It would be so great, wouldn’t it?

Getting a major media outlet to pick up your story and share it with the entire Internet.

It would be great getting a huge amount of natural, organic website traffic because your pages have high SEO.

It would be great if a reporter would publish an article establishing you as the expert in your field, driving interest from your customers and lead to more sales.

Of course, you’ve probably tried every marketing tip on the Internet promising such results with little to no success.

I know I have.

But as I look back on years of marketing Modern da Vinci while attempting to make sense of what worked and what didn’t, one online tool stands out.

This tool has helped establish me as an expert in my field more so than any other. This tool has increased my organic web traffic through better SEO. And this tool has given me press with major online media outlets that I would not have had a chance of finding on my own…

This tool is called Help a Reporter Out.

It’s the one tool that carries the promise of these benefits, and this article describes exactly how to use it. Even if you’ve heard of this tool before (or are using it currently), you’ll want to stick around… the checklist we provide should drastically increase your chances of landing the press and website traffic with this tool that you deserve.

Have You Ever Helped a Reporter Out?

Help a Reporter Out (HARO for short) is an online tool for connecting reporters and journalists with subject matter experts like yourself.

Every weekday, without fail, you’ll get an email at 6:30 AM with a list of categorized press opportunities to consider. You’ll get another such email at around noon, and one in the evening.

Usually, opportunities are posted in the form of a question. Journalists from every walk of life are looking for subject matter experts to answer their question or provide guidance for their upcoming article.

There’s a deadline, a short description of requirements, an email address, and the name of the journalist and publication.

Your job is simple.

Find a request that you can expertly answer, click the email address, respond to their question, and have a shot at being published in their article with full attribution and (usually) backlinks to the website of your choice!

Free Press is Obviously Important, But Backlinks? So What?

I’ve talked about how to increase search engine optimization (SEO) in previous articles. And I’m not the only one. Thousands of articles from just as many marketing experts will show you how to increase organic traffic through SEO.

It’s no surprise why.

SEO is a complicated topic, hard to get right, and can take months to measure. Worse, you can spend thousands of dollars on online SEO consultants, not all of whom know what they’re doing, and none of whom can show you a quick return on investment.

However, if there is one tried-and-true technique for increasing your SEO (and therefore organic traffic to your website), it’s getting backlinks.

A backlink is simply a link back (backlink, get it?) to your website from another website.

Not all backlinks are created equal. A backlink connecting the New York Times to your website would be gold. A backlink from your moms’ blog won’t count for much (unless your mom is Martha Stuart or Arianna Huffington).

When you submit your expert response to a HARO request, include a link to your website. Should that reporter place your advice in their article, your link will point from their website to yours. Your SEO will increase accordingly.

How to Quickly Parse Through Hundreds of Press Opportunities

Daily HARO emails aren’t short, but they have a structure that’s easy to skim. Here’s how they’re laid out (and how to save time while quickly finding articles that pertain to you):

At the top of each email is a brief story or summary of the types of articles. Skip this… you don’t need to read it.

Right below the summary is a list of links to all opportunities. Scroll through the categories until you find one that pertains to you… ignore the rest. For Modern da Vinci, I usually find articles in the Business category. Your category may be Health and Fitness, High Tech, or something else.

Under each category is a one-line description of the opportunity which also acts as a link to the full description. Don’t read. Just skim. Look for keywords that you know are a sure fit.

There are too many opportunities to spend all day reading through them, and even if you miss a good one, HARO will send more in a few hours. If you see one that you can answer, click it! Otherwise, you can safely delete the email and await the next one.

Pro Tip: Want to get fancy and save some time? Create email filters to search for specific keywords… words that you know pertain to your line of business. Any email from HARO that doesn’t contain one or more of your terms can be automatically deleted. Here’s how to do it in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

For example, here’s one that caught my eye recently (those are my highlights):

When I clicked the opportunity, it took me to the full request which looked like this:

It couldn’t be simpler. Open the email, search for an interesting topic on which to comment, click the link to read the detailed requirements, and respond.

If your response is selected, you just might have the kind of press you’ve never had before.

Tips for Getting Your Answer Selected

Though it may feel like it, don’t be fooled. You’re not the only one submitting answers. You’re competing against other experts in your field. As such, if you’re going to spend time submitting a response, you need to treat it seriously and use the guidelines below to increase your chances of success.

I’ve submitted hundreds of HARO responses, and have been included in dozens of articles. The chosen responses follow these guidelines:

Tip #1: Answer Their Question… Respond to Their Requirements… Don’t Stray

Keeping in mind you are competing against other experts, don’t let simple errors disqualify you.

The journalist may be getting dozens (if not hundreds) of responses. You must address their needs and follow their requirements exactly, or they’ll toss your email in the trash and run with a competitor’s answer.

#2: Don’t Hesitate… Send Your Response ASAP

“But there’s a deadline,” you say. “I should have up until the deadline to submit my answer.”

In an ideal world, sure. In the world of journalists with too much to do and a deadline to hit? It doesn’t matter.

Journalists are going to get dozens of responses. Once they get a few good ones, they’re likely to use them and start writing their article.

If they can only accommodate three sources in their article, and they get three great sources immediately, why would they wait for the deadline to get their article written?

They wouldn’t. And they won’t.

Bottom line? If you see a request that fits your expertise, respond immediately.

#3: Respond with A Unique Perspective… Or Don’t Respond at All

Don’t just give the same advice every other expert in your field would give. Provide something unique to you and your experiences. If you can’t do that, don’t waste your time regurgitating the same advice everyone else will give.

#4: Capture Their Attention… With a Great Headline

Your response goes into the journalists’ inbox, right alongside hundreds of other responses. So, ask yourself this question:

Why are they going to open mine?

They don’t know you. They don’t know your business. Furthermore, they are looking for expert advice which they won’t see unless they open your email response. So, if your email subject headline is ho-hum, guess what? They’re going to open someone else’s email.

Therefore, I recommend spending the most time on your headline.

That’s not to say your answer should suck. But you’ve got to get your headline right. You’ve got to capture their attention with your headline and generate enough interest to earn their click.

#5: Chek Ur Spelling and Grammer

Journalists don’t have time to edit your response.

So, make sure it’s well-written, has good story-telling elements to draw their interest, and doesn’t contain errors. Use a tool like Grammar.ly or Hemmingway, read and reread your response.

The goal is to submit something polished and ready for publication. Anything less will earn you a seat in the trash.

#6: Maximize Completeness and Be as Low Maintenance as Possible

Don’t ask the journalist for anything. Don’t withhold information. Give them everything they need to copy your answer and paste it into their article.

And I do mean everything. That includes:

  1. Establishing your credibility in the field with a short paragraph on your experience in the field.
  2. Providing a short 1-2 sentence bio.
  3. Giving them your email address, phone number, and links to your webpage in case they want to reach out.
  4. Provide a link (not an image attachment) to a professional headshot they can use.
  5. Give them quotes… Real quotes they can use to quote you complete with attribution, job title, company name, etc.
  6. Give them any and all social media links to you or your company website.
  7. Anything else that helps them do their job.

When they see a complete response that has everything they need to do their job, it is highly likely they’ll consider you. If they have to spend time looking you up, reaching out for more information, or scheduling a phone call to get a quote, it’s likely they won’t.

#7: Put a Bow on It with a Summary

Whether you give them the bottom line up front or a quick sentence at the end, summarize the main point and clearly articulate the takeaway in one sentence.

Make bold or find another way to have it stand out.

This will help any journalists skimming your email to see the punch-line… and perhaps get them to read your entire response.

#8: Never Promote… Always Be Helpful

The journalist isn’t here to promote your business, product, or service.

They are trying to write an article to help their readers. You can help them do that by (surprise!) being helpful.

A sure way to get your response ignored is to promote your own product or service. Instead, give them a genuinely helpful response and provide them a good backlink to share with their audience, should they want to know where to find you.

#9: Make It Personal

Most of the time, the reporters’ name is given in the request.

Use it!

Address them by their first name or Mr. or Ms. So-and-so. Not only will it help grab their attention when skimming hundreds of responses, it will help YOU write a response to a human being instead of writing something impersonal and intended to be parsed by the “machines of the internet.”

#10: Have Fun with It!

Okay, honestly, I thought it was weird to have 9 tips, so felt compelled to write a 10th. But you know what, this is almost as important as all the rest.

Have fun with your response!

Journalists are going to receive answers from pompous, boring, businessmen and women who are “too busy to have fun” and are just looking for some free press.

But if you can give unique, expert advice in an entertaining, funny, or exciting way, you can bet they’ll choose you over the alternative.

Pro Tip: You know how pilots use a checklist before takeoff, even if they’ve been flying for decades? That’s because they can’t afford to make a mistake. If you value your time, then neither can you. In fact, the best professionals in any field use checklists to prevent small errors, capture best practices and have the highest chance of success. Download my HARO Response Checklist for free to ensure your work doesn’t go to waste (and ends up landing you press on a high-profile media outlet)!

So, You Responded… Now What?

First, your journalist is not going to reach out to you. They’re too busy.

Of the dozen or more articles I’ve been selected for, I’ve only ever been notified once (and that’s only because the journalist had a question).

So, don’t wait for them to congratulate you. Put up a Google News alert on your name or use Google Webmaster Tools to find backlinks to your site that appear from your HARO responses.

If and when you find out your response was selected, celebrate!

But not for long.

You should promote the [email protected]!! out of their article immediately… which is good for both of you. Also, you should quickly write to thank the reporter for including you in their article.

Pro Tip: While you’re at it, why not offer them your expert opinion in the future, should they need it? Establishing a good relationship with them just may pay off for both of you in the long run.

But What If It’s Been a Few Months?

Sometimes it takes a while for an article to be published. Keep an eye out for a month or two. If you don’t see something by then, it’s likely not going to happen.

That’s okay.

If you’ve waited a month or two and haven’t been informed, haven’t seen any Google Alerts, and don’t notice any new backlinks in your Webmaster Tools, don’t let your response go to waste.

Use your expert advice for your own audience.

Either send them an email, create a new blog post or both! Alternatively, consider pitching your response as a guest blog post to other websites in your industry.

How HARO Helps Small Business

I hope this helps.

HARO has been a keystone in our marketing efforts at Modern da Vinci since I discovered it a few years ago. And, in case it’s not obvious, this could become a keystone in your marketing efforts too.

After all, getting connected with media outlets is a big deal.

Some media outlets are smaller than others, but HARO protects you from getting picked up by an outlet that’s too small ensuring their Alexa ranking is less than 1 million (a lower Alexa ranking is better as it means more web traffic). Anyone with a ranking of 1 million or higher is not allowed to submit questions as a journalist.

Note: In case you’re wondering, getting an Alexa ranking of 1 million or higher on your website is a very challenging thing to do… Huffington Post, for example, has an Alexa ranking of 69 in the United States. The New York Times is even higher with a ranking of 30 in the US (!!!) which comes from having an ungodly number of visitors every day.

So, if you are a business owner struggling to get attention from outside of your personal network, having your expert advice posted on a major news source with far-reaching Internet tentacles could be a huge boon to your business.

Subscribe to receive HARO requests and start searching for your next big press opportunity today!

About the Author:

Michael Mehlberg

CO-FOUNDER | TECHNOLOGY, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, AND SALES

Michael Mehlberg helps small businesses owners achieve their goals and live their passion. His approach to technology, corporate strategy, product development, marketing, and sales is both practical and highly effective and has helped multiple small businesses grow into the company their owners always envisioned. Download his HARO Response Checklist for free today and have a much higher chance of getting press at a major media outlet for your next HARO response!

Posted by Outside Contributor

From time to time, we are glad to feature outside authors who contribute to BizzMarkBlog with their insights and experience. This is one of those features.