The Help A Reporter Out mailing list was once a golden source of getting last minute coverage for all sorts of businesses. If you’re unfamilar with the concept, it’s a thrice daily email of reporters reaching out to gather sources. These emails have been known to have dozens of requests for sources. Started by Peter Shankman about a decade ago, the basic email is free. But is it still worth it?
The first problem with modern HARO is that it’s very well known. It’s been touted as a great source for SEOs looking for links through genuine coverage as well as for PR teams. It means that each request will typically receive dozens if not hundreds of pitches. That’s great for reporters, but horrible for actually getting attention through the system.
This volume makes it a bit of a black hole. Its not uncommon to seed out 20 requests before seeing even an acknowledgement in return. While it’s supposed to be the ethic to send out “rejections” it’s rarely followed. It’s also common to gain coverage with out even getting a notification about it. It’s always nice to prep clients that they’ll be getting some media, and when, so they can be ready to talk. That doesn’t happen either.
The second problem has to do with the types of requests. Some are fantastically on point, timely, and focused and there’s no reason to ignore those. However, when the holiday season rolls around there’s also quite a few requests for review products. I’m sure some are legit. I’m also sure that there’s a lot of bloggers that just want free stuff. Maybe saying no to these is a good idea.
The most annoying type of request has to be the “looking for confirmation” request. This takes the form of trying to confirm a controversial or unusual position. There was a recent request for doctors to talk about essential oils that can treat the flu. Normal medical doctors aren’t going to say that an oil is going to prevent the flu. It’s not researched, it’s not supported, and the FDA goes out of their way to make sure that every essential oil company puts a huge disclaimer on it’s package about how it’s not there to treat anything. This reporter only needs one doctor to say something else, and the article is written. The flu kills people. Poorly supported info can be complicit in that.
Real Opportunity and Trends
All that said, if you wade through all of the chaff, there are quite a few wonderful opportunities. Finance and accounting in particular seem to have a disproportionate number of requests. Cryptocurrency used to be a hot bed, but is now quite a bit slower as the interest has waned a bit there. It can even be good to take a pulse of reporters interests. There are real trends to see and even if none of the requests fit, it could form an idea for existing clients and reporter contacts. I wouldn’t say HARO is worth throwing out of the tool box just yet, but don’t expect it to get you on the cover of Newsweek either.