Small business owners can always add to the tools in their toolkits. One kind of tool that you almost can’t have too much of is the promotional kind.
Obstacles are abound when entrepreneurs look to raise awareness for their business or product. Paid advertising can be challenging for small businesses. Unquestionably, social media algorithms can be hard to penetrate.
How can creators cut through the noise? Uncertainty and a crowded field demands creativity.
Fortunately, small business owners have a way to gain notice at little-to-no cost. All they have to do is Help a Reporter Out. Literally.
What is Help a Reporter Out?
Help a Reporter Out (HARO)’s mission is simple. According to their website, they connect “journalists and bloggers with relevant expert sources to meet journalists’ demanding deadlines and enable brands to tell their stories.”
Put another way, HARO is a matchmaker between the media and brands. HARO aims to save journalists time and effort. So that journalists can focus on producing quality work, HARO links them potential sources.
How It Works
First of all, HARO creates a stable of potential sources. Individuals such as small business owners create HARO accounts. To do so, they must provide their occupation or business and their field(s) of interest.
Next, HARO takes this information and creates a database of vetted sources. For example, let’s say a blogger or reporter needs a for a quote for a story about military spouse entrepreneurs. They would put out a request via HARO. A milspouse entrepreneur sees their query and has some thoughts on the topic, so they reach out to give the reporter a quote.
As a result, the reporter gets their statement. At the same time, the milspouse entrepreneur gets free PR for their brand, business, or product.
How Small Business Owners Get Involved
HARO’s registration process for sources is relatively straightforward. To begin with, their homepage asks you to indicate whether you want to sign up as a journalist or as a source.
The site offers four tiers of source membership. Basic membership is free, and members receive a batch of relevant media queries via email three times daily.
HARO’s remaining three membership categories are paid. So if you think your business could really benefit from the kind of media coverage HARO offers, your might want to consider a paid membership. Each level brings different perks. Get notifications for specific keywords, or text notifications when a new opportunity breaks. At the time of this writing, membership prices range from $19 to $149 a month.
Is It Worth It?
Now, there is a caveat. Entrepreneurs and business owners should be aware that HARO membership isn’t a passport to earned media. Journalists on HARO can receive many responses from various sources. They decide the best response for their piece.
HARO source status isn’t a guaranteed brand boost. That means that a paid HARO membership is something of an investment. However, like any investment, it could pay off.
When a journalist quotes HARO sources, they attribute them. They also provide links back to the source’s website. Over time, you may even develop a relationship with a particular journalist or publication. That could translate to increased attribution and backlinks for you.
To be sure, HARO may not be the right fit for everyone. Depending on your brand, service or product, you may decide it isn’t for you. On the other hand, you may see an opportunity.
Getting the Most out of HARO
If you decide to give it a try, be strategic. Find tips for sources. Certain practices can be particularly effective.
Maximize the Potential
Be sure to review requests carefully. Know that some requests may be specific to certain jobs or qualifications.
Answer questions as if they will appear word-for-word in a newspaper or news site. Provide direct answers. Additionally, let them know who you are. What are your qualifications and experience? Provide your website, and the name and title you want them to use in the piece.
Finally, leave the door open for further communication. Do this by letting the journalist know they should feel free to contact you for more information or data.
Don’t Sleep on Earned Media
On its website, HARO lists the different media outlets who use them to source their stories. They include organizations as diverse as TIME, Fox News, Reuters, and The New York Times.
Entrepreneurs can raise awareness for their brand when they serve as sources for bloggers, journalists, and reporters from trusted publications. The benefit of doing so is clear: a credible organization introduces your brand to potential clients and customers by quoting you as a subject matter expert.
If for whatever reason you feel HARO isn’t a good fit for you, you have alternatives. Leverage free press release distribution sites to make media outlets aware of your brand or business. There is also the old-fashioned method of getting in touch with your local news media.
Whatever works best for your business, make sure include earned media in your promotional toolkit.