What Reporters Hate About HARO Replies

What Reporters Hate About HARO Replies

One of the easiest ways for any company to get national and regional media coverage is to answer a query on Help a Reporter Out, a great site created by PR guru Peter Shankman.

Shankman created the free service in 2008 after receiving many calls from his reporter friends asking him for sources for their stories. 

Three times a day Shankman and his team send out a list of queries sent in by reporters. I’ve used the site as both a journalist and freelance publicist, and found it very useful and a great way to find new sources.

HARO has a few simple rules.  Pitch on topic, never add a reporter to your media list without permission,  and you may only send a relevant response to a specific request for information.

Since being bought by Vocus, there’s actually a lot of lawyer-ese to read now about the rules.

Some 120,000 sources now use HARO to see queries from 29,500 journalists. Competition to be included in a story, especially one for a national media outlet, is stiff, so how you respond now is as important as the speed in which you respond.

Here’s a list of things reporters hate to see in HARO responses:

1)    Responses that say “Feel free to contact me either via e-mail or by phone regarding the research you’re doing. Email, phone, Regards. Name.” Or “I am an expert in this field and we work with (blank) every day.” And that’s it. Why would I choose you?

2)    Responses that don’t follow specific query instructions, like “Please include HARO Health in your subject line.” Or “Tell me your three tips.”

Not following that subject line instruction means I probably won’t read your response because I’m searching for everything with those words in my email from the thousands I get every day. And for this particular story, I’m ignoring everything else.

3)    Subject lines that only say “HARO HEALTH.” How am I to decide whether your information is what I need when I have 125 emails with the same exact subject line? I read these last, if I read them. Savvy responders know to add their twist in the subject line.

4)    Responses filed by PR folks saying “My client is available to speak about your query, can I set up an interview?” and include the name of the client, but nothing else. No supporting details showing why I’d want to interview their client. Yes, I’ve received a few of those.

5)    Seeing a great pitch by a PR pro that answers the query concisely and offers several tips, only to find out later that the CEO is not available for an interview.

6)    Responses that say, “I’m an expert in the field you are querying but I have no experience with your particular questions” – and then go on and on about an aspect that is not directly relevant to the query.

7)    Getting follow up emails later in the day asking “I haven’t heard from you yet, so I was wondering if you still wanted to interview me or my client.” Reporters have daily deadlines, receive thousands of emails and clogging their emails with extra emails might send your original response into the recycle bin.

8)    Getting emails a week later asking when the story will run. Reporters don’t control publication dates and breaking news comes first. Create a Google Alert on the reporter’s name, or subscribe to their offline publication for a short time will often get you the publication date faster.

Reporters: What do you hate to see in HARO responses? Responders: What did you include to make sure a reporter responded to your HARO response?