HARO Best Practices


The premise of Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a free service provided by Cision that enables reporters and sources to collaborate, is simple (click to tweet).

Verified journalists and bloggers share source requests, matching sources reply and—voila—the reporters get a more well-rounded story and brands get earned media coverage.Small Graphics [Recovered]


That’s just the most obvious benefit of HARO. Through HARO you or your brand can become the go-to expert about a particular topic. You can also use the service to build rapport with journalists and reporters, grow quality backlinks and strengthen brand reputation.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. But it takes more than a basic response to lay claim to coverage. To be successful with the service, check out these 11 HARO best practices (click to tweet).


Time1. Re-read the source request.

HARO sends out source requests three times a day, at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. (All times eastern.) Read the requests carefully, then read them a second or third time. Do you meet all the reporter’s criteria? If yes, respond. If not, let it go. It’s a waste of your time and the reporter’s to respond to a source request for which you aren’t a perfect fit.



2. Respond quickly.

“You should pitch your story within an hour of the source requests going out,” says Stacey Miller, senior manager, journalist community engagement at Cision (click to tweet).


“Reporters typically make up their minds about sources within the hour.”



3. Proofread and edit.

Time is of the essence, but don’t neglect to proofread and edit your pitches. Reporters will delete poorly written replies without a second glance. Treat each pitch, no matter how short, as if it were a cover letter for a coveted job (click to tweet).



4. Customize the subject line.

When you reply to a HARO source request, the subject line auto-populates. Stand out from the crowd by customizing it. Stacey says many businesses and PR pros have had more pitches accepted after adopting the practice.


Check5. Stay on topic.

Reporters are looking for real-world expertise, information and stories. They can see a fluffy pitch a mile off. Stay on topic! A HARO reply isn’t the place to share a press release, tout credentials or pitch a product. Besides, off-topic pitches are against HARO’s rules. Break it, and you’ll be banned from the service.


Timely6. Be brief.

HARO pitches should be short, at most five sentences. If that seems extreme, consider A. Michelle Blakeley’s advice. A journalist for the San Francisco Small Business Examiner, she says HARO pitches should be 175 words or less (click to tweet).



7. Write in soundbites.

“Many reporters will quote directly from your response, especially if they’re on a tight deadline,” Stacey advises. “They don’t have time for a flurry of emails, telephone calls or Skype interviews.”



“The easier you make their job, the more likely you are to get cited. Reporters won’t edit your incomplete thoughts to make you sound good.”


8. Include alternate contact information.Contact

Always include alternate contact information. This makes it easier for journalists to reach you and allows them to choose the platform that’s most convenient for them. Stacey recommends that you should, at the very least, include your phone number, email address, website and social media handles.


reporters9. Build relationships with the media.

Emailing or calling a reporter repeatedly will get you nowhere fast. But, you can follow up on social (click to tweet). Establish common interests and share their articles. Your first pitch might not have been accepted, but your second or third might because of the relationship you’ve established.


“Once you’ve established a relationship, whether you were quoted or not, connect on LinkedIn or somewhere else to make sure you stay in touch,” Stacey says.



10. Turn HARO into a content marketing machine.

Not all of your pitches are going to be accepted, even if you follow these best practices to the letter. Don’t let the content go to waste. “Wait two to four weeks after the source request closes,” Stacey says. “Then, dust your replies off and turn them into content for your brand’s blog.”


TrackProgress11. Track your efforts.

Just as you track traditional pitches and other PR efforts, monitor your work with HARO (click to tweet). What works and what doesn’t? Test subject lines, email copy and media relations tactics. Keep testing and refining until you hit the sweet spot and start winning more publicity.

HARO is a simple, but extremely powerful tool. Succeed by responding quickly to source requests and building relationships on social. When you do, you will not only increase media coverage, but you will also grow your brand’s reputation and establish its position as a leader in the marketplace.