12 Best Tips For Helping A Reporter Out


Image of 12 Best Tips for HARO


Are you looking for opportunities to gain more publicity / more exposure in the media for the work that you do?

If so, then you’re going to love the guest post I have for you today!

Rosellen Reif hails from Cary, North Carolina where she is in private practice providing counseling and consulting to those who have intellectual, developmental, and / or physical disabilities and their families.

In part, she has grown her reputation by gaining the attention of and supported the work of journalists who were seeking out professionals with her particular expertise.

Today, Rose is sharing with you one of her favorite tools – Help a Reporter Out, otherwise known as HARO – and how you, too, can become a trusted resource by journalists around the world!


A Guest Post by Rosellen Reif, MS, LPCA, CRC, QDD/MHP

What if I told you there was a service that could get you, your practice, and your advice on major media outlets and websites like Huffington Post, WebMD, CNN, and hundreds more?

How much would you pay for that kind of international publicity and the SEO boost that comes with it?

What if I told you that this magical marketing opportunity not only exists but that it’s free?!

No kidding!

How HARO Works

It’s called HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Out and the formula is simple.

Journalists send in a request for the type of expert or quote they need, which in HARO lingo is called a “query.”

Queries are emailed three times per day, Monday through Friday, to experts [that means you] who have signed up to get them.

Experts email back a response to the query and one (or a handful of them) is selected by the reporter to be featured in their article, TV show, or radio spot.

I’ve talked to many people who think the idea sounds great but who wind up believing that HARO is a scam because they’ve never heard back from a reporter despite sending out dozens of responses to queries.

How to Play Nice with HARO

Whether you’ve never heard of HARO or if you’ve tried it with no luck, here are my top 12 tips for gaining the attention of media professionals.

These are the strategies that I’ve successfully used to be featured in response to every HARO query I’ve ever answered.

I hope they will help you make HARO work for you too!

Tip #1 – Follow the Rules

Give them only what they ask for.

If the query asks for one tip, do not share two or three.

Definitely don’t share zero tips (like “call me and we can discuss in more detail”)!

Maybe they’re looking for a physician’s opinion but you’re a Licensed Mariage and Family Therapist; even if you have a ton of great advice related to the query, don’t waste your time.

It doesn’t matter how perfect your response is.

There’s a reason the reporter has asked for something specific and if you don’t offer it, your response won’t be chosen.

Tip #2 – Don’t Try to Pitch a Different Story

If a query asks for someone who has successfully used Chantix to quit smoking, do not write in to share how you use hypnotherapy in your private practice to help your clients kick their cigarette habits, and wouldn’t readers be more interested in learning about a non-pharmacological option to treat their addiction?

The journalist has been given a specific assignment and a tight deadline to have it finished by.

You are officially wasting your time and theirs if you write an email asking them to reconsider any aspect of her task.

Tip #3 – Be Better Than on Time

If the query requests that you respond by 7:00 p.m., do not think the journalist will give your email a second glance if you don’t get around to replying until 10:00 p.m.

It really doesn’t matter when the deadline is.

Your goal is to respond as soon as possible!

HARO makes this easy by sending queries at roughly the same time every day, around 5:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 5:45 p.m. EST.  [corrected 10-25-15]

What has worked best for me is to set aside 20 minutes of  “marketing time” each day at the three times that HARO’s queries are due to arrive in my inbox.

I quickly scan my email for any queries that are in my wheelhouse and reply to those that are.

If no queries are up my alley, I use that chunk of time to tackle other marketing ‘to-do’s’.

Tip #4 – Create a Template

One easy way to cut down on the time it takes to get your response to a reporter’s inbox is to have your introduction pre-written.

Save an email template with

  • A quick introduction to you and your practice,
  • General information about your online presence,  and
  • How the journalist can contact you.

Remember, your goals are to establish your credibility, to give journalists a copy-and-paste-able blurb about you to use in their articles, and to let them know how to contact you.

Here’s an example of my own template:

“I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a Qualified Developmental Disabilities Professional.

I own a private counseling practice in North Carolina where I work exclusively with people and families affected by developmental disabilities like [insert query-related diagnosis here].

You can visit my website at www.reifpsychservices.com for more information about me and my practice.

I’m also on Pinterest (pinterest.com/RoseReif) and Facebook (facebook.com/reifpsychservices) pinning and posting the resources and support that families affected by disabilities need.

I’m happy to be emailed at rosellenreif@gmail.com or called at (919) 555-5555 to answer any questions!”

Now all I have to do is plop in my actual response and hit send!

Remember, journalists get hundreds, even thousands of query responses for every article they’re writing.

If you don’t follow these basic rules, reporters will delete your emails without a second thought and move on to the next experts.

Tip #5 – Stand Out

The subject line you use matters more than the content you share.

I recently received a query titled “Self-Harm in Teenagers.”

I’m betting that 99% of counselors who responded to that query used “Self-Harm in Teenagers” as their subject line or if they were feeling really adventurous “Response to Your Query about Self-Harm in Teenagers.”

Imagine the poor reporter sitting down to an inbox full of these emails that all look the same!

What if instead the reporter saw your email with the subject line “7 Signs Your High-Schooler is Cutting and What You Can Do About It.”

The reporter is going to take a pause and at least read your response.

And here’s the thing – her inbox may be full of the exact same advice as yours from other experts.

But because you set yourself apart and got noticed with your subject line, she may not even read the others!

I’ve actually had reporters use the subject line that I sent my response with as the title of their published article!

It’s rare but a reporter may ask that you DO use specific language in your email subject.

In that case, re-read Tip #1 and do exactly what the reporter has asked!

Tip #6 – Give Great Advice . . . and Give It in the Right Way

Have an opinion.

Suppose you get a query on the psychological pros and cons of throwing yourself a divorce party.

Some therapists might reply like this:

Parties like this might promote personal healing if the divorce wasn’t terribly traumatic, but you may risk alienating some friends and family who feel its in poor taste.

I guess it really depends on the person and the circumstances of their divorce and their social supports.”

But, this response lacks a backbone and is too vague.

It’s overly wordy without saying much of substance.

A better way to say it might be this:

Divorce celebrations offer a cathartic way to let friends and family, and most importantly yourself, know that you’re done with pain and self-doubt and that you’re framing your future as positive in your mind.

Limit the guest list to friends and family who celebrate your decision to commemorate the transition, rather than judge you negatively for it.

Tip #7 – Don’t Use Jargon

Remember, you’re not writing for the Journal of Applied Anything.

You’re offering a quick piece of content that can be shared on social media.

Ideally, you’re writing the way that you would speak to your real ideal client if s/he was to ask you the same question!

If you find yourself explaining tricky theoretical concepts or using language that the average 12-year old couldn’t understand, you’re doing it wrong.

Go back and simplify.

Tip #8 – Write Skimmable Content

Follow all of the advice that Tamara and Kat Love shared in 5 Ways to Make Your Blog More Skimmable.

Headers, bullet points, and single sentence paragraphs are your friends.

Make it your goal that the reporter can just cut and paste what you’ve written right into their article.

My experience is that 95% of the time, they will do just that!

Tip #9 – Follow Up Without Following Up

Use Google Alerts.

Sometimes reporters will frantically respond to your email by requesting that you send an additional quote on X (and if you could write back in 37 seconds that would be great!)

It may make you think that your wonderful advice is going to be live on the web any second.

But, don’t start giving your refresh button a workout just yet.

I’ve had as much as 6 weeks lapse between my initial response to a query and when it was actually published.

Most of the time a reporter will not write you back to let you know if you’ve been selected.

It can be agonizing!

The easiest way to alleviate your worry that you’ll miss the article when it posts is to set up a Google Alert.

Of course, Tamara has already pointed out great reasons that you should have alerts set up to monitor your online reputation.

If you have a few alerts set up with a mix of your name, the name of your practice, and a handful of the keywords from your intro blurb from your query, you’re sure to get the word as soon as the article is released.

Here’s the thing – I’ve had reporters wait until as long as three weeks after an article has gone live to let me know that they’d selected and used my quote!

Thanks to Google Alerts, I had already pinned and posted and shared the content on the day that it was published.

Tip #10 – Don’t Write a “Checking In” Email

Whatever you do, do not go hunting for a reporter’s personal email address and start “checking in” to make sure they got your email and wondering if they’d like to set up a phone call to get some more quotes from you.

A reporter will simply never reply to an email like this.

Remember you’ve only responded to one query of theirs but they’ve got 5 story deadlines this week alone; their inbox is full of thousands of emails just like yours.

This is another case of “don’t waste your time or theirs.”

I believe that if you use your response to the query to establish a relationship with a reporter (without bugging them in the process) you increase your chance that she’ll  think of you the next time she’s assigned to write a piece that falls within your area of specialization!

Tip #11 – Follow Up the Right Ways

There is a time and place for following up and that’s after your brilliant gems of advice have been selected and published by a reporter.

Here are ways you can and should follow up:

  • Comment on the article (thanking them for sharing your advice with their readers);
  • Re-share the piece on your Facebook page, tagging the writer in it if they have a public page;
  • Pin the content on your Pinterest Board;
  • Share the article on LinkedIn;
  • Find a tweetable quote from you and re-share the link on Twitter;
  • Post the article on your blog – maybe with a post related to the query content;
  • Encourage your readers / Facebook fans & friends / anyone who will listen to share the article on their own social media channels as well.

Tip #12 – Offer to Do It Again

However, you choose to follow up, remember to explicitly offer to do it again!

Let the journalist know that you would like to be a resource for them again and remind her once more what your specialization is.

A while back I was featured on ZLiving.com sharing advice for parents of kids with ADHD.

After the article went live, the journalist wrote back to share the link with me.

This is how I  thanked her for selecting me and followed up:

“I hope you’ll continue to think of me as a resource for any future articles you’re writing for people and families coping with developmental disabilities like ADHD or Autism”.

She immediately wrote me back asking if I’d contribute to another piece she was doing on ADHD which turned into a two-part article because of the depth of information I had to share.

So, one HARO query answered led to three articles featuring me, my practice, and my advice that have been shared close to 100 times on social media.

That’s a lot of free publicity for about 15 minutes of my time.

Plus, of course, there is the benefit of knowing that I got to share valuable advice with people who genuinely needed it!

What’s Your HARO Story?

I hope you find these tips useful!

I’ve found HARO to be an easy, fun, and a free addition to my marketing toolbox.

Do you have a HARO success story to share?

If so, please do include a link below so that we can use you as another example and celebrate your achievements, too!

Or do you still have questions about how the whole thing works?

I’d love to hear about your experience and help you tackle your questions!

And, if you know someone (or lots of someones!) who would like more media attention to build their private practice, please take a moment to hit the share buttons below so that they’ll know the right way to build relationships with journalists on and offline.


Image of Rosellen Reif, MS, LPCAAbout the Author: Rosellen Reif, MS, LPCA, CRC, QDD/MHP runs a private practice in North Carolina, counseling clients who have developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities. You can visit her website and blog at www.reifpsychservices.com.


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