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ExPRessions :: Public Relations :: 10 Tips for writing HARO pitches…from a double agent (a PR pro/reporter)

Sometimes journalists gripe about PR professionals. And, PR professionals also get frustrated with journalists.

I could be considered a double agent, leading the double life of a marketing communications professional and a freelance writer. And while I have monitored HARO for clients, I had never sent out a query as a writer until last month.

After 42 pitches, from top PR agencies as well as small businesses, I was overwhelmed. Few pitches were great and some were honestly a shot in the dark or just terribly written.

As a freelance writer who knows PR, here’s 10 tips for responding to a HARO query with a great pitch that will get you noticed:

  1. KISS. Keep it short and simple. I don’t want to read more than a paragraph about you or your company.
  2. Tell me what you can do. Do you have fact sheets or statistics I can use? Do you have a top expert? Give me the details.
  3. Don’t shoot in the dark. If I ask for a health insurance expert and you want to give me an insurance lawyer, I’m going to be irritated, not interested.
  4. Write in AP Style and use correct grammar. Not that AP really matters for the pitch, but I will see you as a more credible source. Correct grammar should be a given.
  5. Don’t brag unless you can back it up. One pitch started out with, “I’ll be happy to help as I’m a fairly well-known¬†expert…” If you are an expert, give me your credentials that prove it.
  6. Don’t call me “inquiring reporter” or some other lame title. Just get to the facts. Also, don’t say “great query.” Nobody likes a suck-up.
  7. Quotes rock. Sometimes I just need a quick quote to round out the article. Feel free to maybe answer a few questions you think I might ask and let me know that I am free to quote you. It saves us time from playing phone or e-mail tag and you might just get a great mention for very little effort.
  8. Let me know where you got your facts. I can’t just take your statistics on good faith. If your source is 20 pages long, tell me where to find the source and what page it was pulled from.
  9. Don’t Type Like This. Initial Capping Every Single Word For 10 Paragraphs Does Not Emphasize…It Just Makes It Difficult To Read. WRITING LIKE THIS ISN’T COOL EITHER!!
  10. Keep track of your pitches. One person sent me two pitches, with different introductions. Clearly she wasn’t paying attention.

Sadly enough, all of these tips stemmed from my first experience using HARO as a journalist. And, some of the pitches came from agencies.

So, if you are planning to pitch your story to a reporter through HARO, please keep it concise and on target. It will save both PR professionals and writers valuable time and inbox space.

What tips do you have to offer to people pitching to HARO? What tips do you have for people providing a HARO query?


  1. Those are really great suggestions, Rachel. Someone actually said “great query”?! Yikes.

    I know journalists/freelancers who use HARO get tons of responses from their queries, so obviously following tips like the ones you outlined will help cut through the clutter.

    I also think it helps to reference the HARO query you’re responding to in the subject line so the reporter knows your e-mail is directly related to that query.

  2. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Over a year later and I still use this post as a go-to guide when pitching via HARO.

    Thanks again for your insights.

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Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.