes with HARO involved responding to a query about working from home. The answers I provided were included in the book, “Mogul Mom: How to Quit Your Job, Start Your Own Business, and Join the Work-at-Home Mom Revolution.” It just goes to show you, that a little bit of effort can have a big payoff.