Do you need some exposure in the media for you or your company? Then check out HARO (Help A Reporter Out), but allow me to add some guidelines, based on my recent experience asking for input for an article I’m writing, and to which I received a LOT of responses. Doing these things will not guarantee that your quote makes it onto the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but not following these guidelines virtually guarantees your quote will never be used.

In publishing this list I mean in no way to put anyone down. This is meant to be helpful. I use HARO both as someone who requests help when writing articles, as well as someone who submits responses to the press. As I read through responses for my latest article I realized there were things people were doing that made it more difficult to use their quotes, and that I had been doing many of these same things. I also realize I can do a much better job requesting input when I use HARO, as it was clear from some of the responses that I hadn’t made clear exactly what I was looking for, and had I given more detail I would have received more on-topic responses, and responses formatted in the most useful way possible for my needs. Next time I’ll do better.

  • Follow instructions. This is my #1 piece of advice. Whatever the person making the request asks for, give it to them–nothing more, nothing less. If they ask for an email address, give them an email address. If they ask for a website URL, give them a website URL.
  • Don’t include an introduction or any fluff. Yes, it would normally be polite to start an email off by saying “Thank you so much for considering my quote…” but it’s not necessary in this situation and gets in the way of getting to the meat of your submission. The more a writer has to use their brainpower to figure out where the quote is, the more likely they are to give up and move on to the next email.
  • Submit one response unless instructed otherwise. If I ask for a quote along with the submitter’s name and website, then the easiest way for me to use that in an article is if I can copy and paste the quote, the name, and the website address and paste it into my article. If the person submits three quotes, then I have to either copy everything, then delete what I don’t want, or I have to copy and paste multiple times. If I’m going through 100 emails and I’m on deadline, having to do 30 seconds of extra formatting can be the difference between using a quote and moving on to the next one.
  • Be concise, unless instructed otherwise. If I ask for a quote, name, and URL and I receive a quote, name, URL, and a full page bio, I might just see a lot of text, feel overwhelmed, and move on.
  • Separate text in your email. Some of the submissions I received had text all jumbled together. Again, the more formatting I have to do, the more likely I am to skip that email and move on.
  • If you forget something, resend everything. If you send your response but then realize you’ve forgotten something you wanted to include, just start over and ignore the fact you already sent an email. Don’t apologize. Just fix the email, and send it again. If you send two emails then you’re making the writer figure out where your first email is, join the two together, and…well, it probably won’t happen. Chances are the writer has so many emails they won’t notice there are two from the same person, so no need to apologize. In fact whereas sending two emails, one of which is incorrect, is virtually no bother at all, having to read your apology takes more time and is not what the writer wants to be reading, so the apology itself is worse than the offense you are apologizing for :)
  • Make your response plain text. No HTML. Because often the HTML comes through as code, and then there’s the work of stripping out HTML code to get URLs and such. Again, make it easy on the writer and you’re more likely to get in.
  • Don’t make special requests. Yes, you’re doing the writer a favor for which they are grateful, but they’re also doing you a favor and they’re tearing their hair out trying to go through 200 HARO responses and make deadline. Don’t ask them to send you a link to the article once it’s published, just figure out where they publish and follow their writing, or set up a Google Alert to track your name so you know whenever someone publishes a quote with your name attached to it. Another thing to not ask for is “Here’s my URL, but if possible could you link to my Twitter profile?” If you want them to link to your Twitter profile, just include your Twitter profile as the link and leave out your URL. Don’t make the reporter think. If he thinks too much about your email, it probably won’t work out in your favor.

Are you a writer who uses HARO? What suggestions would you add for those wanting to be quoted as a source?