How HARO Works: A Technical Breakdown
Nov. 2, 2023, 8:35 p.m. in
In the realm of public relations and marketing, Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a virtual goldmine. It enables companies to pitch their stories to journalists from esteemed media outlets looking for sources. But how exactly does it work? Let's unravel the mysteries of HARO in a detailed technical breakdown.
The initial process starts when a journalist submits a query to the HARO database. This could be anything from a finite question about a niche topic to a broad request for expert opinions on a trending issue. It's the starting point for potentially valuable connections between journalists and sources.
Query Approval Process
The HARO system is designed to require human approval of these queries. This check supposedly ensures that repetitive or insufficient queries are filtered out. However, because of the sheer volume of requests submitted daily, duplicates or less thoroughly checked queries may slip through.
Queries Get a Unique Email Address
Post-approval, each query is assigned a unique email address. Essentially, this means anyone can send an email to the address linked to the specific query, making responses easy and streamlined.
Advanced Plan Subscribers Get Immediate Notification
HARO extends the advantage to those with an "advanced plan" subscription or higher by immediately emailing them the approved query. It is a kind of early bird benefit for the subscribers, increasing their chances of being the first to respond.
Newsletter Distribution for Other Subscribers
If you're a regular subscriber, don't worry. The approved query will still reach you via the next scheduled newsletter send. This ensures everyone gets a fair shot at sending in their pitches.
Here's the technical part:
HTML + Attachment Removal
Any email submitted to the unique email address is stored as plain text in the HARO database. This indicates that all HTML is stripped from the email- no attachments, fancy formatting, or word documents will be saved or forwarded. It is a precautionary measure that many are unfamiliar with, but reinforces the integrity and safety of the platform.
Newlines Are Kept!
When you log into the HARO web interface, you may be mistaken for thinking that HARO is stripping all the newlines from your content leaving a pile of text for the journalist to sift through.
This is actually not the case, they do maintain newlines and the web interface is simply not rendering this correctly.
NOTE TO HARO: If anyone from HARO ever ends up reading this, you can fix the issue by adding
white-space: pre-wrap to the div containing the users response.
HARO Adds Back HTML Links
While HARO initially strips down the email, it then adds back in HTML links where it thinks one is present. As an example,
Go to https://prbot.io will be replaced with
Go to <A href="https://prbot.io">https://prbot.io</a>.
Do note that HARO does not add links for email addresses or URLs without
http://, so the text
prbot.io won't be given a link.
Rationale for Stripping Emails Down
Such intense scrutiny and preprocessing of emails represents HARO's commitment to safety, preventing hackers from including malware attachments or tracking email content in HTML. It might make it a bit challenging to include headshots with pitches, but platforms like prbot.io can host your headshots along with various other profiles.
Having stripped and processed the emails, HARO then forwards these to the query-proposer. Transparent and secure, this mechanism ensures journalists receive only relevant, rich, and risk-free content.
Deadlines and Beyond
Once the reporter's deadline passes, the unique email address will stop accepting emails. A notification is sent to indicate this change: "Thank you for emailing your query to this reporter. Unfortunately, the reporter's deadline has already passed, and as such, this email address is no longer valid..."
In a nutshell, HARO is a powerful platform that marries technology with journalism and PR. An understanding of its technical landscape can significantly enhance your HARO experience and increase your opportunities for successful engagement.
By navigating HARO effectively and observing the rules, your pitches can stand out from the crowd, and who knows, you may just end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.