We've been singing the praises of HARO (Help a Reporter Out) since we first started The Content Factory back in 2010, and there are several reasons why we're such enthusiastic evangelists for the brand. First and most obvious, the service is free. Second, HARO opens the doors to media coverage that you may not think is possible. It's also one of the easiest ways to consistently get high quality, in-content backlinks to your site, which can noticeably improve your SEO.
As an agency, we have a list of HARO success stories that runs out the door and around the block – or close to it, at least. We've used HARO to get hundreds (!!!) of media placements for our clients over the years, my favorite being this Huffington Post article about Etta Britt, which turned into a 3+ minute segment on the Today show.
The reason this example is my favorite isn't because the media coverage had such an extremely high ad value, although it definitely did, but because it was part of a life dream being realized: Etta Britt got to sing her original song in front of millions of people. For a performer, it doesn't get much better than that — and it's possible that I was even more excited than Etta, because these kinds of moments are the reason I created TCF. Although it's possible we would've pitched our way to the Today show ourselves, HARO made it possible faster.
It's said that death and taxes are the only certainties of life, but HARO should be added to that list as well. If you subscribe to HARO emails, you'll get three emails a day, five days a week, with none on holidays. If you're a slacker, you can sign up for the once a day option. In PR there are never any guarantees, but this is as close as I'll get to one: if you regularly respond to relevant queries with thoughtful answers, you will almost certainly get coverage worthy of tweeting – and if you're lucky, you'll get media coverage worthy of putting a Facebook ad campaign behind.
To prove this point, I decided to "go hard at HARO" for a month, and keep track of my results in a spreadsheet. Or at least, that's what I promised everyone via Gchat. Although TCF received other mentions, quotes, etc. over the course of this month (including a great shout out in Entrepreneur), this spreadsheet only contains the HARO queries we pitched for.
I also used the spreadsheet to keep track of the query deadlines, the dates the queries were submitted and how I found out about the placements – reporters don't always give you a heads up when their articles go live, even if they feature you prominently in them.
Interestingly, BuzzSumo outperformed Google Alerts to such a degree that I'll be writing a separate blog post about it – but that's a topic for a different day. Suffice to say, check out BuzzSumo after you sign up for HARO, because you'll be glad you did. Now, for the HARO experiment.
The HARO Experiment: TCF Goes Hard at HARO for 30 Days
If I'm being honest, I didn't go as hard at HARO as I wanted. Originally, the goal was to read through the queries within an hour of them being sent – journalists often go with the first qualified source(s) that fully answers their question(s), so there's a definite first-mover advantage to responding to reporter queries ASAP.
In the end, I'd met my goal half of the time, and completely missed about 3-4 days of queries because work, life and/or a Great Dane puppy named Mildred got in the way. What can I say? I run a business, and I'm busy – and you're likely in the same boat, so you probably understand.
Still, I managed to send out 21 pitches. Out of those 21 pitches, I got 6 hits (a 28.5% success rate). Update: this went from 5 to 6, as Media Shower ran an in-depth interview just after this blog post was published.
- Media Shower – 10,000 hours in 10 Minutes: Kari DePhillips Talks SEO and Quality Content (with a link to TCF, and TCF's socials)
- GoGirlFinance – The Best Tips for Time Management from Smart Businesswomen (with a link to TCF)
- MyCorporation Blog – Experts Weigh In: What Sacrifices Did You Make When Starting Your Company? (with a link to TCF)
- Success Magazine – How To Survive A Lawsuit (with two links to TCF's site)
- Business News Daily – Internet Marketing: A Small Business Guide (with a link to TCF)
- WorkFlowMax Blog – You've Decided to Raise Your Rates: Now, How Do You Tell Your Clients? (with a link to TCF)
My grandmother was extraordinarily proud to tell everyone in the neighborhood that her granddaughter made it into Success Magazine – and that in and of itself is a pretty awesome feeling. But thanks to content syndication and other journalists picking up on these stories, the coverage didn't end with the five links listed above.
The GoGirlFinance and Business News Daily articles got syndicated to four more sites – and the links all carried over. So for the 21 pitches, I got a total of 11 backlinks to The Content Factory's website — and that's just thus far. Even if nobody ever read any of these articles – and judging by the social shares, that's not the case – this is good for our SEO. These websites all have solid Alexa and Google PageRank numbers, and that sends good vibes and rainbows to search engines.
The fact that 2/6 of the articles were published on other websites is also not uncommon – many of the placements we secure for clients via HARO are also syndicated. As with all things related to online marketing and PR, your mileage may vary. But 20% syndication rate is about on par with what we experience, across the board.
Again, this was only for one month. Imagine what would happen if I went hard at HARO for a year! Well, I haven't done that – but I have responded to enough queries over the last few years to be quoted in the New York Times and plenty of other outlets — how does one follow a reference to the New York Times? — as well as interviewed live on FoxBusiness and CNN. We even used HARO to get TCF profiled on Skype's blog.
If you search for us, you'll see that we're well on our way to having serious street cred when it comes to digital PR and online marketing. In fact, TCF's site ranks #1 for a variety of highly desirable (and lucrative!) search terms related to web content writing, costs of social media marketing, and 408 other SEO keywords.
I don't say this to brag, but to show what's possible when you have a solid digital PR strategy. The point is, HARO can help you get anywhere you want to be. And, if your experience is like ours, you'll build relationships with reporters along the way. I regularly have reporters I initially "met" via HARO ask me questions directly, as does every member of TCF's PR team. Plus, HARO will email you new opportunities for earned media as many as three times a day, so if you miss a day, a week, or even a month, you can always dig into it again and get results – no matter what industry you're in.
Examples of HARO at Work in VERY Different Industries
Sex lube, bridal makeup, and business advising: it doesn't get more random than that, right? These three terms weren't pulled out of a hat – they represent three of TCF's clients: Astroglide, Blushing Brides, and The Alternative Board. Here are three quick examples of HARO coming through for each of them:
- Women's Health – Masturbation Moves to Try in the Shower (with link)
- YourTango – 10 Tell-Tale Signs You're Too Aggressive in Bed (with link)
- AskMen – Why Waiting To Be Intimate is a Good Idea
- Daily Makeover – 5 Undesirable Beauty Problems (and How to Fix Them!) (with link)
- Bustle – This Holiday Lip Art from Grace Mahoney Will Inspire You (with link)
- Beauty High – Should You Be Using Bar Shampoo? (with link)
The Alternative Board
The coolest thing about HARO is that you don't need to hire a digital PR agency to make the service work for you – any small business owner, political pundit, professional or thought leader (current or future) can benefit from reading and responding to relevant HARO queries. With HARO, you can be your own PR rep – and you can directly pitch reporters at major media outlets who are actively looking for experts just like you.
Get Media Coverage Bonus: We recently ran a webinar co-hosted by Aly Walansky, lifestyle reporter extraordinaire, and she spilled ALL the secrets to how to effectively pitch reporters via HARO. She sends out HARO queries all the time, and gets thousands of pitches in her inbox each month. Watch the webinar here, and get the info you need to make your pitches more effective.
Not sure where to start? Check out our guide to pitching: How to Pitch Reporters Like a PR Pro. Don't have the time to DIY? We can take care of it for you. Contact us, and we'll send over a generic proposal that outlines everything we do and how much it all costs.
Have a HARO success story of your own? Leave it in the comments section below!