How Online Merchants Can Use HARO To Grow Brand Awareness

19 min read

Getting links back to your site by providing credible websites with expert quotes and testimonials is a fantastic way to increase your brand visibility, direct traffic to your website, and increase conversions.

However, reaching out as an individual to household-name companies like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times barely ever works. Often, you’ll either get rejected multiple times or ignored completely, making the whole process incredibly disheartening, to say the least.

Following the cold-call method, you may spend weeks or months of your time pitching to people who will never even send an email back. This can be slow and frustrating, with very little reward. Surely there’s an alternative, right?

Fortunately…there is.

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What is HARO & Why Do You Need It?

HARO is a website that pairs journalists looking for expert insights, research data and opinions from people or businesses that can provide it. In return for your industry insight, you get a featured spot on industry-specific publications and have the potential to gain high-authority backlinks to your website.

Media sites can be anything from local to a national news outlet. In this article, we refer to “media outlets” as being an online magazine, online newspaper, a personal blog or a company website that provides news, information and feature stories to the public.

HARO is an acronym that stands for “Help a Report Out” and it represents a network of over 50,000 journalists who have connections with over 800,000 sources. In other words, that’s a lot of potential opportunities ready and waiting for you.

To create fantastic, well-rounded stories, journalists need sources. So, they join HARO and submit requests for sources (also known as “queries”) on specific topics they are covering. These topics vary widely—everything from horse care tips and the best lizard breeds to keep as pets to holiday packing essentials and the worst things to say on a first date.

To save you time, each journalist request includes a brief summary, any qualifications they require from their source, and a pitch deadline.

The role of a source on HARO is to provide relevant expertise and industry insights to help provide journalists with real-world examples and resources that will help instil trust, authority and evidence in their writing.

HARO hosts journalists representing media outlets from all over the world, providing you with ample opportunity to promote your brand and gain new customers.

How Does HARO Work?

If you’ve never used HARO before, it works kind of like a journalist dating app. You create a profile and connect with journalists that catch your interest.

In the following example, this source is looking for experienced working professionals to comment on the best ways to improve lead conversion rate and in return is offering an opportunity to land coverage on Databox.com:

To start growing brand awareness for your business using HARO, you will need to register yourself as a “Source” on helpareporter.com (more on the initial set up later on).

Once you sign up for HARO, you will receive three emails full of journalist requests straight to your inbox, Monday-Friday at:

  • 5:35 am EST
  • 12:35 pm EST
  • 5:35 pm EST

As a person/small business looking for more brand exposure, it’s up to you to monitor these emails and reply to the topic requests that are relevant to your brand.

It might also be helpful to spend some time researching how to perfect your HARO pitches and some communication best practices. Authority management specialists, Hive19, have developed a guide to HARO link building for business owners, which includes 13 tips for increasing the likelihood of your pitch being accepted.

Once your pitch is chosen, you’ll be provided with more information from the journalist, and expected to send over your finished piece by the deadline outlined on the initial pitch.

How Can HARO Help?

HARO can help you get exposure on some of the biggest news outlets in the country or world. Not only does this showcase your business to a much wider audience, but it also puts you in a position of authority in your niche.

Most of us trust businesses mentioned on the BBC or Forbes more than we trust a random website ad, right? So, pitching to these major media organisations and getting your business noticed can have incredible implications for your company’s success.

HARO is often recognised as a platform where you can achieve coverage on big publications, however, it can also provide unique opportunities on smaller, niche-specific publications more relevant to your business — which could result in a higher success rate and a more topically relevant link back to your website.

Getting your brand name published in The New York Times or a trusted, more regional industry publication completely changes the game, allowing you to:

  • Become an authority figure in your industry — let people know they can trust you.
  • Gain quality backlinks to your website from major media outlets — encouraging more visitors to your website, more views, better rankings in search engines and potentially more business!
  • Pitching on HARO helps you identify and begin to develop relationships with journalists that can benefit your business. Connecting with a journalist on LinkedIn after a successful placement and developing the relationship from there could lead to more opportunities to work as a source in the future — a long-term strategy for a merchant looking for this kind of exposure.
  • Once published, your article/quote might be published on the publication’s social media channel — drastically increasing engagement. 89% of consumers saying they would buy from a brand on social and 85% would recommend a brand with reputable social media traction to a family member or friend.

Why Pitching Yourself as a Source is Beneficial for Your Business

We know the struggle of starting a business and building it from the ground up. Most small business owners don’t have huge budgets to spend on professional marketing and PR teams. But did you know that 50-95% of new start-ups fail within the first 18 months?

But don’t let that statistic scare you! One of the main reasons for failure is a lack of any marketing at all. Sure, sharing your business on social media might get you a handful of likes or a couple of shares, but it doesn’t come close to the benefits of quality press coverage.

  • Nielsen report found that content from an expert, third-party source encourages customers to consider a purchase 83% more than user reviews.
  • PR is thought to be 90% more effective than advertising in influencing consumers.

Pitching your business to the media is an excellent opportunity to expand your audience, build your brand, and establish your authority in your industry—especially if you’re short on marketing budget. To put it simply, pitching helps you bring in more business so that you can make more money and grow your company.

To start, let’s take a look at a sample pitch template:

____

Hi {journalist-first-name},

{Query title}
{Deadline date}
{Media outlet}

I’m a {job role} at {your company < link to your LinkedIn page/company website} with {number of years} experience in {your industry}.

 

Explain how you meet the requirements listed by the journalist. What makes you qualified to contribute value to this resource. Being an “expert” on a particular resource or subject is often referred to as someone who has broad and deep competence in terms of knowledge, skill and experience through practice and education in a particular industry or niche? What education or experience do you have that is related to the journalist’s request? Has your business won awards? Does your company niche in a particular area of business that enables you to be an authority? Keep this relevant and concise.

In reference to your query on {subject}, {answer query requirements}.

Would you be interested in discussing my thoughts on {subject} further? Please feel free to email at {include email address} or call me on {include relevant contact info}.

Kind regards,
{your-name}

{email signature that includes your social media, email, website URL, etc}

____

It’s important to note that although you can use a template to form the skeleton of your pitch emails, spending the time to customize each pitch you send will increase your chances of successfully landing that piece of media coverage.

What Makes a Good Pitch?

HARO is a great platform to develop your pitching skills. It won’t take you long to discover what works well and what doesn’t.

A good pitch is concise, clear, and contains the main points of your story. Don’t make it overly self-promotional, as this can come across like you’re showing off. Making sure you are using your pitch as an opportunity to highlight a need in your industry and how your company provides a solution.

If you are still unsure how to proceed, try to answer the 4 W’s:

  1. Why this?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why should they care?
  4. Why should this be covered in the media?

In the next section, we will be exploring how to pitch (and pitch successfully) on HARO so that you can get your business mentioned by the most reputable media organisations.

8 Steps To Get Started On HARO

If you’ve never used HARO before, signing up and viewing a ton of content requests can seem a little overwhelming. To help you out, we have put together a breakdown of everything you need to get started. It couldn’t be simpler!

1. Create A HARO Account

HARO cannot be accessed from a guest profile. To take advantage of all the link building opportunities on offer you’ll need to create an account.

When you sign up, be sure to sign-up as a source, as opposed to a journalist. Even if your website does cover journalistic pieces, signing up as a source will ensure you get the brand exposure and link building opportunities you’re looking for.

To sign up, all you need is the following information:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Country
  • Company name
  • Annual revenue
  • Password

Signing up takes just a couple of minutes, and is well worth the trouble. Trust us when we say that creating a HARO profile will open a world of link building opportunities for you and your business.

2. Read Over The Rules

Like many link-building platforms, HARO has a strict set of rules and regulations that members must adhere to. We recommend giving these a read before clicking “I agree”, just to be sure you really do agree with everything they say.

If you violate any of HARO’s rules, you will be sent a warning. Your second violation will result in being permanently banned from the platform — which could significantly hinder your brand visibility efforts.

To give you an idea of some of the most important rules you’ll need to adhere to when pitching, I’ve summarised a few of HARO’s rules for sources below:

  • Do not spam reporters
  • Avoid pitching your products or services (unless specifically asked)
  • Harvesting reporter information is strictly prohibited
  • Do not include attachments in your pitch (these are automatically removed in order to protect reporters from viruses)

3. Create A Bio

Just like on a dating site (yep, we’re sticking with that analogy), you’ll need to create a bio to start pitching. When journalists receive pitches, they’ll want to know a bit about who you are and what you can offer as an expert source in your industry.

Journalists get bombarded with hundreds of pitches every day — particularly when they are offering the opportunity for more brand visibility on huge sites like The Huffington Post or Buzzfeed. So, having a concise yet attractive bio can help you stand out from the rest of the pack.

4. Search Often & Smarter

Although HARO sends out three emails every day, we recommend dedicating time every week to review the requests that have been sent out.

To save you time and the frustration of sifting through thousands of content requests, most email services allow users to search and filter through emails. Ensure normal workflow isn’t interrupted by dedicating set times in your week to search for source requests from HARO.

Applying keywords from your industry or topics related to your business and area of expertise will help find the results most relevant to you.

5. Pitch Quickly & Cleverly

As we say at Ecwid: “The best pitches are short and to the point, but leave enough room to make your idea intriguing.” The moment you find a source request that is relevant to you, send your pitch!

Identifying the perfect source request on HARO will take practice. It will seem easier once you have familiarized yourself with the platform and the art of pitching.

Once emails reach your inbox, keep an eye out for keywords or phrases related to your business. Looking for online publications specific to your sector will help sort through the noise of anything unrelated to your area of expertise.

As we mentioned above, the competition for HARO requests is fierce, and it doesn’t take long for pitches to be snatched up. So, the sooner you send in your pitch, the more of a chance you have for inclusion in the article.

Your pitch needs to be to the point and informative. Journalists want to know why you are qualified to act as a reliable source of information and why their audience would benefit from what you have to say.

Being clear and concise makes their decision easy. Nobody is going to sit there and read through fluff. Get to the point and save everyone some time.

Top tip: always proofread what you’ve written before you send it. Nothing is more off-putting to a journalist than a pitch littered with spelling and grammatical errors.

6. Write Your Best

When you receive a positive response to one of your pitches, the temptation might be to dance around your office in celebration.

Journalists work on tight deadlines and often, you’ll only have a day or two to write your expert insight and get it back to them. Therefore, you need to give as much time to it as you can.

For a few extra hints and tips on promoting your business online, check out an interview we did with expert content marketer, Tim Osborn about how to write your brand story.

7. Promote Your Successes

Unfortunately, journalists won’t always email to let you know your expert insight has been included in their final publication. So, it’s best to create a Google Alert for the publication’s feed so that you can keep an eye on when the content goes live.

Once it has been published, you should shout your success from the rooftops, because a published piece on an authority site is a great boost to your brand visibility and potential rankings in search.

Share your post on your social media using an epic social template for better engagement. And when it comes to posting, be sure to call out and thank the reporter by name, as this will improve your chances of working together again.

8. Build Lasting Relationships

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another dating site reference. We just want to point out that HARO is a platform for building relationships with journalists — an opportunity to get in touch with some of the best in the business.

A source who takes the time to build a good relationship with a journalist is more likely to be offered extra coverage. So, be sure to keep this in mind.

In Summary

A lot of companies struggle to find something particularly newsworthy in their business to promote online and, more often than not, cold pitching to big media outlets won’t get you anywhere. So, in simple terms, HARO pairs you with journalists searching for industry sources with your experience, knowledge and insights.

Not only that, but HARO also provides brands like yours with an opportunity to be published by big industry names, gaining more visibility and traffic to your website than you could have hoped for!

So, if you want people to discover your brand and find out about your services, it’s time to get started with HARO.

We’ve provided you with all the information you need to get started. So, what are you waiting for? There might be hundreds of opportunities waiting there for you.

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About the author

Harvey Holloway is a Sussex-based digital marketing specialist, with a 1st class honors degree in Digital Media Design. Harvey is now looking to connect with leading publications and share his experience with a wider audience. Connect with Harvey on Twitter: @HarveyTweetsSEO.

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