Building an author platform takes patience. Too often authors put all their energy into writing and publishing, but push off any thought of “marketing” or “publicity” as long as possible—then, when they finally throw their finished book out into the world, it lands with a thud.
If nobody knows about your book, how can they know to buy it?
What is HARO?
HARO is a social hub for connecting journalists with potential news sources—that’s where you come in. Every day, HARO sends out emails with requests for subject matter experts who can turn over a quick quote or lend their expertise to a story.
According to HARO, each year they send out more than 50,000 media queries. The platform reaches more than 800,000 sources, and 55,000 journalists and bloggers.
Why Authors Would Use HARO
You may have gotten this far and wondered, “Why should I give my knowledge for free? Isn’t that why I wrote the book?” Here’s why you want to freely share your expertise…
Media coverage builds your reputation. Making connections through HARO can lead to your name and a link to your author website appearing in the media. This gives you another item to add to your media portfolio, and further cements your position as a leading expert in your category.
Media coverage boosts your SEO. As you appear on respected websites—and they link back to your website—that tells search engines that your site is relevant. Over time, this will improve your ranking with search engines, which means your website will show up higher in search results.
Media coverage sets you up for more media opportunities. With media coverage, even something small can lead to more coverage. Each time you appear in the media—and demonstrate what you’re like as an expert or guest—that makes you even more attractive to the media in the future.
Here’s what some HARO users have to say…
“My HARO sources have appeared in articles featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Essence, MSN.com, CreditCards.com and BankRate.com. I also used HARO for an article that appeared on the cover of Family Circle.”
“HARO regularly has television shows looking for guests and writers of major magazines and newspapers looking for experts.”
“I’m able to use HARO to quickly identify experts and sources, get story ideas, round out my story with balanced points and counterpoints from verified sources.”
“I use HARO all the time, and I routinely connect with great sources and forge stellar professional connections.”
—Eileen Hoenigman Meyer, freelance writer (The Washington Post, The Independent, Fast Company, and more)
“HARO is a reliable, streamlined way for me to connect with potential sources when I’m against quick deadlines.”
—Angela Tague, journalist, blogger (Club Traveler, TIME)
How Authors Can Get Started with HARO
There are different tiers (see the chart), but it’s easy enough to start with a free account. For most authors, the basic account should be fine.
Get started by visiting helpareporter.com and selecting “I’m a source.”
Monitor Source Requests
Three times a day, subscribers receive an email with requests from reporters and media outlets worldwide.
Send a Relevant Pitch
For your purposes, you want to be getting press in relevant media outlets. That is, those that speak to the audience you hope to reach.
Think of it this way: If you’re selling vacuum cleaners, there’s little value in being put in front of an audience of, say, Amish people. No matter how compelling a case you make for your vacuum, the Amish just don’t want it. You won’t change that.
So when looking at requests, be sure to give most of your attention to those that are relevant to your author brand.
What to Watch Out for on HARO
Like any platform, there are those who want to abuse the HARO system—on both sides. You’ve got “reporters” and “sources” alike that aren’t legitimate. (And should be reported to the admins.)
If you’re not sure about an outlet, go to a search engine and find them online. Take a quick look at the website to make sure you want your name associated with it.
“Not too long ago, you had to prove you were a journalist from a top-tier publication. Today, anyone can get on there and say they are. The only thing we can do is keep on pitching. Sending personalized pitches targeted directly to specific members of the media is often a more effective way of upping the chances of getting your story told.”
—Christina Nicholson, former TV reporter and PR expert on Muck Rack blog
Do’s and Don’ts for HARO
DO focus on your expertise. The reason the media wants to hear from you is because they need experts to fill in the blanks for them. When you demonstrate your ability to speak intelligently on your topic of expertise, that builds your credibility—and can potentially lead to becoming a go-to expert in the future.
DON’T hawk your book. The media isn’t handing out free marketing. If you come at this process with the intention of selling your book, they’ll pass on your answer in favor of someone who can actually help them—and put that person in front of their audience.
DO offer your expert advice freely. If you want to be considered an expert, show them you know your stuff. Offer value for the audience that will eventually be reading it, and you’re more likely to be allowed in front of them.
DON’T fall for pay-to-play scams. Some of the platform’s abusers are using these source requests to try and fish for paid content. Now, there is a place for paid content—but this ain’t it. No legitimate news organization is going to ask for money through HARO. If someone asks you for money through the HARO system, ignore the request (or report it) and move on.
DO be quick. While you want to craft a thoughtful response, don’t sit on it too long. That journalist may receive dozens (or hundreds) of answers. The faster you respond, the better your chances. (On top of which, the platform won’t even accept responses after the deadline.)
DON’T expect immediate results. Don’t think of HARO as some get-famous-quick scheme. All the same rules for publicity apply here. HARO is just another tool you can use to help build your media portfolio.
DO be relevant. Only answer requests if you fit the criteria, and you can add to the conversation. If you’re off-topic, or it’s a stretch for you to even be talking on this subject, please don’t waste the time of that journalist. That can potentially burn a bridge you need later.
DON’T be vague. Reply to a request with a complete answer, plus a short bio and contact information. Don’t expect them to follow up just to find out what you have to say. They don’t have the time for that—plus a bunch of other people already answered it correctly.
What Will You Do Now?
HARO is a tool that can help you connect with relevant media professionals who speak to your audience. As you build your collection of media appearances, that will make the next media outlet more comfortable with booking you as a guest or interview subject.
Do you plan to try HARO? Have you used HARO in the past? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Have you been following my series on how authors can get free publicity via the media? Catch up on all my posts HERE.
If you aren’t already a member of BookWorks, please check us out for more great content like this and join our community of indie authors, editors, coaches, designers, marketers, bloggers and other self-publishing pros.