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Using HARO to Create Fresh, Compelling Content

Ken McGaffin
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need-fresh-contentMost of us are under pressure to create, fresh, compelling content, whether it is to promote our own agencies, or to promote our clients.

No matter how good a writer you may be, it’s natural that sometimes you’ll be stumped. Perhaps, you can’t think of something new to say, or can’t find the right angle or you’re fed up recycling the same stuff as everybody else.

Well, how about an immediate source of great well-crafted stories, quotes from company CEOs, opinions from recognized experts that are right on topic? How about getting great material from outside your usual circles and often ending up with more material than you can actually deal with?

One great option for content creators is to become a "reporter" on Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can then post queries and invite public relations pros and businesses themselves to pitch you with ideas, stories, and quotes.

As long as your query is interesting, the quality of pitches you’ll receive is high and can quickly be crafted into great content.

The HARO community consists of over 100,000 PRs, businesses, and organizations who are looking for publicity and are willing to contribute to your story. Queries are sent out in batches of about 40-60 three times a day, and members of the community can then pitch contributions.

Say you need to write about "agile marketing" in startup companies, but you don't have a good grounding in the subject. Post a query explaining what you want and, within hours, startups will be telling you how they use agile marketing, their experiences, and opinions.

The resulting article can come alive with real stories and examples – and probably be a lot more engaging than perhaps a more scholarly approach.

How to Join HARO

Signing up as a reporter on HARO is easy to do. You need to be a regular writer, your site needs to be among the top million on Alexa.com and you have to comply with HARO’s very reasonable rules.

Once you've registered, you can start posting queries and responses will start coming in pretty quickly. I’ve been a reporter on HARO for years and here’s some best practices to get the most from a fabulous content source.

Posting Queries on HARO

When looking for contributors:

  • Be specific in your headline – tell people exactly what you want and you’re more likely to get it.
  • Explain who you are and why you're writing your story.
  • Add a number of short "sub-topic" questions in your query to give people more clues about what you’re after.
  • Tell people how you’ll follow up. Email is great for HARO interviews, phone even better, and where people are really interesting, a Skype video interview can be very compelling.
  • You can also mark your query as urgent and the HARO editors will send your query out the same day.

What You’ll Get From HARO

If you craft your query well you'll get anything between 10 to over 50 responses. Here’s what you’re likely to get:

  • Immediate replies from people who are well prepared. They want coverage and they'll will have put some thought into what they want to say to a reporter.
  • Well-crafted PR stories. A good PR is priceless because they can do a lot of work for you. They are trained to understand exactly what you want and it's the job to give it to you.
  • You also get the opportunity to talk to CEOs, authors, researchers and top experts. You don't want to waste their time, so prepare your questions well and appear professional.

Handling Pitches Through HARO

It’s important to be professional so you can come back and use the service again.

  • You have got to be ruthless. It's probably impossible to go through over 50 responses so you've got to pick out the very best responses and concentrate on them.
  • Don't keep people waiting. Get back and follow up with specific questions on what they've told you as soon as you can.
  • When people give you quotes, you may have to give them a bit of editorial polish. But you mustn't change the real meaning of what people say. If you do edit quotes, you must check that your interviewee is happy with what you've written.
  • Once you have a good collection of quotes and opinion. It's now your job to create a narrative that links them all together. Top and tail your story with a good introduction and a strong conclusion.
  • And of course, give a generous link to the people who have contributed to your content.
  • Send a thank you note and include a link to the published article to the people you have quoted. Invite them to promote to their own social networks and you'll get even more coverage.

If you’d like some help on interviewing people who pitch, check out a great little book, “Interviewing for Journalists” by Sally Adams and Wynford Hicks.

Summary

Posting queries in this way can bring you fresh insights as well as some fantastic stories to share.

Have you used HARO to create your own content, or do you plan to now?

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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