HARO — You’ve Got to Look Inside

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HARO has its pluses and minuses

HARO is like a box of chocolates

HARO is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, is the free service that pumps email after email into your inbox throughout the day with queries from journalists, bloggers and people on a fishing expedition (you know, the ones who refuse to identify the media outlet they’re writing for).

Since its birth six years ago, HARO claims it has published more than 75,000 queries and managed 7.5M media pitches from information gatherers – reporters and bloggers mostly.

You’ll see on the HARO website that it includes the New York Times, ABC News and the Huntington Post “and everyone in between” among the news organizations who have quoted information sources through the service (the emphasis is on “everyone in between” as queries from the Times and the like are pretty infrequent).

For the uninitiated, here’s how HARO works.  Sign up for a free subscription and tell HARO the type of queries you’re interesting in receiving, by category.  Queries are available from sources in high-tech, lifestyle and fitness, business and finance. biotech and healthcare. entertainment, media and travel.  There’s a catch-all “general” category too.

Since public relations people are generally a paranoid bunch (it takes one to know one), many of us subscribe to all categories in the off-chance we’ll spot an opportunity for a high-tech client in the lifestyle and fitness category. Beware, as this approach results in a daily avalanche of emails.

The vast majority of HARO queries have tight deadlines.  That means staying on top of the incoming.  If you pitch a story once a deadline has passed, HARO sends you a note politely letting you know you’re out of luck.

If you see a query where you think a client might have a play, then it’s pitch development time followed by an email to the super-secret encrypted email address HARO assigns to each query.  One looks typically like this:  query-4c7z@helpareporter.net.   Sometime a query will include the reporter’s real name, in which case you can by-pass the HARO process and send a pitch directly to the writer’s true email address (f you can find it).

My experience with HARO has been hit or miss.  Mostly miss.  With a PR pro-to-journalist ratio of something like 4-1, it’s no wonder that PR people (ones I have spoken with) treat HARO as more of a necessary evil rather than a media tool they can’t live without.  And it’s no wonder you won’t hear back from HARO unless your pitch is the square peg.

With that said, it’s tough to completely ignore HARO.  It’s not perfect but it’s another arrow in the media relations quiver. And it’s free.

There are a couple of things I really like about HARO.  The daily emails are straightforward — the no frills type.  A simple black and white list (each HARO email is sponsored by an advertiser, but the ads are pretty passive in my opinion).

Also, HARO has a pretty high amusement quotient.  Some days I think that a few of the queries are completely fabricated.  I imagine the team at HARO kicking back on a Friday afternoon with a cold one, laughing hysterically at a pitch sent by a desperate PR guy who never realizing the request was made up.

I’ll leave you with a few recent HARO gems. Feel free to follow-up on all of them. I’m sure the HARO team can hardly wait to read your pitch!

Diabetes in pets (doglds.com)

Expert advice on 1-year old Baby With No Teeth:  Is it Normal? (CafeMom)

Thanksgiving dinner for dogs (anonymous)

Moms!  How do you keep from losing your possessions? (Sortly)

Odd ways people die (TermLifeInsurance.com)

Uses for dead trees?  (AOL Real Estate)

Looking for a straight man who planned his wedding (Cosmopolitan)

How many vacation photos are enough?  (ThriveWire.com)…..and last but not least…

Does you husband need a makeover (National Daytime Talk Show)

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