Traditional PR pitching took a targeted turn with the widespread popularity of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), the world’s largest network sourcing platform made by Cision. Connecting more than 800,000 sources and PR professionals with 55,000 journalists every year, HARO seeks to narrow the pool for expert commentary, connecting journalists to the best- suited sources for their story. Below are 5 tips that promote best practices for using HAROs as an efficient and effective pitching platform.
Speak to the outlet
When pitching a HARO, taking note of the outlet is often just as important as the topic. Being able to pitch while speaking to the outlet audience ensures that the reporter sees your expert as a potential source for this story and stories in the future. Additionally, different publications may look for different value props when you are noting your source’s qualifications. For example, niche healthcare publications such as Prevention or Healthline, will look for value props in a source that can speak to both patients and providers, while parenting magazines like Today’s Parents and Fatherly, look for specialists that can speak specifically to parents and their child-related questions and concerns. When pitching sources for expert commentary it is important to utilize the tone of your note to match the formality of the topic and the article.
Leverage past connections
Before starting your HARO response, check carefully to see who is on the receiving end of your pitch because the same reporters use HARO repeatedly. This information gives you the opportunity to leverage past contacts while avoiding the common pitfall of over pitching someone or pitching someone the same source twice. Noting the writer’s name allows you to take advantage of instances where you could use a past professional relationship to set your pitch apart from the rest. If a reporter already knows you to be a credible source for connecting them with expert commentary, they are more likely to respond to your pitch, avoiding the back and forth or working with an unfamiliar and potentially unreliable PR professional. Take the time to mention that you’ve worked together before in your pitch. For example: “Hi John, I hope that you’ve been well since the working with Professor X for your article on the impact of trauma and violence on cognition.”
Short greetings go a long way
Unlike more traditional pitching styles, HAROs do not require the same attention to the lead. It is more important to get to the nitty-gritty of your source’s qualifications before the reporter’s moves on to the pool of other submissions. Remember, when pitching HAROs, the need to make your pitch standout is more important than ever, as the competition is heightened and highly targeted. After a short “Hi there…” it can be beneficial to jump straight into the fact that you would love to connect them with a source that you think would be a great asset to their story. To draw their eyes even farther into your pitch, use bold or italicized writing to highlight the name of your expert source. If they take the time to read the source’s name, likely they will read about why they are the best candidate to answer their questions.
Connect the dots
It is not enough to simply regurgitate the topic that the reporter has noted in their HARO. One of the common pitfalls of HARO pitching is to list out a series of expert qualifications but fail to provide information about why these particular skills are the missing ingredient that this reporter must have. Moreover, it is equally as ineffective to just repeat the topic that the reporter listed. Reporters want to see adequate credentials and critical reasoning as to why this source is the best for their article. For example, this can be as simple as saying that a nursing professor’s extensive experience in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit provides her with a unique perspective to speak on how certain supplements might affect and/or increase milk production in new moms. Providing this added information does two things. First, it illustrates a logical bridge between the sources experience and the particular topic. Second, it implies that you took the time to write a thoughtful and personalized pitch specific to this reporter’s story.
Take advantage of concise writing
Do not expect a reporter using HARO to read the entirety of your pitch. Often the reason they are using this platform is to cut down on the time that it takes to find a credible source or narrow the pool of candidates to meet a quick deadline. Front load the important information in your pitch, begin with the name of your source and quickly jump into how their particular expertise would provide a different or supplementary perspective to this story. The backend of your pitch should be quick and concise, providing nothing more than simple instructions to reach out if they would like to be connected with your expert.
Alyssa Susnjara joined the Circa Interactive public relations team in the summer of 2018 as a communications specialist and brings expert insight from the media world to the company. Alyssa is passionate about building established relationships with university faculty and reporters, and she has utilized her skills to land placements at publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vice. Alyssa is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where she studied communications. Go Ducks!