I wrote last week about producing top-quality content. One of the ways to ensure the content you create is high quality is to approach it like a journalist — use expert sources and quotes to support your points. Whether you’re creating an infographic, putting together a webinar or writing a blog post or white paper, expert sources can make your work stronger, more interesting and more compelling.
Where Do You Find Expert Sources?
Chances are, you already know some — thought leaders in your industry, business partners, and others in your network may be happy to chime in for your content. But there’s another resource we often use often here at Rep Cap: Help a Reporter Out.
HARO is an outstanding service that connects reporters and others who are working to create content with experts who are willing to be interviewed. Instead of cold-calling experts you’ve taken hours to find through online research, you can get direct connections with the exact sources you need to make your content authoritative and compelling.
One of the best responses I’ve ever gotten from a HARO query was when I was writing a white paper about crisis management. I put together a query explaining I was looking for HR executives to talk about how to manage employees during a crisis and I heard back from Ronald Thomas, who was vice president of human resources/organizational development for Martha Stewart Co. when the domestic diva was being indicted. He was a perfect fit.
How to Write an Effective HARO Query
Putting together an effective query is essential to making HARO work for you. You don’t have a lot of room, so think carefully about what types of replies you’re looking for. You want the sources you’re seeking to read your query and think instantly, “Hey, that’s me!”
Here’s what I do:
- Use the summary line to say exactly who you’re looking for and what you want them to discuss. In the Martha Stewart example, my summary line was “Looking for HR officers with experience in crisis management.”
- In the query, give more specifics about the information you want and what you’ll be doing with it. “We are looking for HR officers with experience in crisis management who can talk about real-life examples for an article about crisis management tips. What are the best ways to bring employees through a crisis? What are some challenges?” Questions like these gives respondents a feel for what you’re looking for. They’ll also elicit answers that should make it clear whether the respondent fits your needs. You can ask more in-depth questions when you follow up.
- Include any requirements that help clarify your request. For example, you could say “Please share one real-world example,” “We’ll be in touch with further questions,” or “Large public companies only,” depending on your needs.
How to Vet HARO Responses
Once you start getting responses, you’ll need to sort through them to find which ones you want to follow up with. You should carefully vet the ones you want to use to ensure they’re reputable. While the vast majority of sources on HARO are legitimate, you’ll occasionally find that a respondent is more interested in spamming the board with links, or isn’t the expert you were hoping for.
Here are my three tips for vetting HARO responses:
- Do your due diligence. Does the respondent have a website that works? Is it updated regularly? Does she have profiles on LinkedIn or Twitter? Is she someone you want your business affiliated with through your content?
- Weigh the responses. Does the respondent’s advice or answer match your experience? Does he have the background knowledge to give specific, detailed answers, or is he talking in generalities?
- Trust your gut. You know what a shady website looks like, and you know bad advice when you see it. Don’t be afraid to ignore and discard any pitches you feel don’t match your standards — and if they’re disruptive or wildly off-topic, you can add a review to warn others.
How to Get Started Using HARO for Content Marketing
To get a HARO account, your organization must publish content on a regular basis and be within the top million ranking websites on Alexa.com. Once you’ve created an account, you can start submitting queries.
Click on “submit query,” and:
- In the “Media Outlet” field, list your company name. If you want to remain anonymous, check the appropriate box.
- Fill in your summary line, query and requirements following the tips I shared above.
- Under “category,” you can choose a primary and secondary category that tags your query and funnels it to the appropriate people. In most cases, you’ll probably be using “business” and “general.”
- Pick a deadline for respondents to share pitches. HARO sends out batches of queries three times a day to its subscriber list of PR representatives, companies and organizations that are interested in sharing their expertise. If you need an answer in a matter of hours, check the “urgent” box and follow the instructions you receive via email. The HARO team can tweet your query before it’s sent out on the listserve to help ensure people see it.
Depending on when you submit your query and when it goes out to HARO subscribers, you should start getting responses within a few hours or a business day. The subject lines include “HARO” or your summary line, so it’s easy to sort them out in your inbox or filter them to a separate folder.
After that, it’s up to you which respondents you want to contact. I don’t always respond to every HARO pitch I get, but when I do follow up, it’s common courtesy to let the pitch know who you are and what you’d like to do with the information they sent you. People who pitch on HARO do so with the expectation that they’ll be quoted by name and linked to in your content.
I’ve connected with some excellent sources through HARO, people I go to again and again for expert information on a wide variety of topics. It’s a valuable resource for any marketing organization that wants to improve its content.
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