The website does a simple job–it connects media producers (journalists, bloggers, reporters, etc.) with sources, that is, experts or people who can contribute something to the media that is being produced. I have used HARO as both a writer, in order to obtain quotes from sources, and as a source, resulting in my being quoted in articles.
I recently used HARO as a writer. The article I was working on was targeted toward chief marketing officers (CMOs) and the topic was buyer personas and user journeys. I went to HARO and sent this message through their service.
I’m looking for quotes from CMOs and other marketing professionals who work with CMOs.
Are you a CMO, VP marketing, or do you work with one?
Do you use buyer personas and user journeys to help you and your marketing team understand your customers and better market to them and retain their loyalty?
If so, what do you think other CMOs or marketing professionals need to know/understand about buyer personas and user journeys?
I then added some details on the kind of response I wanted:
Feel free to offer multiple answers to the question, but each answer should be no more than 2-3 sentences. Answers through PR firms are welcome. For the person to be quoted please include first and last name, title, company, website link, and email address.
Within 24 hours I received 105 responses. I wasn’t shocked by this response, but I was disappointed, mostly in myself. You see, it takes a lot of time to sift through 105 responses. Hours, in fact. If, instead of sending a message to people and waiting for a response, I were using Google, I would get 105 responses back, realize I hadn’t been specific enough, and then I would change my search terms to narrow in on what I really want.
I should have known better. I’ve used HARO before. The last time I used it, I believe I got well over 200 responses. That’s why I tried to be specific this time. But I wasn’t specific enough. And I made other mistakes as well. But to be fair, some of the respondents made their own mistakes. What follows is a list of lessons I’ve learned from this experience, some of which apply to those soliciting input via HARO, and others responding to those requests. Hopefully you can apply these lessons and get better sources for your articles, or get quoted more frequently in them. First, suggestions for writers/source seekers.
HARO Lessons For Source Seekers
1. Be specific. I tried to be specific when I asked “Are you a CMO, VP marketing, or do you work with one?” The idea was that if you answered “No,” then you wouldn’t respond to my request. I only wanted to quote CMOs and those who can be called a CMO (like a VP Marketing) in my article, so that the CMOs reading the article would feel like they were getting advice from people who had been in their shoes. When I asked “Do you work with one?” I meant “Do you work with one and therefore can you get a quote from one?” I didn’t want to exclude PR firms who might be able to provide me with a quote from a client who is a CMO.
Instead, many people interpreted my question the wrong way and thought that working with a CMO was enough of a qualification for them to respond, as themselves. So I received answers from CEOs, account managers, and others who effectively said “Yeah, I work with a CMO, and here’s what I wish CMOs knew…” My bad.
2. Ask one question. Since sending out my request, I’ve decided buyer personas and user journeys each deserve their own piece, and shouldn’t be joined together. Unfortunately, some respondents to my request have commented not just on why buyer personas or user journeys are important for CMOs to understand, but how they work together and are important in a joint way. Nothing wrong with that, except that it makes it hard for me to now separate that kind of answer into two separate statements. Again, my fault, not the respondents’.
3. Set up an autoresponder. Setting up canned responses in Gmail is a lifesaver with HARO. That way everyone gets a response, they know you received the request, and you end up with fewer people emailing to make sure you got their submission. You can also use it to direct people to a link where they can structure their response more. That is, you can shoot them back an email that takes them to a survey, or form, or just to a page where they can follow you on social media. I need to try that one of these times. I’ve done the auto-responder just to be polite and let people know I got their pitch, but I forgot to set it up this time and so I had to copy all the email addresses and send out a bcc email to everyone. Took me the better part of an hour. Whoops.
HARO Lessons For Publicity Seekers
As long as the article being used as an example is about buyer personas, here’s a persona for you. It’s the persona of the guy who is sending out HARO requests and reading the responses. He’s 40 years old, he’s an entrepreneur running a business, he writes as much as he can for 10 publications, he reads 5-6 books per week, 20-50 articles, runs 10 hours per week, is married, has two young kids, and mostly works from home. He receives hundreds of emails every single day, and has thousands of unread emails in his inbox. He’s also working on his first book and is under a tight deadline.
If that’s the persona of the guy you’re sending your HARO response to, how will it affect the way you craft your response? Here are some ideas.
1. Follow instructions. In my request I said:
For the person to be quoted please include first and last name, title, company, website link, and email address.
Guess what happened to the pitches of people who didn’t follow these instructions? No email address? Delete. No website link? Delete. No title? Delete. I’ve got 105 responses to get through, don’t make it easy for me to delete yours.
2. Yes/no questions are rhetorical. Don’t answer them. When I asked:
Are you a CMO, VP marketing, or do you work with one?
I didn’t intend for anyone to answer that question. The way you answer it is that if the answer is “no” then you don’t respond, and if it’s “yes” then you respond. I was surprised how many people didn’t just answer this, but gave 3-4 sentence answers. I don’t need that. You’re just making it hard for me to find the part of your response I can copy and paste into my article.
3. Don’t follow up. I’ve got 105 responses to get through. If you send me a follow up email to ask “Did you get my email?” or “What do you think, can we get on the phone and talk about it?” all I’m thinking is “I’m not sure if I got your email and it will interrupt what I’m doing to find it so that I can tell you I got it, and if I respond to you I have to respond to the other 50 people who are following up…which will take 1-2 hours of my time away from writing…” or “If I get on the phone and talk with you about it for 15 minutes, that’s 15 minutes I’m not writing the article, and if I talk to you, what about everyone else who wants to talk? Why should I talk to you and not to them?” If the answer is “Because I’m Phil Shiller, the CMO of Apple,” then that’s a pretty good response. But there aren’t many Phil Shillers. I try to set up autoresponders or otherwise reply to people who contact me, but when there are so many responses, it’s tough. Sorry, I’d love to talk to you, I’d love to communicate more, but I can’t do that and actually get any writing done.
4. Give what’s requested, and only what’s requested. I’m going to give a few examples here, because this is the rule most people violate. My intent isn’t to embarrass anyone, or else I’d include names. My intent is to instruct, so that your pitch doesn’t get ignored. I’m going to critique several of the pitches I received. I’ve edited them to remove most of the identifying information, hence the “…” you see everywhere.
Example A. “Just give me your quote.”
Pitch Contents: Hi Joshua –
Would you be open to receiving insights / responses from …?
He’s a lauded expert in total market wellness who is helping companies better market to U.S. multicultural groups that now have higher purchasing power in online / traditional marketing. He can also get you some insight into the buyer persona / journey and elements of “emotional mapping” and how this folds into more hyper-cultural marketing strategies. … is known for their work with guiding marketing of major pharma (eg. …, etc.)
Just wanted to check before to see if he’d qualify for responses.
Thanks again –
The problem with this pitch is Dan didn’t make one, and he’s not going to get a chance. If I’m going through 105 pitches and I’m trying to get my article written in a hurry, am I going to take the time to respond and say “Yes Dan, I would like to receive the thoughts of your client.”? Just send me his thoughts. If you have any doubts about it being the right fit, then don’t. But there just isn’t time for me to respond to everyone who asks questions, rather than just sending me a quote, and no, Dan wasn’t the only one who did this.
Example B. “Make it easy for me.”
Pitch Contents: Dang-what a great idea for an article.
I am CMO of … (Forbes called us the [most awesome ever]…)
*When you ignore what people want, ignorance sets in.*
This is what’s wrong with the real estate industry. I call it *“ignorance disguised as arrogance.”*
In 2014 over a billion dollars was invested in real estate technology/disruptors. A majority of the technology is to make the agent efficient-thus removing them from the transaction. The problem is selling a home is a personal transaction and no wonder agents are getting hammered with commissions.
The FSBO market is growing rapidly because it puts the human element back into the transaction.
What we learned was our product was too easy and buyers wanted to be more involved, so we lowered our price and offered a DIY model. The user takes the pictures of the home, writes the description and … automation does the rest. We eliminated the package that did this for you. We realized it is a smart/savvy homeowner that wants to be involved.
We randomly choose 2 users every week and monitor their user experience and interact with them. One of our users said she had received better customer service with … ($379) than she did with the 6 months she had her home listed (6% commission). When then monitor our users success at selling their home to know what is working. Crazy as it sounds, the customized yard sign is about 14% of the success. I do not know of one brokerage firm that monitors what works in selling a home. They only monitor how to get listings. Big mistake.
It’s not that there’s nothing interesting in here, it’s actually quite interesting. There is the foundation here for an entirely new article. But it doesn’t make it easy for me to use this for the article I’m writing right now. It’s forcing me to do more than skim, and when I’m going through 105 responses I’m looking for the quick win, the 1-2 sentence quote that jumps out and me and I say “Aha! That’s an easy one to plug in.”
And the whole thing is kind of long. Other writers might look at this and just say “Too long” and never read any of it.
Example C. “Really, nothing extra. NOTHING.”
Pitch Contents: Hey Joshua,
I love this concept!
A Buyer Persona is the DNA in not only your campaign but more importantly the audience you are trying to capture. At my agency we develop intensive buyer persona to a psychological level. Having a deep grasp of who you really want to target from Personality to their Guilty Pleasures can dramatically increase a campaign’s success rate and ROI.
With Facebook Ads you can target very in depth. By creating a strong Buyer Persona an ad that would have a reach of 1M and be reduced to 100k, leaving you with lower ad spend and a highly targeted market. We seen cost per click go decrease over $1 per click by having a great buyer persona to help with targetting, ad copy, and graphic/ content creation.
Hope this helps!
Good luck on your piece. Never the less please send it to me because I would love to read and share to my networks!
Even that line “I love this concept!” is too much. Remove anything unnecessary. The writer isn’t looking for praise or appreciation, he’s looking for a great quote. The ideal pitch can be copied and pasted in its entirety in 2 seconds. When you start it with “I love this!” and end it with “Hope this helps! etc.” the writer is already thinking “Let’s see, where do I have to place the mouse cursor to start copying and where do I have to stop copying…ah, forget it, I’ll just look at the next one, maybe it will be easier to copy.” Little things can make all the difference between getting quoted and not getting quoted.
BTW, I think you only capitalize proper nouns. Facebook is Facebook, but Buyer Personas are buyer personas and Guilty Pleasures are guilty pleasures unless they’re The Guilty Pleasures. Capitalize things wrong, use bad spelling (e.g. “targetting” above) or grammar, and you’re increasing the work for the writer as you turn the writer from a writer into an editor.
Example D. “Don’t answer rhetorical questions.” and a bunch more feedback.
Pitch Contents: Hi, I am an account manager who works directly with the President at … a digital marketing agency in Orange County, CA. I want to share some thoughts on your queries. [this entire paragraph unnecessary]
Person quoted: …
[this part above is good, give me the info I want!]
The below answers are coming directly from our President, … [Yes, you already told me that]
*1. **Are you a CMO, VP marketing, or do you work with one?*
Yes, I work directly with the President of a digital marketing agency. [You don’t have to answer these questions…they’re not meant to be answered.]
*2. Do you use buyer personas and user journeys to help you and your marketing team understand your customers and better market to them and retain their loyalty? *
A1: Yes, we develop buyer personas for every client that sign up with us*. *It’s an integral part of the marketing process that allows us (and our clients) to better understand the target audience. At the end of the day, marketing is all about making people aware that a solution to their problem exists. You can’t do this by targeting the wrong person.
A2: Yes, buyer personas and user journeys are an integral part of the marketing process. We develop them for every client that signs up with us. How can you market effectively if you don’t understand *whom *you’re marketing to? Only when you understand the buyer persona can you map out their journey from prospect to paying customer.
*3. If so, what do you think other CMOs or marketing professionals need to know/understand about buyer personas and user journeys? CMOs and marketing professionals need *
A1: If you’re unsure of your precise buyer persona, survey your customers about basic information and buying habits. You might be surprised at what you see. Only then can you map out their journey from prospect to paying customer. [decent response]
A2: It’s simple. You can’t have an effective marketing campaign without creating a buyer persona and mapping the subsequent user journey. [not so great of a response]
*Digital Account Manager*
*Also*, what’s with all the asterisks?
Example E. “More of too much. Get to the meat asap.”
Pitch Contents: Hi Joshua,
I saw your HARO seeking sources for a piece on what CMOs need to know about the buyer persona and wanted to offer you some commentary from …, CMO at …, a customer experience management solutions provider.
Please see below. She went ahead a divided the questions into multiple answers – hope thats helpful!
Let me know if you need anything else.
[everything above this is unnecessary except for the name, title, and company name]
*Q: Do you use buyer personas and user journeys to help you and your marketing team understand your customers and better market to them and retain their loyalty?*
A: Buyer personas are a key piece of our sales and marketing strategy. We’ve conducted extensive research and analysis on the types of people who purchase our technology and have developed buyer personas that drive our messaging. Our use of these personas extends beyond marketing into nearly every area of the business so that our entire company can better understand and serve our customers.
A: Yes, our personas span the actual buyer and all the influencers. As a B2B software company we develop these using a combination of tools – interviews with customers and prospective buyers, LinkedIn profiles, analysts information, and win/loss analysis. We use these personas for sales enablement, campaign management and user based materials.
A: What’s more impressive is how our customers (typically large B2C brands) develop their buyer persona’s taking into consideration sources like social media, review sites, customer support records, loyalty program data and other behavioral demographic data to derive their personas and how they in turn use this data to drive everything from their corporate strategy to their marketing efforts to their approach to customer service.
Q: If so, what do you think other CMOs or marketing professionals need to know/understand about buyer personas and user journeys?
A: It’s important to understand that personas and user journeys are most valuable when shared and embraced by the entire organization— not just marketing. For example, the customer care team needs to understand the needs and challenges of the people who are contacting them. The product team needs to understand how and why customers are using the product. An effective buyer persona maps out all stages of the journey, from the moment the customer becomes aware of the brand, through purchase and product use. Additionally, these other teams can and should provide input into the journey map.
A: CMOs need to know that the buyer persona may be hidden in vast amounts of data that is spread across their organization but when you tap into this data you can not only build personas used by marketing but personas to drive your business success.
The content of the pitch isn’t bad, although a bit long. But not bad. But that whole intro needs to be cut. It’s a distraction from the good part of the pitch.
Example F. “Mo’ fluff.”
Pitch Contents: Hi Joshua,
Please see comment from … CMO … for your story, below. Let me know of any questions – we’re happy to get our CMO on the phone with you.
[everything above not necessary]
* Do you use buyer personas and user journeys to help you and your marketing team understand your customers and better market to them and retain their loyalty?
[once again, don’t answer rhetorical questions]
* We develop these in-house because it’s simply a best practice. Customers and prospects don’t want to hear anything generic; they want to know how you can solve their specific problems, make them look good, save them money, and increase productivity. For example, think about the difference in function between a CIO, a CFO, or the head of sales – do they have the same goals? Of course not – and any of them can be the decision-maker in an organization. Your team is going to appeal to their needs regardless, which means incorporating persona research into your initial planning is going to save everyone time later in the process.
* If so, what do you think other CMOs or marketing professionals need to know/understand about buyer personas and user journeys?
* As useful as buyer personas and user journeys are, they are a guideline; not a rulebook. Don’t rely on them alone – everyone is an individual and every sale is actually a partnership. You still need to get to know your audience.
Again, it’s not bad, but there’s stuff in there that doesn’t need to be there. Almost every pitch does this. You can stand out by not including all the fluff and getting straight to the point.
Example H. “Stories about your customers aren’t what I’m looking for.”
Pitch Contents: Hi Josh, … here from …, a marketing automation platform that allows companies to send messages to the right person and the
right device at the right time. I saw your HARO query and I wanted to share a customer story.
Our customer, …, is using both user personas and user journeys. Their personas fall into two main categories-It Girls and regular customers. … reaches out to It Girls (social influencers) with a special trial offer and promo codes that they can give out to their followers. These customers receive a little extra love and attention.
In terms of the user journey, … uses … to send a series of emails encouraging users to complete certain actions such as taking a style
survey, leaving feedback for their first box and adding items to a wish list. These emails are highly effective in pushing customers down the funnel towards a conversion. They’re also great for helping … stylists to better understand their customers’ tastes in jewelry, thus helping them to curate better jewelry collections and to establish loyalty!
Other CMO’s and marketing professionals need to realize that it’s important to segment your users and to create different experiences for different types of customers. Also, triggered emails based on behaviors and what a customer does or doesn’t do can be highly effective in getting people to take the desired action.
Happy to explain more. I’ve also cc’d my contacts at ….
This might be a fine response in another context, but I want responses from CMOs. There’s no CMO to quote here, therefore reading it wastes my time, and is therefore also a waste of time for the sender.
Bonus tip: Want to stand out? Be contrarian.
I can’t say how well this would work with other writers–some people just want to push their agenda. But for me, this is how you get my attention, because I care about being accurate in what I write. When someone sends me a pitch and says “You might want to rethink what you’re writing…” I can’t help but read that. If they can’t back it up or it seems weak, as though they’re being contrarian just to be contrarian, then it will get deleted. But if they make good points then oooh, that’s good stuff. Here’s someone who did it right.
Pitch Contents: Hi Joshua – I noticed you are seeking sources for an upcoming story on “What CMOs Need to Know About Buyer Personas and User Journeys,” and I was wondering if you’d be interested in a contrarian point of view from …, chief strategy and marketing officer at …, a marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company. … has provided commentary to one of your questions below. As an FYI, I’ve copied my colleague … on this note, as I have an approaching maternity leave and want to make sure you get what you need if … commentary is of interest. Thanks in advance for your consideration!
Question: What do you think other CMOs or marketing professionals need to know/understand about buyer personas and user journeys?
…’s Response: For years marketers have created personas – fictional characters that embody all the traits of their prospects. But persona work may not be addressing the real decision-making triggers, and it may be leading your messaging astray. Prospects don’t make purchase decisions and change their current approach – or status quo – because of who they are and their characteristics. Instead, prospects respond to messages if they perceive their status quo to be in danger, or if they develop a sense of urgency to change their current approach or behaviors to preserve their best interest. Urgency to change lies more in the buyer’s context, not their character. As a result, basing marketing messages off of a persona is ineffective and completely derailing your marketing messaging.
To ensure messaging is on-point, organizations should use a “status quo profile,” which entails clearly defining your prospect’s status quo – learning it inside and out – and using this knowledge to create effective messaging that moves your prospect to make a change. Status quo profiles focus on the following questions:
* How are your prospects currently addressing the challenges that your product/service can resolve?
* Since your prospects implemented their current approach, what challenges, threats or missed opportunities have come to light?
* What are the holes in your prospects’ current approach?
Focus on helping your prospects realize that their status quo is limiting their potential and threatening their desired outcomes; forget about you prospects’ titles, segments, or personality traits. Messaging and conversations based on a status quo profile trump persona-based content when it comes to helping you create messages that drive intent, not just interest.
I’m not sure I agree entirely with the comments above, but they were presented well. Well enough that I am feeling compelled to change my article and provide some alternative viewpoints, and I’ll probably include part of this in my piece. Even though this was a bit long and wordy, the quality of the pitch itself overcame that. I didn’t mind reading this.
Again, you’ve got to be able to present a credible case. This wasn’t the only contrarian response I received. I got another one, but I didn’t think they made a strong case against using buyer personas.
- Be brief
- Only provide what is asked for
- Provide everything that is asked for
- Put your meat at the front, get the writer hooked
- Be professional with spelling, grammar, and formatting
- Don’t follow up
- Do make sure you include contact info within the body of your response (I’m surprised how many people don’t)
Have you used HARO with success, either as a writer or a source? I’d love to hear your story.Liked it? Share it!