I can't be an expert on every topic, so as a content marketing writer, I turn to quotes from subject matter experts (SMEs) to help me write original, meaningful content.
I get those quotes on a HARO. It's a place to share your thoughts with writers to help you get backlinks and exposure for your company. But a writer will only use your pitch if it adds value to their writing. Here are my tips for how to craft the best pitch for HARO, along with a few HARO pitch examples.
What is HARO?
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out—it's a site where bloggers and journalists post questions for experts to answer, and then the writers use the answers in their content.
Due to HARO's broad focus, some writers use niche-specific sites like Help a B2B Writer and Terkel to consult a narrower audience (these websites, in particular, are specifically geared at writers working on content for businesses).
You might also contribute expert quotes in a non-HARO context. For example, you might see someone asking for insights in a professional Slack community or get an email through PR connections or directly from a writer you know. The tips below apply to all of those situations.
Tips for writing a high-quality HARO pitch
Here's how to write a HARO quote that writers are more likely to use.
1. Answer questions relevant to your industry and expertise
With so many HARO requests out there, it can be tempting to play the numbers game by answering as many as you can. Don't. Writers are much less likely to use an answer if they think you aren't qualified to give it.
Freelance content marketer and writer Nneka Otika offered an example. She was using HARO to source SME quotes about the limitations of A/B testing on a Wix website. But all the answers she got were about using Wix to build a website.
"If something is outside your expertise, just leave the question alone," Nneka recommends.
Whatever you do, please don't Google answers. I feel like I shouldn't have to say that, but it's unfortunately pretty common practice on HARO. Writer Nia Gyant tweeted about a time when she was collecting quotes to update a post, and she found that three answers were plagiarized from the exact article she was working on updating. Oof.
NO WAY. Actually 3 responses are copied from my post 😂— Nia Gyant (@optimized3x) May 6, 2022
Guessing they’re from a shady HARO link-building service because, if not, what a coincidence that all the plagiarism pros are flocking to this one request…
Writers and editors are really diligent about plagiarism—you won't sneak it past them, and you could ruin your future chances for quotes by submitting even a paraphrased answer.
2. Tap into your personal experience
Personal experience gives content a unique point of view. There's rarely such a thing as a new topic to write about—just a new angle on a topic. That's why writers love to hear personal success stories and anecdotes to add something new to the conversation.
Tamara Omerovic, content marketing manager at Databox (which has hundreds of articles based on expert quotes), suggests sharing your personal experience along with its results to provide one-of-a-kind insights:
"To make your quote valuable and useful, no matter how general the topic may be, always speak from your own experience and perspective. What's your experience with a certain tactic or tool, and what were the results of using it? The results part is extremely important because it helps to show others what can be achieved, if any mistakes were made during the process, and so on."
Shayla Price from PrimoStats agrees: "I prefer including SME insights with a new outlook on an old topic," Shayla says. "A unique perspective will include a point of view, the reasoning for the viewpoint, and an example to add color to the quote."
Say you found a HARO request asking, "What's the best way to fold and store t-shirts?" You could answer, "Fold your t-shirts into a square shape and store them vertically."
But using Shayla and Tamara's advice, you would answer, "I recommend folding your t-shirts into a square shape and storing them vertically, so they're all easily accessible. When I started folding my t-shirts vertically, I ended up using my lesser-loved shirts a lot more!"
Which one would you quote in an article?
3. Provide context
One of the tips I was going to offer in this article was "stick to a single point." But when I asked around for input, Afoma Umesi actually recommended providing more than one answer to a question to raise your chances of getting your quote chosen. I was surprised by that, but then I realized: my problem wasn't with getting more than one answer from the same person. Instead, the answers I got without enough substance had incomplete points.
Whether you decide to contribute one or more ideas, make them complete—explain the why behind your opinion. The writer needs to feel like they're getting new insights, and that will only happen if you flesh out your ideas with context. If they didn't want that context, they'd just send out a poll, not ask for a quote.
4. Keep it concise
Before you write a manifesto on whatever the query topic is, remember that writers are getting a lot of submissions. While you should make sure your answers are fleshed out, keep them to a short paragraph or two—unless the query specifically says otherwise.
It's not just that writers don't have a lot of time to read long answers, but also that they only have so much space in an article. Even when an answer is good, if it's too long, they'll have to edit it down, which is more effort for them. If they have the choice between two quotes that are equally as valuable, they'll choose the one they can copy right in.
Meryl DW from United World Telecom shared a few HARO pitch examples with me, including one that was actually used in a United World Telecom article. The submitter answered multiple questions, but they did so in one-paragraph points. Take a look.
The longest answer in this batch is four sentences long. Concisely written, but still with fully fleshed-out ideas.
5. Follow directions
Here's a good tip in literally any situation: read the instructions. It's important when building IKEA furniture, and it's equally as important when responding to a HARO query.
Read the prompt carefully and follow all of the directions they provide. Writers will offer varying levels of specificity in their requirements, and you need to conform to them, whatever they are. If you don't, they have a really good reason to ignore your pitch.
Plus, if you don't read carefully and end up misunderstanding the writer's request, you could end up providing a completely off-topic answer. When I was gathering quotes for my Zapier article on onboarding and offboarding employees from tech, I asked the question: "What is your top recommended strategy or tool for onboarding and offboarding an organization's employees to and from its technology?" I got a number of answers related to onboarding and offboarding in general, which didn't help because I was looking for a tech focus.
To help prevent this, freelance writer Alyssa Towns adds the following blurb to her HARO queries:
"You have a higher likelihood of being featured if your initial reply contains answers to the questions in the query. I will follow up with you if I have any questions about your response or need more details. Please do not pitch individuals for interviews."
Before you submit your expert quote, double-check all the instructions the writer gave. If you're using HARO or a similar platform, check the website's rules as well. For example, HARO's rules say that you can't have any backlink requirements for providing your quote.
And don't rush it. Yes, journalists move quickly, but as Alyssa put it, "I'd rather someone spend 24 hours thinking their responses through than respond to me quickly without any substance."
Have a helping mindest
The best HARO quotes don't come from a place of putting self-promotion first. Instead, they come from genuinely wanting to help other people with your expertise. That desire to help shines through in a well-thought-out, original answer based on your personal experience and expertise.