The Publicists Guide to Hacking HARO

The Publicists Guide to Hacking HARO


In the 80’s, a publicist’s best friend was her rolodex. Today, it’s Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

This priceless email subscription service has helped me identify and secure invaluable media coverage for both Onboardly and our clients. It’s introduced me to journalists and writers I may not have met otherwise, and allowed me to build strong relationships with the press that I’m very grateful for.

Known for plugging HARO in any Startup PR hack post and regularly on Twitter, I’m often asked what my best tips and tricks are for navigating HARO like a pro. Today, I’m sharing my five best hacks with you.

1. Beat the Clock

I’m confident you’ve heard the expression, you snooze you lose. This can strongly apply to scoring media wins with HARO.

Here’s the 411. HARO sends out three emails a day; morning, afternoon, and evening. I will often plan my day around these times with the expectation of the very important arrival of these emails in my inbox. Every morning, while I have my coffee and scan emails, I review that morning’s HARO update. I then check my afternoon HARO email at lunch and the evening one just before supper. It’s become routine for me and, honestly, it’s a nice break from work.

More importantly though, the timing of such requests from reporters queries will be same day, need this asap, opportunities. Many will have deadlines of 7:00pm EST or in some cases earlier. If it’s a query you can answer on your own, sure -- you’ve got time -- but if you need to loop in a client, send it to a colleague, or do any kind of Q&A or research associated with it, time is of the essence.

Speed wins the race. The sooner you can quickly scan a HARO email, identify the opportunities that you have a shot at, and reply? The better your odds of getting a media win.

2. The Power of Relationships

Quite often, you will spot a journalist or writer that you’ve worked with in the past posting a query in HARO. After all, some of the best of the best use the service religiously to get leads and quotes for stories they’re working on.

A writer we work with regularly recently posted a query for a piece to be published on Forbes. Instead of replying to her through HARO, I sent her a quick personal email. I was sincere, “I know this may be a long shot…” and acknowledged that I was competing with a HARO wave of other emails, but wanted her to know that if she was stuck for a quote or two, that I was there to help.

 She replied immediately, thanking me for being a total savior (as a result of her query, she had over 200 pitch emails through HARO to sift through). With no time to weed through them and counting to find the best fit for her story, she fired me the Q&A she needed, I looped in a client and poof! Awesome Forbes coverage a week later.

The lesson to be learned? Pitch via HARO if you’re not already acquainted with the journalist. But if you are, try sending them a one-on-one email instead. You’re far less likely to get lost in their sea of emails.

3. Be Armed and Ready

When it comes to beating the clock, one must be armed and ready. We’re always reminding startups and companies of one golden rule: know your story. The minute a HARO query with your name on it lands in your inbox, is not the time to start redefining details, questioning your view points, or gathering case studies or stats. In fact, come unprepared and chances are, you’re not going to get very far.

 We often recommend to founders to keep a live document of all of the Q&A they’ve answered in the past, quick and short answers to their who, what, where, when, why, as well as any stats, case studies, or customer testimonials. Always have a database of everything you need to pitch your company at your fingertips.

Why? Because as soon as a query arrives asking for specifics, chances are, you already have them within reach. Need a quick description of your company? Grab that from your document with a quick copy and paste.  Don’t already have a collaborative database of goods for your company? No worries. Start one today by adding things as you go and taking any downtime to add to it moving forward. Treat it as your own internal FAQ for yourself and your company.

4. Be on the Lookout for Future Opportunities

Not every email from HARO will be filled with media opportunities for you or your clients. On most days, I will send in two to three pitches if queries fit what I’m looking for. Other days, there are no good fits.

That’s not to say that those emails are a lost cause. If you have the time, take a look at the various outlets included and writers querying. It’s a great way to identify new media outlets, especially those that are niche. Heads down on building relationships? Make a list of journalists and writers included in the HARO email and start getting to know them by commenting on their posts, following them on Twitter, and making a personal email introduction.

5. Get Friendly with HARO

Lastly, if you love HARO, show them the love in return.

 Kudos to the social team over there! Anytime I sing their praise or mention them on the Onboardly blog (oh hey HARO!), they always help us out by sharing the love on Twitter by retweeting our posts and praise. As a result, our posts get a lot more love and some new followers.

You may be helping them, but these guys will help you out time and time again if you follow these five simple rules. Always give credit where credit is due.

Got a HARO hack that’s your best kept secret? Share it with us in the comments below or tweet us @Onboardly. New to HARO? Get started today at

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