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Getting Media Coverage for your Startup using HARO

spekulatius1984 profile image Peter Thaleikis 🍪 Originally published at on ・6 min read

Hey everyone,

After the quick-wins with Owwly, YourStack & co., this one will be a bit more work - and ongoing. Before you close the tab, let me tell you why I think it's worth it. Like offline media, online media has its "stars". Think about large publications such as Forbes, Business Insider or TechCrunch. These websites often rank in the Top 1000 on Alexa and have millions of visitors monthly.

Being mentioned by one of these large websites can drive a substantial amount of traffic to your project. With this you have the chance to either win more paying clients or subscribers, if you are running a newsletter. The exposure also brings the chance to connect with more bloggers, etc. and attract more mentions. With each of these mentions you will potentially receive a backlink to your project - which drives up your ranking on Google and Co.

As with everything, this doesn't come for free. You can't just send an email to a reporter and ask to be featured. This will not even get you a response. You've either got to build a relationship using Twitter etc. - a long and slow process I've never managed to pull off - or you go to where reporters and writers go to find information. Let me introduce you to "HARO" (help a reporter out). It's a free platform I've been using for a while to build up attention for my projects.

The Basic Workflow for HARO

HARO in itself is simple and can be easily integrated in your daily workflow. The basic idea behind HARO is this:

  1. Reporters and writers submit requests for quotes, data or information.

  2. The requests are compiled by HARO and sent in various newsletters. Each newsletter contains multiple requests, each with basic information such as query, audience, deadline and an individual email address to respond to. This email address is valid only until the end of the deadline. Afterwards your email will automatically be rejected.

  3. You receive the email, scan the headings for interesting topics and reply to suitable queries with the requested information.

As mentioned, It's not rocket science and you don't have to be Elon to do it.

Is HARO actually worth the effort?

Depending on the effort you put into your responses, you might need between a few minutes and a few hours to write. On top of this, by far, not all responses are published. I've got a 13.04% success rate (6 published out of 46 submissions) - this means only roughly one out of ten submissions gets published. Not great.

You might be a little shocked now and think that's too much effort. Well, one backlink from a major site easily outweighs hundreds of links from small websites. Spending an hour on a response for Forbes or TechCrunch can have an impact you couldn't achieve with month-long blogging and talking about your project. It is a bit of a lottery, yes, but at least you can increase the chances by writing good responses.

How to get started on HARO

Signing up for HARO is free. You can head over to and click the "I'm a source" button:

A bit further down you will find the "Subscribe Now" button:

On the following page pick the free plan:

After this you need to fill in two more forms and convince Google you aren't a robot:

And pick which topics are of interest for you and your project:

If you select too many channels you will get a lot of emails. Really limit it to the channels you are actually interested in.

Now it's only a question of time to wait for your first HARO message and start to write responses. When you write your responses, there are few things to keep in mind. I've written down a few lessons learned about what to avoid below.

What to avoid when submitting to HARO

As with most things, I try to see both sides. So, I've not just submitted responses to HARO, I've also sought submissions for my posts. Throughout this, I've learned a few little things:

  • Don't try to respond to every request and don't submit responses if you can't really contribute anything either. It will be a lot of work for no benefit. This won't help your HARO-internal ranking and might get you deleted, if considered spamming. Pick and choose what really fits your project or area of expertise.

  • This isn't the place to write a book: Keep it short and to the point. Writers like myself know when a sentence doesn't add value - make sure to provide a bit of value with (almost) each sentence. Hard and fast rule for myself: If I write more than a page it's definitely too long.

  • Don't start your subject with "HARO". It's put there already by the platform. Simply use the query subject as you received it. This helps the reporter or writer to keep it organized.

  • Don't attach the whole query text. It might be too simple, but it is pretty confusing for me to receive your own texts a bunch of times in the emails. The subject line makes it clear what you are responding to. No need to have it double.

  • Don't attach files - HARO filters them out. You can send HTML emails with links though - this is highly recommended too. Use styling to your advantage to stand out. Quotes work well in italic.

These are my learnings from using HARO "on the other side". Let's look into making sure you aren't dropping off along the way:

How to track your success while using HARO

The usual way HARO works for me is described in the three steps above. Did you see that there isn't a mention of any success moment or even knowing you get featured? Occasionally you can get an email with a post, but that was only four times in my roughly 50 HARO requests. This can easily lead to believing that you aren't having any success and it's not worth the effort.

So what to do? I've started to track all my submissions in a Google Sheet. I collect basic information on what I've submitted to which query with some more details. To help you I've made my Google sheet public. You can simply make a copy and start filling in your data:

Under the "Date submitted" I link the email I've sent. Every now and then, I use the link to bring up my sent email. I copy a sentence from my response, wrap it into double-quotes and Google for it. If I'm featured, it is likely to show up on top. If not, I'm probably not featured. You can remove the double-quotes to see if it has been slightly reworded. If I discover a mention, I update my sheet to track the links. Often a Google Alert for my full name also brings the mentions to me without searching.

Getting better using HARO

As mentioned above, roughly one out of ten lands me a link back to my project. This probably isn't a stellar result and can be improved upon. I'm trying new things out, but as you can imagine it takes time to show results. If you've got any tips, hit reply - I'm keen to hear from you!

Boom! That's it!

I hope this newsletter will be super helpful for you! I won't lie: It takes quite a bit to write down a newsletter like this one. I'm not worried about increasing competition on HARO (or any other platform). I simply love to see people being successful with innovative, non-VC, non-evil-corp home-made projects! If you like to support this, consider buying me a 🍪️ or sharing my marketing newsletter on Twitter, Reddit or wherever.

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