I love to use baseball analogies in business.
Freelance options are the “bullpen.”
Hiring a contract developer looking for a gig is a “free agency pickup.”
And I use “batting average” to describe my Help a Reporter Out (HARO) conversion rate.
I want to bat .300, which is a very respectable average in the major leagues.
In other words, my goal is to have three out of every 10 HARO submissions picked up by reporters.
Call me crazy, but it’s a simple metric I use to judge success and creates a competitive element that motivates me.
Do you know your HARO batting average?
What is HARO?
HARO is a service that connects editors, writers, reporters, and publishers to subject matter experts.
HARO reporters are able to post a query and then a list of queries is aggregated and sent out (multiple times per day) to all subject matter experts that subscribe to the service.
Subject matter experts can then submit their ideas and perspective for a chance to be published.
Whether you are a brand looking to increase domain authority, an individual looking to generate awareness, or an agency supporting your clients’ PR and content strategy, HARO deserves a place in your marketing plan.
Here are some tips to maximize your efforts and get that batting average above .300.
Know Who You are Facing on the Mound
Your chances of winning increase with some preparation.
Reporters will usually disclose their name and publication/outlet.
Use that information to your advantage.
Find some of their previously published work.
What’s their writing style?
- Short and punchy?
- Long winded and heavy with research?
- How have they inserted expert quotes in the past?
If you have answers to these questions, you’ll know exactly how to work with that reporter.
Your chances increase if you modify your style and approach to fit their writing style.
Pay Attention to the Rules of the Game
It’s easy to jump in and start answering a HARO query without analyzing it, but be careful.
At the bottom of each query is a “requirements” section that lays out rules for consideration.
No matter how awesome your answer is, if you don’t include a headshot or answer in the wrong format, for example, you could get disqualified.
Don’t let your time and effort go to waste.
Read the query thoroughly before proceeding and make sure you fit the profile and fulfill all requirements.
If you are an agency marketing strategist, don’t respond to a query that asks for brand side CMOs to respond.
You get the idea.
Smash the Fastball Down the Middle
When you see a perfect query, grip and rip.
Answer it from the gut.
Get it down on paper and then worry about requirements and cleaning it up before you submit.
It’s overwhelming when you’re scanning through hundreds of potential queries a day and trying to filter out the good ones.
I admit it can be a nonstarter.
Sometimes I think too long about the time and energy it takes to submit a response and I make an excuse why I’m just gonna skip it and move to another task on my list.
That can turn into a bad habit pretty quickly where you go months without responding to a single query.
Sometimes you just have to swing away and give yourself an opportunity—especially when the topic is right down the middle for you.
Drive a Curveball to the Opposite Field
Sometimes you run into a query that is funky, comedic, or provides an opportunity to respond with some character.
Let your inner weird out.
Don’t resign to your boring, conservative response if you have an answer that’s going to get the reporter’s attention.
If it makes you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, that’s more reason to send it.
Your chances of getting published go up big time.
Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes… if you were getting dozens or hundreds of boring submissions, wouldn’t it be refreshing to receive something unique and a little thought provoking?
Don’t Swing for the Fences All the Time
One thing I look at before I respond to a HARO query is the domain authority of the publication.
If you are quoted, you’ll often get a link back to your site, and inbound links are a top ranking signal for Google.
In other words, you want high domain authority sites linking to yours.
That’s a major reason why you are spending all of this time with HARO in the first place.
It may be tempting to respond to publications that have domain authority above 70, but everyone wants to get published in Inc., Fortune, and TechCrunch, so you’re competing in a much larger pool.
I prefer to take a look at domain authority to gauge publication credibility, but I usually won’t let a DA of 30 or 40 turn me away.
Getting quoted on a DA 40 website is still valuable and don’t forget you’re still reaching people with your brand, regardless of the link building aspect.
Form and Follow-through Matter
Don’t approach the plate with your cleats untied and shirt untucked and expect to get respect from the opposing team and fans.
The same goes for delivering your HARO responses.
Make it easy for the reporter to scan your submission and quickly identify the questions you are answering.
Provide a user-friendly profile at the bottom of your submission so reporters never have to search or come back and ask for things you’ve forgotten to include.
I use the same templated bio section with each HARO response (and I strongly suggest you include something like this for yourself):
Who am I?
Jason is co-founder and CEO of Brolik, a digital agency in Philadelphia. As an entrepreneur, Jason is passionate about helping other business owners navigate the complicated journey of owning a business and developing marketing strategies to grow their brands.
Note: I include a link to my headshot instead of attaching a large image file to the email.
Reporters do not like large attachments!
Also, consider using short bold headlines with bite-sized quotes of two to three sentences.
Here’s a format I use for many of my responses.
Hope you enjoy my thoughts below on digital transformation. Let me know if you need any follow-up information. Good luck with the article.
Digital transformation isn’t just about integrating technology, it’s an opportunity to re-imagine a business. The process could be more simply described as “business transformation” or plain old “transformation.”
Business leaders don’t need a buzz term to inspire positive change within their organizations, but sometimes a hot buzz term is what spurs it on.
When I hear the term digital transformation, I remind people it isn’t about being modern and tech savvy. It’s about doing better for their customers.
You should invest in a digital transformation solely to better serve the needs and improve the overall experience for customers, whether that’s through product education, a tech platform or a more fluid buying process.
Customers will respond positively if you are focused on them and not just doing it to say you are up with the latest trend.
The Key is Consistency and Patience at the Plate
In the last year, I’ve responded to 47 HARO queries.
I can certainly improve on that number, but I’ll admit it’s challenging to find the time and stay motivated to respond to HARO queries, especially when things get busy.
That’s even more reason to set goals and focus on consistency.
Don’t burn out by responding to every query that comes within an arm’s length of your expertise.
Be patient and selective.
Of the 47 queries I responded to, 14 were published.
A .297 batting average.
The competitor in me just cringed at that number.
I suppose it makes me a decent lifetime hitter that couldn’t quite break the .300 mark.
I will continue to work on my fundamentals to make sure this year is my breakout year.
Good luck with your future HARO submissions and I’ll bet you break the .300 mark too if you pay attention to your approach and learn from your successes.