Guide for responding to reporter queries (like HARO, ProfNet or SourceBottle)

By Lori

One of the easiest tools for do-it-yourself publicity is to subscribe to reporter query services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out), SourceBottle, ProfNet and the like.

Guide to responding to reporter's queries (like HARO)

(Those are services used by journalists and bloggers to find experts, quotes and information for their publications.)

Just sign up, scan the daily emails and respond to those that match your experience. For a lot of professionals, it’s not as nerve wracking as cold “pitching” (contacting a journalist or blogger and suggesting a story yourself.)

Responding to HARO queries has gotten me ink in a wide range of publications like Fortune, the National Federation of Independent Business, BizSugar and the New Zealand Herald (multiple times), along with interviews on podcasts and radio.

I’m a total fangirl.

I saw a HARO query that I thought would be a great opportunity for a woman I’d recently met at a business conference, so I sent it to her.

Next, she and I had an email exchange.

She said she was nervous and had no idea what to do.

I gave her some advice.

Then I thought that these quick tips might be handy for my fellow business fame seekers, too. Here’s the dialogue, along with the actual query.

Me: “Hi Amy, I saw this item on today’s Reporter Connection email. It’s like HARO, a list of reporters, radio hosts & bloggers who are seeking experts to interview for stories [and sadly, Reporter Connection is no longer.] I thought this would be perfect for your expertise (especially since you are somewhat recently married, too!)”

Actual journalist’s query (with names and links removed):

Your Guy On His Wedding Day

Submitted By:   Writer’s name

Title:  Freelance Writer

Media Outlet:   National Women’s Magazine

Deadline:       Wed, Dec 12, 20xx – 06:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, I’m looking for a beauty expert and/or author (published in 2012 or after) to talk about four or five things you can do to make sure your guy looks and smells good when he walks down the aisle — since to-be wives won’t be there to help him out.  Think: book a professional shave and eyebrow trim, buy him a bottle of new cologne.  For a beauty website, on deadline. Thanks!

Respond To This Listing: [Link]

What I wrote to Amy:

“This is for a national magazine, so it’s a long shot. The writers get TONS of responses. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear a response. You won’t, unless she wants to use you.

In your case, I’d mention that you’re a licensed medical aesthetician who writes a column on skin care for As a recent bride yourself, you can share…[your 4-5 tips, written as bullet points.]

It’s a good idea to Google the writer (if the name is mentioned) to read some of her work or see where she’s been published.

This particular writer is pretty successful; she has a monthly column in Cosmo, has written her own books and co-written books with Howard Stern’s wife, as well as Guliana and Bill Rancic.

From her book titles, she’s witty, so I might try to be a bit witty with my response.”

I want to help you get more publicity hits to boost your business fame, so I’m sharing a few DOs and DON’Ts to help your response make it to the top.

The ironclad rules:

  • DO respond as quickly as possible, and definitely by the deadline. In the national news magazine example above, the writer will be inundated with responses. She’ll probably read the first 30 or so with relish. But then, she’ll get burned out. Too jaded to keep plowing through. Wouldn’t you?
  • DO respond with *exactly* what the reporter is asking for. If she wants tips for a groom to look his best on his wedding day, do not respond with general beauty advice. Read and reread the request to be sure that you know what’s being asked.
  • DON’T ever respond by suggesting a different story. This is actually the second of the Five Rules of HARO. “Don’t SPAM reporters with off-topic pitches in response to their queries.” Why? Often, it’s because an editor (the journalist’s boss) has assigned her the specific story you see in the query. Responding with something off-target just adds to the email overwhelm.
  • DO be concise, not long and ramble-y. Make your point quickly.
  • DO let the reporter know at the outset who you are, why you fit what she’s looking for (your expertise/qualifications) all in one to three sentences, and then share your tips (or whatever she’s requested.)
  • DO include your specific tips in your response – three to five work well. Follow the instructions and provide exactly what’s requested in the query.
  • DO let the reporter know how to contact you directly if she or he needs more information.
  • DON’T write, “I’ve got great tips for you. Visit my website at —-. or read my article.” That’s an instant <delete>.
  • DO include a link to your website’s About page or other section, IF it offers additional information that would be helpful to the writer. You can also link to other places you’ve been featured, to boost your credibility as a source.
  • DO take advantage of any media mentions! First, don’t expect the journalist to notify you if they use your quote in the publication. Instead, make sure you have notifications like Google Alerts, Talkwalker or Mention set up so that you’ll know when your name hits the news. Next, share the article on all your social media sites, tagging the journalist, whenever possible. And be sure to add a link to the coverage on your website.

There’s no magic formula that guarantees your response will make it into print or online. But you can increase your chances (and maybe even add a journalist or two to your fan club) by following a few simple guidelines.

Want a cheat sheet for your very own? Just click on the link to download it now.

****Grab it here!****

Your fame boosting assignment:

Schedule a few minutes on your calendar each day to review emails from HARO, SourceBottle and others. When you find one that fits your expertise, craft your hot response and send it off. Boom! On your way to business fame…

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