A few months ago, I started subscribing to a newsletter called "Help-a-Reporter-Out. or HARO. Here's an article that really describes it well, from this link:
"Help a Reporter Out" spreads virally, grows exponentially
by Jane Irene Kelly
Peter Shankman's free service that connects journalists with credible sources grew from 3,000 members to nearly 40,000 in just one year
November marked one year since PR executive Peter Shankman launched his free “Help a Reporter Out” (HARO) service. What a year it’s been for something that started out as a simple favor for Shankman’s friends and contacts in the media who were looking to connect quickly and easily with a wide array of sources.
When Ragan.com first checked in on HARO last April, Shankman, who also is the CEO for New York PR firm The Geek Factory, had recently moved the service from its Facebook page, which could no longer handle the e-mail traffic, to its new home at www.helpareporter.com. His distribution list grew to 3,000 people and he was sending out HARO e-mails once or twice a day.
As of mid-October HARO’s distribution list had ballooned to 36,000 members, who range from TV reporters to PR professionals to industry experts to business entrepreneurs looking for a little publicity. Shankman was predicting HARO’s membership would reach 40,000 by the end of 2008, and he already had advertising lined up for the remainder of the year.
Shankman’s success and the tremendous growth of HARO are not terribly shocking, perhaps, given that today’s media machine is churning out content 24/7. That means new and interesting sources and experts to interview are always in demand.
HARO’s tagline is “Everyone’s an expert at something,” and to be sure, people have not been shy about sharing their expertise and gaining some exposure while, of course, helping a reporter out in the process.
“Peter Shankman sends out good karma, and I think he is helping people understand the value of social media,” says Holmes. “I am all about relationships and connecting with people, and HARO has led to some good things for me that I don’t think I would have been able to take advantage of otherwise.”
Holmes’ recent HARO-related opportunities include speaking engagements for Essence magazine and Howard University.
Carla Caccavale Reynolds, a partner with New York-based PR firm Quinn & Co., says HARO has been a useful resource for her agency, not just for connecting with the media but also for some recent free advertising.
“In the HARO e-mail he sent out on the Friday before Labor Day, he mentioned that luncheon and our agency in his intro. After that our Web traffic went through the roof, which I thought was pretty amazing considering it was a holiday weekend,” recalls Reynolds. And like Holmes, Reynolds says she finds the “personality” Shankman brings to the HARO service appealing.
Both Holmes and Reynolds also have experience using PR Newswire’s ProfNet service, HARO’S biggest competitor. Reynolds said that while her agency still subscribes to ProfNet, she did recently discuss cancellation options with the company. She says she was taken aback by the ProfNet representative’s response.
“The person I spoke with said HARO’s listings are off-topic and not proofread,” recalls Reynolds. “To me, that didn’t seem like much of an argument for keeping ProfNet … but some people here do like the service, so we are keeping it for now. And the cost is really not a factor for us because it is spread out among our clients.”
Holmes says she had a similar conversation with a ProfNet representative who questioned HARO’s quality when she recently canceled her ProfNet subscription. She says she told the individual that she felt the leads she has been getting with HARO have been more useful to her, and after evaluating both options “did not see the value” in continuing with the paid service. Holmes said she also offered to send the ProfNet rep examples of the coverage she has received because of HARO leads.
Ted Skinner, vice president of public relations products for PR Newswire, says he is surprised to learn about these experiences and will look into them. (He also encourages anyone who has similar issues to contact him at email@example.com.) “We would never bash HARO,” Skinner says. “We would never talk down about someone having such success.”
While Skinner says he is aware some subscribers have canceled ProfNet in the past year because of their preference for the free HARO service, he says ProfNet is committed to providing “the best overall journalistic experience.” He adds, “We have 27,000 experts in our database. We also are a neutral third-party for bringing reporters and experts together, and have been trusted by the media for 15 years.”
And as for the price, Skinner says, “We think our service is worth every nickel,” adding that ProfNet offers its users a variety of products and subscription rates.
Meanwhile, other companies also have been taking notice of Shankman’s success with HARO, but are hoping to do a deal with him. Shankman says he has been approached by “some interested parties” in recent months, and he is “considering everything.”
However, he says he is not going to start seriously weighing any offers until early next year. And whatever he does decide to do next with HARO, he insists he will remain involved. He also says that as long as he owns HARO, he will “never charge a penny” for the service.
“I’m just having a lot of fun with this and I want to keep doing it,” says Shankman. “People—like real people, you know, mom-and-pop types—e-mail me and say, ‘Thank you so much. I would never have been able to afford this kind of press.’”
Shankman does admit, however, that running HARO has become time-consuming. “I need to plan my life, including my air travel, around these e-mails, which gets crazy,” he says.
Currently, HARO is supported only by Shankman and one administrative assistant, but he plans on adding more help soon. He also is looking at ways to automate certain aspects of the service so he can get information out to members faster.__________________________________________________________________________
At any rate, I sent Peter some glycerin soap and butter bars for a giveaway. Wow! I had almost 3 times as many hits as normal that day when Soapourri was mentioned. He made it fun, too - he asked what people's favorite smells are, and then awarded the prizes to the ones he chose. Many people accidentally sent their picks to me - the most common was "the smell of my baby's head". AWWWW. The winners were - you won't believe - bacon, puppies, and Fenway Park!
Anyway, THANKS PETER, for the mention!