HARO, Help a Reporter Out, is a great resource for anyone leading PR campaigns. To get exposure to your business or natural backlinks for your clients, you must learn how to write HARO pitches that fit right into top publications’ content.
I worked with a high-authority website and analyzed hundreds of HARO pitches submitted by experts across the domain authority spectrum. This blog post is an amalgamation of my analysis as a journalist and my experiments as a source. The HARO writing tips you are about to read got me a backlink conversion rate of 12%.
What is a HARO Query?
A HARO query is a niche specific requirement that a journalist distributes to thousands of experts through the HARO newsletter. Experts, known as sources in HARO parlance, generate content for journalists by responding to the query with their quotes. A HARO query either seeks quotes from sources – to be published in the journalist’s content piece – or the source’s expression of interest for an interview.
It’s worth noting that a journalist can also be a business writer, not just a reporter. Content marketers can sign up as a journalist on HARO to source quality content for their marketing drafts. We will refer to all query submitters as journalists in this article.
Example of a HARO Query
A typical HARO query consists of the below items:
2. Name of the journalist and the media outlet they represent
3. Deadline for the sources to respond to the query
4. Detailed query
5. Requirements or guidelines that the journalist wants the sources to follow
What is a HARO pitch?
A HARO pitch is the response that a source submits for a HARO query from a journalist. The pitch should provide easy-to-consume, quality information to the journalist.
Here’s what a typical HARO pitch looks like.
It consists of the below items:
1. Source’s contact information
2. Pitch title
3. Pitch content
4. Source’s signature
5. A unique URL that the journalist can use to respond to the source
6. An option for the journalist to escalate impertinent queries to HARO
#1 is picked from HARO’s database. Those are the details you would have entered while signing up with HARO as a source. Everything else varies with the pitch.
We will share more examples in another section but we will use the above screenshot as the model for a good HARO pitch.
How to write a HARO pitch?
Here are 11 tips to write a HARO pitch:
1. Sell through the subject line
As a journalist, I subconsciously skip the top section of the screen that has the contact details of the source. I find myself hyper-focussed on jumping directly to the subject line for a brief second before jumping on to the query. I look at the contact details only if I like their pitch.
Catchy subject-lines grab my attention for a fraction of a second more than mundane ones do. That, of course, does not determine if I include the quote, but it sure nudges me to give it a more focussed read.
Now, catchy is subjective. What I mean is, the subject line should sell the source as an expert. For example, a subject line that reads – [HARO Response] – How to increase email open rate? Is mundane. Every second pitch title reads a version of that. But this subject line – One tip that increased my email open rate by 2 percent-points – stands out.
2. Introduce yourself and state what makes you a good source
Your introductory paragraph must sustain the attention that your subject line grabbed. Even though the journalist’s visual cursor jumps to the response first, it jumps right back to the introduction if the pitch meets the brief.
Write a 2 sentence (20-35 word) long introduction that speaks about your expertise in the niche. Include years of relevant experience, industries that you cover, your designation, publications you featured in, and anything else that establishes you as a reliable source of information.
If you are writing the HARO pitch for your clients, make sure you speak about their credentials.
3. Study the journalist and their website
Everyone has a unique writing style. HARO Journalists are no different. They might alter their flair to align with the tone of the website they are sourcing content for, but their personality reflects through the words and phrases they commonly use.
It’s prudent to imbibe their writing style while responding to their queries. The more familiar they feel, the easier it is for the journalists to plug it into their content. Your goal must be to minimize potential edits.
To develop the said sense of familiarity, look for content they published under the outlet they mentioned. Pick their tone and jot down the phrases they frequently use and include them in your pitch.
While you are at that, check if they link out to external domains. Some journalists use content from HARO without crediting the source – which defeats the purpose for you. Also, check if they provide dofollow or nofollow links. In short, check for all items relevant to you or your clients.
4. Meet the brief. Please.
About 25% of HARO pitches are off topic. Their writers get canceled faster than Ye.
Journalists have hundreds of responses and only enough time to take a cursory glance at each. It’s a game of rejection. Pitches that talk nothing about the query waste journalists’ time and push them to report you as an unauthentic source. When that happens one too many times, you get banned from responding on HARO.
Given that a fourth of all pitches are worth nothing – an authentic piece that actually answers the query is a pleasant respite for the journalist. I find myself wanting to use every response that meets the brief because most don’t.
I also see many responses that only partly answer my query – they answer one question out of the two I asked and end up getting ignored. Each query sure takes effort and time, but it needs to answer everything that the journalist asked.
5. Be concise and use simple language
Journalists require to stick to a word count but they also need to cover multiple sub-topics comprehensively. That’s why they often mention an upper word count limit in the requirements section of their query. Try not to exceed it.
Journalists, while going through the HARO pitches, subconsciously measure the area of the text on the screen. They can’t tell the exact word count but they can estimate it based on the area.
If I asked for a 100-word response, I would not want to see a brick-wall of text. A verbose response tells me that the source has not read my query in its entirety. I won’t spend time trimming it down. I’ll jump to the next pitch.
6. Follow journalist’s guidelines
We covered just one of the many journalist requirements in the last section – word count. There could be more.
Some journalists want responses directly from the expert, not their agency or VA. Some ask for headshots along with other details. Yet some are against book promotions.
Invest time in writing HARO pitches only if the suggested guidelines work well for you. You won’t get a quote if you don’t abide by them.
7. Include at most one relevant link
Include a link to your homepage while signing up with HARO as a source. HARO shares it with the journalists, each time you submit a pitch. Providing another URL is often not useful because most journalists prefer to link to your homepage.
However, if you think you have an asset that is relevant to the pitch and will help set the context better, include the link to it. Do not overdo that because journalists rarely ever include more than one link per pitch.
8. Use examples from your experience
What makes you stand out from the heaps of responses is a quote that reflects your expertise. When you share examples from your experience, journalists trust you more. It shows that you know what you are talking about.
Also, personal examples are unique. They stand out from scores of responses that are essentially ideas plagiarized from other websites. Most journalists are content marketers who care about SEO and Google rankings. They know that uniqueness is an important aspect of SEO which makes your quote valuable.
9. Make your quote copy-paste ready
Proofread your pitch. Run it through Grammarly, or even better, ask a colleague to review it. Also, write the HARO pitch in the same tone as the journalist. Remove fluff and try to compress text while being smart with punctuation.
The goal is to ensure that the only effort the journalist needs to make is to copy your quote and plug it into their piece. Just like any other sales interaction, you must make it easy for the prospect to arrive at the decision that favors you.
10. Keep communication lines open
Just like any other marketing copy, make sure that you end your quote with a call-to-action (CTA). Unless you tell them what you want them to do, they won’t do it.
I prefer to end my pitches with this simple line – Hope this helps. Happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have. It has worked well for me so far.
At this point, you need not give your contact details in the mail body. HARO includes it at the top of the response view screen and you would have them in your signature too. Additionally, HARO provides journalists with a unique link to respond to.
They will find you if they need you. You just have to announce your openness to listening back from them.
11. Seal the deal with your signature
Your signature must contain all the information that the journalist might need – your name, designation, company name, headshot, etc. Including everything they need upfront obviates the need to reach out to you thus saving journalists’ time.
Make sure that your expertise reflects through your designation too. You might, for example, be the CEO and Head of Content in your company but if the journalist seeks responses only from the C-Suite, you must highlight CEO as the title.
Mistakes to avoid while writing a HARO pitch
1. Don’t attach documents
As per Cision guidelines, any pitch that has an assignment gets auto-deleted to protect the journalists from potential virus attacks.
You can, however, upload your documents on Google Drive or other file sharing services and share links through your pitch.
2. Don’t pitch outside your area of expertise
Niches tend to blend into each other. Someone expert in Finance tech need not be an expert in giving financial advice. The umbrella niche for both, however, is the same.
It’s hard to make a distinction and we would recommend you to submit pitches for both queries.
However, an expert in finance tech should not be writing HARO pitches for queries seeking dental experts. If they do that one too many times, their mail ID might get banned by HARO.
3. Don’t respond with plagiarized or AI generated content
As a journalist, I do my research before submitting HARO queries. I am aware of what my competitors have covered in their content so if someone were to copy from them, spin the content, and submit it as a response, I would know. And so would most journalists.
Submitting plagiarized or spun content can get you blacklisted by the journalist. You won’t see their queries anymore. If HARO finds many journalists blacklisting you, you may lose access to all HARO newsletters.
In the same vein, submitting AI generated content is a shady practice too. With ChatGPT, it has become easy to generate content but most search engines can detect it. The journalist’s website may get penalized. It won’t impact you beyond negative karma points but it is against general business ethics. You can get ideas from ChatGPT, but try to edit the AI copy to make it sound human.
4. Don’t be in a hurry
Most guides on HARO ask you to submit a pitch within minutes of receiving the newsletter. Though it is sound advice, it should not be an excuse to submit a low-quality pitch. Most pitches I receive for my queries do not cut it, it doesn’t depend on what time I received them, I would accept pitches that I like.
Take time to write the perfect pitch as described in the previous section. As a source, I have seen the same degree of success irrespective of when I submit the HARO pitch.
5. Don’t rely too much on templates
Templates speed up the submission process but use them only to provide a structure to your pitch. Don’t send the same pitch to hundreds of journalists because it takes away the human touch. A HARO pitch written from scratch helps you personalize content, thus increasing the chances of it being accepted.
6. Don’t write them a novella
Stick to the word count suggested by the journalist. Don’t write 500 word long HARO pitch when they asked for 100 words. More is not better in this case.
Examples of HARO pitches
Here are some HARO pitches that converted into backlinks.
Example 1: HARO pitch copy that got me a Backlink from a DR 81 website
1) The most important report I use for clients is the Goal Completions Report.
Why do I use this report?
This report gives my clients an idea of how many leads I generated for them. This report has a direct correlation with the Return on Investment I delivered for my clients.
How to set-up this report?
Once you log into Google Analytics, follow this path: Admin > View > Goals
Next click on New Goal as shown in this image. You can then proceed to set your goal as per your client’s requirements.
How to track this report?
Wait for at least a month before you check the report. This gives the tool enough time to collate metrics and provide you with a complete picture. Then head over to the Conversions tab on Google Analytics, click on Goals and then click on Overview. This image gives a better idea.
2) Yes, I use Google Analytics reports for my clients
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to answer them all.
Owner | Digital Marketing Manager
Example 2: HARO pitch copy that got me a Backlink from a DR 62 website
Please find my response to your HARO query below.
Most small businesses rely on Google Ads to generate leads. However, the conversion from Ads reduces during inflation because their potential leads have a lower inclination to spend. This means their cost per click goes off the roof.
The best way to reduce paid Ad expenses is by investing in SEO. A good SEO strategy will help you rank on the first page of Google search pages without investing in CPC Ads.
Owner | Digital Marketing Manager
HARO Pitch Templates
HARO Pitch Template for Interview Requests:
Hi [Journalist’’s Name],
I am [Your Name], the [Your Title] at [Your Company], and have [Years of Experience] in [Niche]. I have written/spoken on [The Topic] for [Publication/Conference] and would be happy to share my thoughts with you or your audience.
I am available at [Preferred time slot] and can provide additional materials – links to relevant articles or a short bio.
Let me know if you want to connect. Happy to work on another time slot. Let me know,
Thank you for considering my pitch.
[LinkedIn Profile URL]
HARO Pitch Template for Quote Requests:
Hi [Journalist’s name],
My name is [Your Name] and I am the [Your Role] at [Your Company]. I have an experience of [X] years with [Niche]. Please see my response to your HARO query below
Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions.
How long should the HARO pitch be?
HARO pitch should be as long as the journalist specified in their query. If the journalist did not mention anything, try to curtail your response to 300 words.
How long does it take to write a HARO pitch?
It takes about 20 minutes on average to write a HARO pitch from start to finish. That also includes the time taken to proofread the response. It might take longer to respond to queries that do not align with your niche completely.
You need to respond to at least 10 queries to get one link. That means you need to spend more than 3 hours getting a backlink.
Should you write a HARO pitch for Anonymous queries?
Yes. As per HARO’s guidelines, most anonymous queries are from reputed publications that hide their name to avoid spam. If you stick with the checklist while writing HARO pitches for them, you might get top quality links.