As a remote PR professional, you’re likely aware of the industry tools that can help you get more coverage for your clients. Two of our favorites have been around for a long time and have developed a huge fan base: HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and ProfNet. Each works as a real-time, modern day editorial calendar—the reporter spells out what specific story they are working on and then, based on these descriptions, solicits pitches and responses from expert sources. Here are 7 tips to landing an article via HARO and ProfNet.
What are HARO and ProfNet?
HARO is a free resource for both journalists and sources, and is supported by advertising revenue (although there is a paid version that allows you to receive queries early). ProfNet, meanwhile, is free for journalists placing requests, but subscription-based for those who wish to respond. ProfNet allows for a little more customization, allowing users to select the specific types of opportunities they want to receive. Both services send out an email a few times a day with requests segmented into different categories (e.g., biotech and healthcare, education, high tech, entertainment, etc.) for easy sorting. The content between the two companies sometimes overlaps, but the majority of the requests are unique to one or the other.
Some competitors have entered the space over the last few years, most recently Qwoted, which is free for both reporters and sources (and the PR pros that represent them). Like HARO and ProfNet, Qwoted also posts some of its opportunities on Twitter (@qwoted) to raise awareness of its service.
Creating a Successful Pitch
Pitching these opportunities is not the same as pitching news on the companies you represent. Normally reporters receive between 100-500 pitches a day. If they post an opportunity on HARO or ProfNet, it’s possible that they receive more than 100 responses to that single query (in addition to the pitches they receive every day). That makes it harder than ever for companies to stand out, which is why we’ve compiled some tips below:
- Respond quickly, even when the deadline is a few days out. Only a few sources will be used for the reporter’s story. While it’s not always first in, first out, your client’s chances of being included diminish with every hour that passes—oftentimes reporters find what they’re looking for within the first hour and move on. Pitch within an hour, whenever possible. I once had a reporter tell me he had 600 responses within the first hour — so getting a response out there ASAP is CRUCIAL Your job is to put together a pitch that contains just enough information to make them interested in hearing more, so try not to sweat over every detail. If your pitch holds the information the reporter is looking for, they’ll likely contact you (make sure you provide complete contact information where and when you can be reached, including time zone). Reminder: Once the deadline passes for these opportunities, the contact email is closed, so be sure to pay attention to both the time and date by which the reporter requires responses.
- Understand that some queries are fishing expeditions. A reporter assigned to an article might not know yet what angle they want to take, and they go to the faithful at HARO and ProfNet to fish for ideas. That’s fine, but pay close attention to the “ask” before responding.
- Target specific queries. When it comes to pitching sources on HARO or ProfNet, you can burn a lot of cycles going after volume. Each site averages more than 200 queries from reporters a day. Only a very small portion will be a direct hit for your client, so don’t waste your time trying to respond to everything that could be a fit. Make sure the theme of the article is close enough to be of interest to your client and be helpful for the reporter. If it’s not a fit both ways, move on.
- Keep it insanely short. Responding to a HARO or ProfNet request shouldn’t be like writing an article. In a few short sentences, tell the reporter why your client is a good fit for the article they are looking to write. Include a very short bio that shows the expertise your client brings to the table about that topic. Provide contact information and ask the reporter to follow up if there is interest in pursuing the topic further. Make sure to note what resources you can offer to make their life easier.
- Tell the reporter something they aren’t expecting. Reporters may receive 100 pitches that all say the same thing. They also want a balanced article. Being a contrarian on a topic is a good way to get noticed—if you still fit the parameters of what the reporter is looking for, go for it!
- Subscribe to vertical market HAROs to narrow down options. HARO has developed a series of more focused categories that allow sources to only receive emails that fit into the categories makes sense. Subscribing to these can make it easier to segment opportunities more quickly. For example, if your clients are B2B, you might not want to see all the consumer opportunities, and so on. Plus, the paid option for HARO allows you to have access to the requests an hour os so earlier than the regular free list. This is worth the price for a highly competitive market.
- Give your customers a voice. Ask 100 reporters who they would rather quote and 99 of them will choose a customer over a vendor. Most will make that clear in the initial request. So, make sure you have customers ready to speak on your behalf when these types of requests come in. Nothing tells your story better than a satisfied customer!
Try, Try Again
Not every one of your outreach efforts is going to generate results. If your first few opportunities don’t pan out, look at your strategy. You might not be the right fit for the article, or you might have responded after the reporter had enough sources. Both HARO and ProfNet send out several emails a day, so there are a lot of opportunities for your company to be selected. Don’t give up on a failed pitch—with a few tweaks, you might be able to repurpose it into outreach for another publication, a blog post or even a speaking opportunity.
The biggest takeaway? Move quickly.