Since the dawn of commerce, businesses have tried to find ways to spread the word about their products and services. From sword smiths leaving their mark on a blade so everyone knows who forged it, to ancient Romans getting popular gladiators to endorse their products, the struggle for exposure and attention is not new by any stretch of the imagination. However, in the Age of The Internet, we have tools that previous generations would never have dreamed of. With the push of a button, we can send a message that will be seen by thousands (and in some cases, millions) of potential customers. We can instantly reach customers from the other side of the globe, and in many cases, we can send products to them in a few weeks (or a few days, in some cases).
The best strategy going forward, though, is not to simply depend on modern technology to miraculously deliver the results you want. Instead, you need to combine these tools with tried-and-true methods in order to generate the best possible results for your business.
One of those older methods is called earned media, and it can be a lifesaver for your business.
What Is Earned Media?
The short answer, according to HubSpot, is that earned media is any publicity created and owned by a third-party that you did not pay for. This includes customer reviews (the good ones and the bad ones), bloggers writing about your products, newspaper and magazine articles that reference your business, or even interviews for television. Anything that gives you publicity, and makes your business more visible, is earned media as long as you don't pay for it.
If you pay for publicity, whether it's putting ads in a newspaper or getting a paid review from a popular blog, that's called paid content. If you publish content on a channel that you control (your website's blog, your YouTube channel, etc.) that doesn't count either.
Why Is Earned Media Such A Big Deal?
When was the last time you actually stopped to listen to an advertisement? Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a pop-up ad on a website, or a full-page spread in a magazine, did it even register on your consciousness? Or did you see it, recognize it as someone trying to sell you something, and immediately block it out?
That's what makes earned media so important; it's seen as impartial (and thus more trustworthy) by people who come across it. Whether it's the 5-star Yelp review of a restaurant that goes into detail about how attentive the staff were, or your program making a popular tech blogger's top 5 apps of 2018, readers are going to trust those sources. Because those third-parties stand to gain nothing if your business makes sales, or gets more customers. So your earned content is, in this case, getting an endorsement that people will actually listen to.
Where HARO Comes Into It
HARO (which stands for Help A Reporter Out) was originally started as a Facebook page by Peter Shankman. The goal, according to Forbes, was to create a place where journalists, bloggers, and other writers could post daily PR opportunities that anyone could respond to. This allowed writers (the third-parties that we talked about earlier) to get put in touch with companies, experts, and others looking to grow their audience. So whether reporters needed to hear from diet professionals, gardening entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, or tech gurus, HARO allowed them to make those connections.
HARO eventually grew much too large to operate as a Facebook page, though, which is why Shankman moved it to its own website at Help A Reporter Out. Currently, it's the most popular English-speaking sourcing service on the Internet, which is no mean accomplishment. Especially when you consider there are over 55,000 bloggers and journalists on the site, and over 800,000 sources.
And, if you sign up as a source, then you can get in on this action absolutely free of charge. So the next time a reporter is looking for sources to put in their article, say for Forbes, The New York Times, or Newsweek, your business can be the one quoted (and more importantly linked) in the article.
5 Tips For Getting The Most Out of HARO
If you join HARO (which you definitely should), you've taken the first step toward making yourself a useful source for thousands of journalists out there just waiting to give you and your business a boost. Once you've joined, you'll receive a few emails a day, each with pitches from reporters. The pitch will tell you what the reporter is looking for, as well as how to contact them.
So what do you do now? Well...
Tip #1: Narrow Your Search
When you subscribe to HARO, you are automatically added to the master list. Unfortunately, that means you are inundated with requests from all across the spectrum, and that can quickly get overwhelming. Instead, take To The Wild's advice, and join different lists. By going into your account preferences, you can join more specific lists, which will ensure that the pitches that show up in your inbox are going to be relevant to you, and to your business. This saves you a lot of time, which is important because...
Tip #2: Respond Quickly
Reporters operate on deadlines, and when it comes to which sources make their articles you often wind up with a first-come, first-quoted basis. That's why it's important to note when HARO sends out its list emails and to make sure you dig through them as quickly as you can. Because if you put it off till after lunch, chances are good that a dozen other people have already answered, and now you're the equivalent of the fifth page of Google search results. The reporter might seeyou, but your chances of getting name-dropped and quoted have fallen dramatically.
Tip #3: Respond Completely
When a reporter is looking for information, the worst thing you can do is write them an email that says, "Hi, I'm Mr. John Jacobs, and I run Tech Gurus incorporated. Please contact me, and I'll be happy to give you any information I can."
Reporters aren't just on a deadline; they're busy. Any response from you that requires them to put in more work is going to be ignored. So don't make them hunt you down to get quotes, or to interview you to get your expertise. That's not how this works. Instead, read their pitch carefully, and make sure you understand what they're looking for. If you've published content on the subject they're asking about, then send them links to those, along with pull-quotes from you, information about who you are, and how you can be contacted.
Treat the pitch as if it were a question. Give the reporter everything they need and gift-wrap it with a pretty bow. If you do that it will save them time, reduce the amount of effort they have to put in for research, and it makes your response a lotmore likely to be the one they give a shout-out to in their article.
Tip #4: Establish Your Bona Fides
Perhaps the most important thing, according to eLife Tools, is to establish your bona fides to the reporter you're reaching out to. Because if you send out a request asking for help regarding the latest developments with the large hadron collider, who are you going to listen to? Someone with a Ph.D. in particle physics who has been keeping close tabs on the experiments being done? Or some guy who lives in the middle of nowhere that's never been to college?
Sure, that second person might have an equally factual grasp of the situation, but when in doubt, reporters tend to rely on experts. So if you want to be taken seriously by the reporters you respond to, it's important to make sure you give them your bona fides. Because you are a lot more likely to get quoted and linked if you are someone with a decade of experience in the field,or someone who has worked first-hand with the subject in question, than if you just give someone your name and email address.
Tip #5: Be Unique
If you want to get noticed, then you have to make your response stand out in some way. As an example, you should make sure your email subject line reads like the title of an article; intriguing, and hooking the reporter's attention. Additionally, make sure the information you provide is unique, and when possible, detailed in ways that most aren't likely to report. Because if you are giving the same answers that everyone else is, then there's no reason to pick your response over anyone else's. If you present unique information that no one else provided, though, then you are much more likely to end up in that reporter's final submission.
As a word of warning, though, unique must also be useful. If you're highlighting your text in odd colors, using eye-catching font, or using some other kind of trick, then that is a gimmick. Avoid those at all cost, because substance is what is going to get you noticed.
For more information on how you can get earned media, and other forms of marketing success, simply contact us today!