What We Like About HARO – Help A Reporter Out

If you haven’t heard of HARO yet, you probably aren’t a journalist, blogger or public relations professional. HARO, an acronym for “Help A Reporter Out”, is a wildly successful and FREE service designed to help journalists request expert interview sources for the stories they produce. Approximately 9,000 or so journalists use HARO to request sources via an email blast that is distributed to more than 56,000 sources and PR professionals three times per day.

How HARO Works

Similar to PR Newswire’s ProfNet service, reporters can request suggestions for sources or ‘pitches’ from the PR community using the HARO service – but HARO service is free for everyone. Users of ProfNet have to pay an annual subscription fee to use the service. Though it’s fair to point out that ProfNet also enables sources to create expert profiles in a database that can be searched by journalists looking for sources.

In a little over a year, HARO has become the most popular service for connecting journalists with sources – quickly growing from 1,200 followers in a Facebook group, to the more than 56,000 email subscribers today. In comparison, PR Newswire claims to have 14,000 ProfNet users via its website.

I think the main reason we like HARO so much, beyond the highly-entertaining emails written by HARO creator Peter Shankman three times a day, is that it was built to literally help reporters out. Many journalists have complained about how frequently they receive off-topic pitches from PR folks – pitches that have nothing to do with their coverage area or the stories they write. Peter Shankman designed HARO with this reality in mind, requiring all users of his service to promise not to send off-topic pitches or “PR spam” to the journalists issuing queries.

On the signup page for HARO, Peter Shankman asks anyone joining the list to ask themselves “Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter?” He encourages PR professionals and sources to not send responses to journalist requests unless it’s a perfect match for what they are looking for. This is how it should be.

Does HARO work?

We talked to several journalists who have recently used the service and they all agree, HARO results in better, on-topic responses than similar services. Do the journalists still receive off-topic pitches through HARO? Yes. But if any journalist alerts HARO of the offense, the sender is warned by Shankman personally or removed from the distribution list immediately. HARO is looking out for journalists and sincerely working to “Help A Reporter Out.”

Likewise, we’ve heard from several PR professionals who have successfully landed interviews and coverage for their clients using the service – many of whom are impressed by the quality of journalists that use the service.

Food for Thought

Shouldn’t all PR tools and services be designed with the best interests of the media in mind? So many products and services in the market are designed to help PR professionals distribute information to the media with ease, yet few solutions take into consideration the working environment of today’s overworked (and often overwhelmed) media professionals. It’s no wonder Peter Shankman has amassed a cult-like following for his service in record time.

If you’re a journalist or professional blogger looking for sources, we highly recommend HARO as a resource for you. If you’re a public relations professional working in media relations, be sure to signup for HARO’s daily email alerts. Just remember to follow the five rules of HARO, or you might be kicked out of the pitch club.

Are you a journalist that has used HARO recently? What has your experience been? Let us know.

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

4 Comments

  1. Only problem I have with HARO is that, as an editor, I also need to find people to contribute articles. Many of my PR sources have started using HARO and have told me so, but I posted a query for contributions and received a reply from the service that I could not use it to solicit contributions. With more editors being pressured by their publishers to harvest expert content from outside sources and with staff layoffs making in-house reporting tougher and tougher, it seems HARO should allow all journalists to use the service whether it’s requesting interviews or contributions.

  2. @Christina
    Thanks for pointing this out, though it seems strange that you couldn’t request contributions through the service. What outlet are you looking for contributions in? Maybe we can figure out another way to get the word out for that?

  3. ya i know haro is a great tool for pr and media both. but as a pr person i am not getting how to use it. I have made the subscription and also confirmed my email address. but how can I put my clients profile and other things in the list. I am from India how will they feed me with queries of my specific reason please tell me how to use this service.

  4. I have found HARO useful but also still pay for ProfNet — just seems like the queries through ProfNet seem to yield better results for our firm. I can attribute that to the rising popularity of HARO — I’m now competing for press with every entrepreneur, PR pro, new PR pro, etc. This is why I’m losing interest in HARO — as a PR vet of 10+ years my pitches seem to get lost in the clutter, which is a shame as we have clients who are making news daily. I’ve also found HARO to be a bit light on “true” business news — seems like most queries are related to home-based businesses/start-up stories, etc. Perhaps technology will spawn vertical HARO’s of sort geared for business media, lifestyle etc. I have found Twitter to be a better way to source for story ideas as well.

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