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How to HARO Better
By: Mike Bush
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My Flack Me colleague and super-flack Jeannine Wheeler talked about how valuable HARO can be as a tool in the flack’s toolkit. If you aren’t familiar with HARO, you should take the time to go read Jeannine’s piece. Here’s the link… I’ll wait.

One of the great things about writing for Flack Me is that we can use tools like HARO as reporters might, in order to find additional sources for stories (it’s something I’ve done a few times). As such, here is a set of tips on how to HARO better, written for flacks, by a flack who plays a reporter writing about flackery in his spare time.
  1. Read the query and answer the question(s). This may be common sense, but many of us have done so many media training sessions where we explain that it’s OK not to address certain questions head on that we may have drunk the Kool-Aid. Using HARO, I asked PR people to send me some of their craziest pitches, links to stories that resulted from them, and any success metrics that might be helpful to use as anecdotes. Here is the story I wrote. Some of the notes I received only answered parts of the request. In fact, a couple of the most interesting pitches didn’t get covered because they didn’t include links to actual earned media.
  2. Speed is critical. According to HARO’s website, there are 475,000 people who could be considered “sources” using the site. Note here: Each flack presumably counts as one, despite the fact that they probably have more than one client. This means every question on HARO is going to generate a ton of responses. Be quick when you see a query. The flack who waits a few hours to respond may have the better story source, but may be pitching a reporter who already wrote their piece.
  3. Check your email signature. “Why do people include their email address in their email signature? If someone is sending me something, I’m going to hit “reply,” so I don’t need this extra line here.” ←- I’ve said that a bunch of times, and to this day don’t include my email address in my email signature. For HARO, though, this needs to change. The system creates temporary, disposable email addresses for both the pitcher and the pitchee (these email addresses disappear at whatever time the story deadline is). So, for a reporter who likes a pitch and saves it for a rainy day, an email that doesn’t include a flack’s direct email address is useless (there are at least two posts I’d like to write based on the responses I received in the query I mentioned earlier, but I don’t have any way to get in touch with the sender).
HARO is a terrific tool, but just like a hammer or a screwdriver, it's one that requires a certain level of care when using.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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