How to Create an Effective HARO Pitch

Help A Reporter Out has the potential to be a public relations practitioner’s best friend. The social media site, which offers a free e-mail newsletter in addition to its paid plans, puts you directly in contact with reporters who are looking for expert sources. If you find the right reporter, your client or business could become an overnight sensation.

There’s just one catch: Somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 other sources are receiving that same free e-mail newsletter. So how do you make your pitch stand out?

Here are some tips from people using HARO on how to create an effective PITCH:


With the sheer multitude of queries you’ll receive from reporters three times a day, it can be tempting to respond a reporter or two every time that newsletter pops up in your inbox. DON’T. 

Wait until you’re absolutely certain you have useful information, and whatever you do, do not pitch a reporter on an unrelated story just because she writes for an outlet you’re interested in. (Example: “Hi, Ms. Smith, I can’t help you on your HARO request, but I saw you write for the New York Times, and I have another story that would be perfect for you.”)

This is for your own good. If you’re bugging reporters, they can give your pitch a low rating, and that will affect your credibility on any other emails you send in response to HARO queries. So just have faith that some day, you’ll open your inbox and see a query you just know is meant for you.

Immediate Response

Again, there are hundreds of thousands of other sources receiving the same e-mails you are, and some of them have paying accounts, which means they get alerts when reporters send out queries related to their keywords. A single query might receive 100 responses.

HARO CEO Peter Shankman told The Renegade Writer that he advises journalists to look through the emails they receive in the first five minutes after their queries are sent, and if they find what they need, ignore any other emails.

The emails are sent at 5:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. EST every day, so be ready to respond and make sure your pitch is at the top of the journalist’s inbox.

Tantalizing Subject Line

Generic subject lines like “HARO Response” or “Interview Request” will get you nowhere. You need to let the reporter know from the second they see your email that you have something to contribute. For instance, if you see a query about the popularity of vintage clothing, a subject line like, “I run a vintage clothing boutique in Nashville” will hook the reporter much more effectively.

Cut to the Chase

Here’s another tip from Shankman himself: Keep it short. That means no more than three paragraphs. Short paragraphs.

In the first paragraph, introduce yourself. In the second, explain why you’re the perfect person for the reporter to interview. In the third, give the reporter the best way to contact you, and whether that’s a phone number or an email address, be sure you’re ready to answer. Chances are, if the reporter tries to get a hold of you and you don’t answer, he’ll move down his list to the next source.

Hype Up Your Pitch

Obviously, you don’t want to lie and make your client or company sound better than it is, but don’t be afraid to brag. You don’t have much time to convince the reporter that she would be passing up a great story if she didn’t respond, so mention any relevant awards or past media coverage you’ve received.

Hopefully with a little patience, an immediate response, a tantalizing subject line, and a pitch that cuts to the chase and hypes up your client or company, you’ll be able to create an effective pitch and start helping reporters out!

For more information, check out my sources:


About Tara Knott

Tara is a staff associate at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations. She recently graduated summa cum laude from Belmont University, where she studied journalism and public relations.

Posted on November 11, 2012, in Social Media and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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