HARO Journalist | Sakshi Udavant
HARO can be an excellent free tool to gain media coverage, build backlinks, and increase brand awareness. Unfortunately, it’s also quite easy to misuse.
As a journalist who has used HARO and similar source request platforms for hundreds of stories over the years, I’ve come across a few things PRs, case studies, and experts do that make it harder (if not impossible) to quote them in a story.
To help you avoid this and send a winning pitch, here are the top 10 HARO mistakes to watch out for. I’ve also included a pitching checklist so you can be sure you’re sending a relevant, helpful response that’s more likely to get you coverage.
Note: Before we dive deeper into the mistakes, please know that this is not intended to shame anyone. Everyone receives different levels of media training (if at all) and some can’t afford to hire experienced PRs to represent them well. This is just a list of the common mistakes I’ve seen with some friendly suggestions on how you can avoid them so you can stop wasting your time/money and actually get the coverage you’re seeking.
Top 10 HARO mistakes to avoid
- Faking expertise
A few weeks ago, I put out a call for psychologists and relationship coaches and an insurance agent reached out saying he was the right expert because he had “been in a lot of relationships.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-off experience. For nearly every HARO request I send, I receive multiple responses from people completely unrelated to the industry I’m seeking experts in.
As journalists, we and our teams fact-check everything, including the background of the person we’re quoting so there’s no use trying to pretend you’re an expert in something you’re not.
Not only does this make me delete your pitch, but I’ll likely never consider you an expert even for stories where you can actually contribute something valuable as I can’t trust you and your expertise.
Instead of spamming every HARO request with irrelevant responses hoping for something to work out, spend the time sending thoughtful pitches to requests that DO align with your expertise.
- One-line pitches
Journalists receive hundreds (and sometimes thousands!) of pitches so if you really want to stand out, it can be helpful to include more than one-line responses.
It’s understandable to receive a brief intro in response to the initial HARO request, but make sure you’re communicating your expertise properly and not just saying, “read my bio here,” and linking to your website or LinkedIn.
Our inboxes are overflowing and we’re often working on tight deadlines so the more convincingly you portray your expertise, the easier it is to decide if you’re a fit for the story.
- One-line answers
Similar to receiving one-line pitches, receiving one-line answers makes it really hard for me to quote you.
Look at the example above. My question is longer than the answer I received!
My job as a writer is to make the story interesting so I can’t use responses that don’t add value to the article.
Not every word you send will make it into the story, but if you send detailed answers, we can choose the best quotes. On the other hand, if you send 1-2 lines, we have no option but to use someone else’s (perhaps more interesting) quotes.
- Responding too late
I almost always receive more HARO pitches than I could possibly use in a story, so once I get some good quotes, I don’t have time to read through the remaining pitches.
This means if you’re sending pitches mere hours before the deadline, it’s likely I’ve already written and submitted the story at this point.
I know it’s not the ideal model but when I’m working on a tight deadline, I have to go with the responses I receive first. It has happened that I receive really good answers but it was too late to include them.
- Missing deadlines
As a human being, I completely understand that things happen and sometimes you just can’t send the answers in time. But as a journalist, I have to follow the deadlines given to me by the editors so I can’t wait for your answers if you miss the deadline.
If this happens several times, I can’t continue to rely on you for quotes and find other experts who can respond quickly.
- Sending AI responses
ChatGPT and other AI writing platforms have some great uses, but sending HARO responses is not one of them!
As someone who writes for a living, it’s very easy to recognize the robotic (and often inaccurate) answers people copy-paste from AI generators.
When this happens, journalists and editors will likely never work with you again. It is an instant block/report as journalists and publications can get in trouble for using AI-generated quotes.
- Sharing inaccurate information
Journalists interview experts for a story because they’re knowledgeable about the industry and can add insights that mere research can’t cover. Unfortunately, some experts share inaccurate information which makes it hard to trust your expertise and quote you in the story.
This isn’t always intentional, but it helps to double-check your responses for accuracy before hitting send.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve found experts copy-paste answers from other websites and hope no one notices.
Again, we fact-check everything and a simple Google search pulls up your quote word-to-word on another site!
It’s far more valuable to put time and effort into writing a genuine answer for a select few HARO requests than spamming everyone with AI-generated or plagiarized content.
- Forcing your company’s name in the answers
We get it. You want us to mention your company name and give you a backlink. Often, we’ll do that. But please don’t try to forcefully insert your company name into the answers.
We can’t use your quote if it reads like an advertisement. Instead, offer helpful answers and know that most journalists do mention your company and link back to your page when quoting you IF your responses actually make it into the story.
- Too many follow-ups
I understand the temptation to keep asking for updates. Did we use your quotes? When will the story be published? All valid questions!
Unfortunately, asking these questions every few days doesn’t help. As a journalist, I don’t always know when the story will be published. The editors and the publication decide it.
I also can’t control whose quotes make it into the story as editors will often cut out various sections to match the publication’s word count and writing style.
So even if you ask me any of these questions daily, I simply don’t have the answer! If I knew, I’d tell you the first time you asked!
One simple trick I recommend is to check the publication’s website. That’s where the article will or won’t be so you get your answer in a minute.
Ask for this information so you don’t have to keep sending follow-up emails every few days.