I have to admit, I am relatively new to HARO (Help a Reporter Out). It was introduced to me recently by one of my editors as I began to take on more projects and it has completely changed the game for me in terms of finding expert sources to contribute to my articles. I truly wish I had known about it sooner! That being said, in the limited time that I have been using HARO I have learned a lot about how it works and some of the, erm, “quirks” of the platform. So, as a reporter who uses HARO frequently to find expert contributors I wanted to provide some quick advice for sources on how to write a HARO pitch that truly stands out.
What is HARO?
For those who haven’t heard of HARO, it’s a platform that connects potential sources with journalists/reporters who are looking for expert advice for their articles. The process is pretty simple – as a reporter, I submit a query to the platform that essentially acts as an article brief where I outline the type of expert that I’m looking for, as well as the topic of the article and the questions I’d like answered. Then, experts can reach out to reporters with their pitches, which can either be rejected or accepted based on relevancy.
I have managed to find some pretty great sources for all of the articles that I have written since finding out about HARO. However, I have also had to sort through a lot of pitches that just aren’t relevant or well written. The appeal of gaining a reputable backlink means that some people spend a lot of time on HARO replying to as many queries as they can, whether they are qualified to comment on the topic or not. Alternatively, sometimes the pitch is close to being usable but a few things are just slightly off and I have to scrap it entirely as a result.
So, for those who are new to HARO or are still working on writing a pitch that gets noticed, here’s what you need to know about writing an effective HARO pitch that stands out, from a reporter who uses HARO regularly.
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1. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
Spelling and grammar, guys. It’s SO important. Reporters are often looking to quote experts in their articles, and I can’t include your testimony if there are spelling mistakes and the grammar is terrible. Simple as that.
2. Make Sure You’re Qualified
As I mentioned, this is a huge issue and the number one reason I usually can’t accept a pitch. If a query states that the reporter is looking for interior designers, real estate agents, and contractors to submit pitches, then please do not submit a pitch if you don’t fall into one of these three categories. As well-written and knowledgeable as your pitch may seem, I simply cannot include the testimony of a lizard or fish expert in an article on home design trends (yes, this has really happened). My editors would reject the piece. Please save your time, and mine, and only respond to queries that you are qualified to respond to.
3. Don’t Use a Template
It’s clear that someone, somewhere is giving out templates for HARO pitches and it’s got to stop. I know that it can feel intimidating to write a pitch but it really doesn’t need to be as complicated as it may feel. The copy-and-paste email templates are impersonal and usually an indication that the author is either unqualified on the topic and unsure of what to write, or just replying to as many pitches as possible without truly putting effort into the writing (and it shows).
4. Keep it Succinct
You truly don’t need to write a short story in order for your pitch to get accepted. A short and insightful pitch (a short paragraph or a couple of sentences) is sometimes all that I need as long as its relevant, you are qualified to comment on the topic, and you are providing original and unique commentary. Remember that most reporters will have a lot of pitches to get through, and I don’t know about everyone else but my eyes start to glaze over a bit by the time I reach email 20 to 30. If your pitch is wordy and long-winded for the sake of being wordy and long-winded, it’ll be a pass from me.
5. Provide Your First AND Last Name
Unfortunately, I have had to pass on a pretty good pitch because the source did not provide their last name in the email. Like I said before, I am often working on multiple pieces at once with tight timelines and a lot of pitches to get through. Yes, I can always email the individual and ask for their last name, but with so many other things on the go and plenty of pitches where I had all the information that I needed, I’m likely not going to do it unless I’m really stuck. It’s a simple thing to fix – make sure your first and last name are included in the pitch!
6. Don’t Just Reach Out With Contact Details for a Follow Up
This one might be a bit controversial, but personally I usually don’t have time to go through extensive correspondance to speak to a source that came to me through HARO. I use HARO to find quick answers to the questions I have already posed. I understand that experts who are busy or more high-profile may not have the time to respond to multiple HARO queries a day and would prefer to put their time and energy into the reporters who are interested in reaching out, but when I have a plethora of pitches at my fingertips (we’re talking usually 30 to 60!) I likely won’t need or want to spend the time setting up a separate interview to get answers to questions that I have already provided.
7. DON’T SEND ANSWERS FROM GOOGLE
Okay, I know the capitals were aggressive here but seriously. Guys, don’t do this! Shockingly, this has happened more than once since I started using HARO. Reporters who are using HARO are looking for original advice that is based on personal experience and expertise. We all have Google and use it regularly, and we cannot be plagiarizing other people’s work. If you send us a pitch that is based off of another article that you found through Google it is immediately going in the trash. Don’t waste your time or ours!