by Kevin Rabida . October 15th, 2014
Want publicity for your business but can’t afford to hire a PR firm? How about helping a journalist?
An internet service called Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, can get you absolutely free publicity for your small business. If you have something to say about the topic, that is.
Marketing 101 would tell you that awareness is the first step before you can lead your consumers into buying your product or service. Any brand mention in any reputable source can go a long way, especially in the context of a shareable article. Being cited as a source can build credibility for you.
Photo credit: European Parliament / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Here’s how it works. There are two portals for HARO, one for reporters and one for you as a source. Reporters writing for a certain topic would post some queries, say, a report about the printing industry. If you own a printing company, you might want to share your insight to the reporter on industry standards and trends.
After signing up as a source, you would get daily emails containing questions that reporters submitted. The questions included in each email depends on the category you signed up for.
Each query starts with a summary of the topic, the name of the reporter and the media outlet they are writing for, and the query itself. You can then contact the reporter directly through a unique email generated by the site.
The queries are pretty straightforward. Here are some of the topics I got from the Business and Finance category:
It was founded early 2008 in Facebook by public relations expert Peter Shankman where he manually connected reporters, expert sources and people who would like to be quoted in one Facebook group.
Screenshot from Help a Reporter Out website.
When the group hit the Facebook group limit, it expanded to a mailing list and eventually grew to a website with nearly 30,000 news gatherers and over 100,000 news sources. It boasts $1 million dollars in yearly revenue.
According to its website, prominent news agencies such as Fox, ABC and Associated Press use their services. It has published over 75,000 journalist queries and promoted 1,500 brands.
Years ago, it was difficult for small business owners to get exposure to a large number of audience. They would usually rely on word of mouth or engage with promotions limited to their localities. News gatherers also had difficulty in gathering viable sources on topics, especially those requiring expert opinions.
Photo credit: rlanvin / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
The development of technology bridged this gap between journalists and sources.
The social network industry is sustainable only for as long as people are using social networking sites. Google Plus arguably failed to meet expectations. The initial buzz on newcomer Ello and its anti-Facebook stand is continuing to decline. Even Facebook faced declining stock price before it grew through an advertising overhaul in-site.
By creating a hub where both parties come together and interact, HARO made it possible to meet these mutual needs.
It’s basically still a mailing list, only with a larger audience. The only customizable option for the free account is the category preference. Filters, customizable profiles, and even the search function are only available for paying customers.
The semi-anonymity that the site provides could also be used for spam. Without a proper fact-checking, reporters could get statements from non-authoritative sources. One guy even lied his way to major news outlets using the service.
For small businesses, however, the problem would be reaching out to supposed reporters and bloggers who engage in spammy actions in their site. This kind of PR could hit your credibility.
Photo credit: Pragmagraphr / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
If you finally decide on using HARO as a PR tool, here are some tips that you should consider to make it more effective:
Your aim should both be short-term and long-term. For the short-term, you want to be quoted and your brand or business mentioned. For the long-term, you want to build a relationship with the reporter good enough for you to be contacted in the future should a similar article topic is needed.
Have you used HARO for your business? How’d it go? Hit us in the comments!
Kevin is a reader first, a writer second, and a gamer somewhere in between. When not rooting for Tyrion Lannister for the Iron Throne, he's probably writing some morbid short story. He enjoys some surreal art, clever advertising campaigns, and a warm cup of coffee while reading Murakami.