What is HARO?

Help a Reporter Out (known as HARO) is a free service that connects journalists and publishers to content contributors with the aim of securing valuable media coverage for brands and individuals.

If you are a brand looking for publicity, don’t look any further than HARO. It has a lot of benefits that you could never imagine only spending 30 minutes to 1 hour a day.

help a reporter out

Benefits of Using HARO

1. Free service

If you’re looking for ways to promote your brand without having to spend much on high-priced tools, HARO is a must-try for you.

Its premium features allow more filtering and offer more opportunities to maximize your strategy of using it, but HARO’s free service is a good start for new and established brands.


2. Easy to respond

There are many available platforms that connect you to publishers and journalists but most will require you to participate inside the platform.

There’s nothing wrong with it, especially if you’re trying to put all campaigns in one place. However, if you’re only working on one site, you want the flexibility of communicating with the publishers at your own pace.

HARO can easily send story requests straight to your emails. You can reply to them either you’re on desktop or mobile.


3. Personal branding and thought leadership

Personal brand, as originally coined by Tom Peters in a Fast Company article, “The Brand Called You“, are figuring out how to transcend the narrow boundaries of their categories and become a brand surrounded by buzz. He forecasted that human beings would think of themselves as a unique product.

If you can personally put your brand ahead by showcasing your expertise on a subject matter, HARO gives you a way to do that.

Knowing the subject matter and being known for it are two different things. Through requests of journalists for questions being answered, you are hitting two birds with one stone: getting more exposure and targeting an audience with your brand can actually offer (servicing their needs).


4. Social proof

Getting featured in top publications in your vertical can be used as social proof on your website. Whether it’s a logo you can include on the most visible sections of your homepage or you can use it as additional credibility to your guest blogging portfolio, both of these give leverage to further push your brand out there.


How Does HARO Work?

Sign up as a source. 

how to sign up haro


After you sign up, you’ll get three emails a day — scheduled at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m., ET from Monday to Friday.

Those emails come from journalists requesting additional content contributions, interviews, and even quotes for stories they are currently working on right now.

You, as a source, respond to their requests, and these journalists will respond to you if they found your response fits their needs.

Finally, you get featured in their publications.

How to Use HARO?

Many people overcomplicate the process to use, but the reality is that it’s not that hard.

Here’s how to use HARO in four simple steps:

  1. Choose relevant topics.
  2. Setup emails through filters.
  3. Setup IFTTT for important requests.
  4. Choose relevant HARO inquiries.


Choose relevant topics

To best maximize the use of HARO, choose topics that are only relevant to your brand. Don’t waste time trying to pursue topics you don’t have expertise in.

haro preferences


Checkboxes of industries where you can highly participate in content contribution. You may be tempted to check all, but it will only add clutter to your HARO emails.

I highly recommend only choosing one or two that best fit your site. If you’re an agency, it’s no doubt you choose all for your clients — and only filter the emails based on categories and expertise once they arrive.


Setup emails through filters

Once you properly set up your emails, you’ll be starting to receive emails listing journalist HARO queries connected to your topics.



Furthermore, create filters to all emails ‘from:[email protected]’ inside your inbox. Here are the filter options you can use:

  • Apply the label — label a category to HARO emails as soon as they arrive, so you can quickly prioritize them at times (particularly, if you’re getting hundreds or thousands of emails).
  • Never send it to spam – prevents any HARO email to get caught in your spam filter.
  • Categorize as Primary — to quickly transfer those HARO emails to your inbox’s Primary Tab.

Setup IFTTT for important requests

To ensure you can respond to important requests, you can set up IFTTT (If This Then That) to give you updates quickly whenever there are new HARO requests.

The advantage of doing so is that you can respond immediately to email requests even while you’re on mobile. It works best for people outside the US/UK timezone, as you can do the HARO strategy even while away from the office.

If you want to take advantage of more of the technique, here are some IFTTT tricks that can help you with some semi-automation activities.

  1. Create an Applet to get an SMS sent to your cell phone whenever you receive an email from a HARO inquiry focused on a specific topic.
  2. Craft a draft email response in your notes so when you receive an SMS alert of a new HARO inquiry, you can simply replace a few fields in your response template, and send it over to the journalist as quickly as possible.

email to sms ifttt


Those IFTTT initiatives can help you to stay on top of PR requests.

Choose relevant HARO inquiries

Scan your HARO emails quickly. Choose inquiries that are most relevant to your small businesses. Look at categories such as Business and Finance.

choose haro inquiries


That’s the reason why it’s important to identify your (or your brand)’s expertise, given that it’ll be easy for you to make choices when reading HARO emails.

Next, the most difficult part of this HARO strategy is writing pitches that work.

How to Write a HARO Pitch That Works

Needless to say, journalists receive several responses for HARO pitches.

Like you, brands, agencies, and individuals are ready to send their replies as soon as they can.

But you can’t simply send quick emails without properly thinking about your content. You may end up pitching tens of emails every day without getting much return from the strategy (i.e. contextual links).

You can’t shortcut our response to an inquiry.

Here are some tips to write a HARO pitch that works effectively:

  1. Get in early.
  2. Read the instructions carefully.
  3. Make subject lines relevant and clear.
  4. Write a concise email.
  5. Send appropriate attachments, quick bio, and headshot
  6. Build a mutually-beneficial relationship
  7. Seek out freelance journalists


1. Get in early

This tip should be first in line.

You can craft a highly effective HARO pitch, but if it’s done 24 hours after you received the HARO email pitch, you won’t get much success with it.

Timing is important. Respond as quickly as possible to HARO emails. Your response time should be as 30 minutes as possible.

However, make sure you deliver a good quality response. It won’t make the cut if it’s just an early response yet a crappy contribution.

2. Read the instructions carefully

In most cases, journalists or publishers whether from big publications like Mashable, WallStreet, or New York Times or from a niche authority publisher provide explicit instructions to follow. These include what type of content they need you to submit, what they’re actually looking for in a contributor, and even what not to do.

It’s important to read those instructions before jumping to write your email.

3. Make subject lines relevant and clear

For example, if a HARO lead is a journalist writing a blog post about “personal kanban productivity”, your email subject should be as straightforward as this one: HARO: Personal Kanban Productivity.

You want to make sure your email subject line is 100% relevant. This will cut through the noise of other responses to that same HARO inquiry. It’s the same principle that applies to every other outreach campaign like blogger outreach

4. Write a concise email

The last thing you want to do is to craft an email that’s worth 10 minutes of time to read.

The key to writing a HARO pitch that works is to keep it short.

First, do not promote yourself in the email – you can add it later. But don’t start your email with a full background of yourself and what you do.

And don’t ask for links very quickly. I’ll discuss later how you’d ensure links from your quoted contribution. But for now, focus on the value of your contribution.

The simplest way to concise your email is to write 2 to 3 bullet points with data that would help the journalist on the article he/she is writing.

Focus on the goal of being quoted as a source in the article. Publishers and journalists don’t come into HARO and ask for an entire article — remember they’re looking for a tip, data, or a short-form text to the content piece they’re creating.

Here is an email template from ____ that you can play around it — split test over and over again depending on your needs.

Hi [Journalist’s Name],

My name is [Your Name], [short bio]. Here is _____________________:

1-2 sentences.

1-2 sentences.

1-2 sentences.

I’d love to talk more and help you with your article. Just drop me a line at [your email] or [mobile number].

– [Your Name]

Keys to success:

  • No overpromotion in the first contact. By offering much help in the first place, you can instantly build a rapport, and get returns in the long run (more on this later at relationship building part).
  • A quick introduction is important, like any kind of email.
  • Send a succinct content contribution to a HARO inquiry. Write exactly how you want it to appear in the article.
  • A contact ender line at the end of the email address helps the publisher to contact you immediately if there’s any revision he/she needs in your quote and/or wants more of you to discuss what you contributed.

5. Send appropriate attachments, quick bio, and headshot

This is the moment you can’t be aggressive with follow-ups.

Remember HARO journalists get a gazillion of requests for the inclusion of short content all the time. It may take a while before they respond to your HARO pitch.

But once you receive a response from them, they may ask you for any appropriate attachment, a quick bio of yours/your brand, a headshot, and additional contact information to the content you’ve contributed.

A good recommendation here is to upload your headshot to your website or to Imgur, and simply send them a link in your HARO response, instead of attaching it to the email itself.

6. Build a mutually-beneficial relationship

Achieving success with your HARO pitches can be repeated as long as you are able to deliver good content to the same journalist.

Build relationships with publishers. Ask them gently to get back to you if there’s another opportunity to work together.

Tell them you are open to working with them and providing all the details they need.

Don’t just contact when you want something — find something useful first relevant to what they want to write about and send it over to them.

Build trust more than just getting a link.

You can check out this guide on the best email outreach tips to further enhance your relationships with publishers.

7. Seek out freelance journalists

You would find journalists who are doing freelance work — these are ones who write for a number of different publications at once. They have ongoing relationships with different publishing sites and have a huge network of content creators they partner with.

If you can actually connect to these people, you’ll have a chance of acquiring more inbound links from their connected sites.

One good way to leverage this strategy is to set up alerts for any new articles written by freelance journalists you’ve engaged with.

Start sharing their latest articles on social media and/or comment on their content as soon as it is published. This initiative would help you put on their radar and would add up to the chances of getting more HARO opportunities.

You may at times share new content ideas with them via email or add additional input. This is a perfect way to follow up with them and potentially acquire editorial link or a social share.

When you don’t get a response from your HARO lead, what do you do next?

Monitor your HARO placement.

How to Monitor Your HARO Placement

You won’t always get a response from your HARO journalist — so the best way to stay on top and identify if you actually get a mention or your quote gets cited in an article is to monitor your link placements.

You can use Google Alerts or Ahrefs alerts to keep track of the quoted person/brand you’ve included in your HARO pitch. It’s important to remember what you’ve included in your contribution as a contributor — that will be the element you’ll be monitoring.

ahrefs set up alerts

HARO Link Building In Action

This guide will not end without a short case study of how I actually do it as part of our digital PR services.

The process I’ve shared is exactly the same workflow I followed to get a contextual link from Inc. Asia:

inc asean haro active link


So here’s how it started.

I signed up in HARO, chose preferred topics that I’d like to contribute to HARO requests, and scanned daily emails.

Then I stumbled upon this HARO inquiry. It perfectly fits my background – an ASEAN entrepreneur and someone who loves productivity at best.

haro inquiry inc asean


I respond quickly with a short and concise response. As you can see below, there aren’t any bullet points yet, as there is no instruction or direct questions from the inquiry. So this is an exemption to the rule of adding bullet points. Always check the instructions if these are included in the HARO inquiry.

haro pitch to inc asean inquiry


Then I received a response from the journalist – asking me a set of questions.

haro inquiry response


Without a doubt, I submitted my response – quite lengthy as it answers 5 questions.

my response to help a reporter out lead


Here’s where I’ll stop for a moment.

I actually got the link already, but there’s another opportunity for another backlink. You may also want to set up a Google alerts to monitor your mentions.

good relationship with haro lead


To make the long story short, I submitted another response to her next set of questions and got another link.

inc asean struggles between academic and entrepreneurship

Keys to success:

  • Respond quickly as much as you can.
  • Be straightforward to send your response.
  • Build relationships with the journalist/s – you might get another feature in his/her story.

Advanced HARO Tips

We’ve covered how to write a HARO pitch that works. You’ll have to start from there and test it yourself by changing elements to keep it short, yet adding more value to the journalist you’re pitching to.

There are techniques you can test out yourself that will add incremental success to your HARO strategy.

Here are some advanced HARO tips you can apply directly to your campaign.

Request for homepage links

If you get a link in your mention for your contribution, you are extremely happy with it, especially if it’s from a high publication site.

You get a contextual link for sure, but it isn’t amazing to have a link to your homepage?

There is one way to do that: request a homepage link.

It may be easy as it sounds, but you have to look at what types of content you have suggested to be included in your HARO pitch. You need to have a good reason for a link to a homepage.

If contextual fit, such as group interviews, quotable mentions, and the like, getting a link to a homepage link isn’t much to ask. In fact, it’s more natural to look at it from a reader or user perspective. If they want to know more about the brand or who quotes the tip, then they would simply click on the homepage link and see more details.

Respond via Twitter

There are times where there is an instruction in a HARO inquiry to connect via Twitter.

If you choose to respond via Twitter, be sure to give them your email so they can get in touch with you directly or you can offer to DM their details.

This kind of initiative speeds up the back and forth process of communication.

Send content that requires less editing

When responding to HARO inquiries, always be mindful of your journalist.

You want him/her to spend less time editing your content. Do the content legwork for him or her. He or she should easily plug what you’ve contributed to their articles.

Given that, if your short-form content piece isn’t quite fit, it could be a lost opportunity.

Use a compelling angle in the introduction

Many HARO pitches will have a templated introduction of what they do or what their company does.

While that may work if it’s the right fit for what the journalist is looking for, I suggest you find a compelling angle that’s relatable to their current inquiry.

This way, you’re telling the journalist you deserve the quote, as it is something you have knowledge about. Don’t mention links at all

Most journalists are irritated with people asking for links when they haven’t contributed much value in their HARO pitches.

Don’t worry, you can ask for a link later on your short-form content has been approved.

But during the engagement, stay focused on the value of your HARO pitch.

What You Get With HARO Paid Accounts

The first advantage of subscribing to a paid account in HARO is that you can set up your own profile or bio — which can be included in your pitches.

Though you can do it quickly with your free account, your bio that includes your website URL and your social media profiles, when easily plugged in straight to your pitch, can lessen the time adding it to your email every time you respond to inquiries. This saves you enough time for crafting emails.

Another good thing with HARO paid account is that you can add details related to the specific areas of your expertise and any previous publications your brand has been featured in.

Moreover, with a paid subscription, you can set up alerts for HARO requests that match the specific keywords you prefer. You may even get SMS alerts if you’re in the US.

There are many extra features with paid HARO accounts that can help you secure more media mentions for your brand.

Passive Way of Acquiring Links

Using HARO may not always give you what you want, such as links from mentions, but if you’re doing link building, the strategy is worth the investment of your time.

All it takes is for you to respond to 4 to 5 targeted leads a day to get press. For each HARO inquiry, you spend only 15 to 30 minutes crafting a relevant and value-adding message.

Have you had any success using HARO as one of your techniques to secure media outlet mentions? Share with us some tips that work for you in the comment section below.