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One Remarkable Way to Get Free Press for Your Small Business

FreePress

It can be hard to get publicity for a growing or small business. Most of the time, the media only thinks the biggest players are newsworthy. That makes it hard for the little guy to leverage the media. The solution is as simple as it is underused: a little website called HARO.

HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. It’s a social network of sorts that puts reporters in touch with experts worldwide. It began as a Facebook group in 2008, and has since exploded to have more than 30,000 reporters and 250,000 experts in the network.

For reporters, it works like this. Professionals sign up for an account, and can send a call to all expert members if they need a quote or an interview about a piece they’re working on. Those calls go out three times a day, and put them in touch with experts around the world. Top-shelf journalists from operations like The New York Times, Gannet and ABC use it every day. Even though it’s not widely known outside writing circles, it’s a go-to tool for those in the business.

For you, the process is a little different…

  • Step 1 – Go to helpareporter.com. Click on the “Sign Up Today” button in the “Sources” panel on the front page. There’s also a “Reporters” panel on the same page, so be sure to avoid that one.
  • Step 2 – Move through the sign up process, indicating the areas of expertise that best serve your business brand. If you run a small shop, don’t limit yourself to the specifics of what your business does. Sign up for your hobbies and personal interests. You’ll get your name out more, and you can always work your business in to those conversations too.
  • Step 3 – Check your email a couple times each day, and scan the selected requests for items you’re qualified to speak on.
  • Step 4 – Respond asap for the items you identify, using the link structure within the call-for-experts email. It helps to have a relevant bio ready to copy/paste into the response so you don’t have to make a new one every time.
  • Step 5 – Wait to be contacted by the reporter in question.
  • Step 6 – Give a great interview that shows how much of an expert you are, and what value your company gives to people who need what you do.
  • Step 7 – Go back to step three and repeat as often as you have the time and inclination.

It really is that simple, though it’s not necessarily always that easy. We’ve talked to some of our staff reporters and small business clients about how HARO works and found out some of the most important little details.

The Good

HARO puts your name in front of journalists, who will use you as an expert source in stories about the things you know most about. Since that presumably includes your business, this gets your name out in the best way possible.

The whole thing is a positive feedback loop. Reporters leverage your expertise to lend credibility to their stories, but the same process gives your expertise more credibility because the reporter is tacitly telling people to listen to you. You’ll get far more positive responses from this kind of press appearance than you would off of a print or internet ad…and the cost is nothing but your time.

The Bad

HARO can be frustrating. It has far more expert members than journalist members, so be prepared to send in many proposals before you get a bite. It’s best to think of it as you would any other unsolicited sales lead. The response rate compared to what’s normal for those numbers is easier to take.

The Ugly

Reporters work on a tight time cycle, with deadlines always in the front of their minds. To serve this population, HARO sends out multiple calls for experts each day. If you’ve signed up for multiple topics, this can start feeling very spammy, very soon. If your email has the function, set up a separate folder for your HARO calls so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your regular emails. Otherwise, many users report just starting to ignore the whole thing – which defeats the purpose.

Pro Tip

Have multiple people in your company sign up for HARO. This increases the likelihood of somebody on your team getting picked up for each relevant article, and starts getting your company name around regardless of who’s actually talking to reporters.

So, should you give HARO a shot?

HARO isn’t the only way to get free press for your business. Local newspapers are often hungry for content non-staff members have written. But between its access and its global reach, it’s probably the best one-stop shop for no-cost publicity.

Do you have a story, good or bad, to share about HARO? Tell your fellow Kabbage community members about it in the comments!

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Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.