What is HARO?
Have you heard of HARO aka Help a Reporter Out? From a writing perspective and promotional perspective, it can be a helpful tool. But first, you have to know what it is and how it works.
HARO for Writers and Journalists
If you’re a writer or journalist who wants to use credible, authoritative sources in your articles, HARO connects you directly to them. You enter your “query” — the thing you want to know about from an expert’s point of view. People from all kinds of backgrounds find it as part of a search in HARO or receive an email based on a saved search.
At that point, they respond with their expert opinion, giving you a source to quote for an article, a potential source to interview, and someone who can (hopefully) answer your questions. I receive these queries on behalf of one of my clients every day. They range from very detailed requests with a specific question to vague questions that leave a lot of room for interpretation.
HARO for Bloggers, Educators, Experts, Etc.
So why would anyone want to respond to a journalists request/query? I’m sure everyone has their reason, but the big one is publicity. It’s great for people who want to be seen as an expert in their field, who want to be quoted in publications, or who want to position themselves for future interviews. From an online perspective, you will usually get a link back to your website (personal or business), too.
Let’s be clear: some labor with no pay is required. You’re answering a question and offering up your expertise for the hope of a quote or use as a source. This is “work for exposure” at a certain level. Can it lead to other things and create connections and a network for you? Potentially. But until it does, you’re sharing what you know with no guarantee of a positive outcome (a quote, use as a source, etc.) for you.
What’s Good About HARO
Nothing is all good or all bad. If the idea of working for no compensation leaves a bad taste in your mouth, this might not be the option for you. But here’s what can be good about it.
Good for the Journalist:
- Access to more sources than you can find on your own.
- Receiving more points of view on a topic than you would otherwise.
- Tons of great information with slightly less research
- Real world examples
Good for the Expert/Source:
- Being cited as a source and/or expert
- Potential link to your website and a mention in a major online publication
- Becoming a source for a journalist in the future
- Adding to your credibility as an authority on a topic
- Helping change the way we talk about topics (ya know, like sex and sexuality)
What’s Bad About HARO
I’ve been using HARO as a potential source (on behalf of a client) for about nine months or so. I’m not an expert, and I’m still learning all the time, but I have seen a few things that make my eyes roll back in my head.
Bad for the Journalist:
- Responses might not come from good or credible sources
- You might get an answer that doesn’t relate to your question
- There may be no responses to your query
Bad for the Source/Expert:
- Overly vague questions — this means you’re either giving a full answer, i.e. doing the work for someone else or you’re not giving them information they want
- A lot of questions that ask for a lot of details — a few times I’ve felt like I was writing the article for the journalist. If I’m writing a 500 word response to a question, I might as well publish the article on my own blog.
- No idea if your quote or information will be used
One More Tool to Try
Like anything else we do as writers, it’s a numbers game. I’ve responded to dozens of queries and only been quoted twice. Likewise, I’m sure journalists sometimes receive dozens or hundreds of responses but only one or two are any good.
HARO is an interesting resource whether you’re the journalist or the source. It holds a lot of potential and can be great for both sides. But like everything else, it’s not perfect. I’ve made connections with a few journalists, and there are a few whose queries I just won’t answer.
If you want a more journalistic angle to your writing, HARO might be something to try. And if you want to get cited as an expert or resource, sign up and try it out. Whether it’s a good tool for you depends on your goals and your experience with it. It’s simply one more tool to (potentially) help you as a smutlancer.