HARO, How You’ve Changed!

Peter Shankman

Peter Shankman (Photo credit: BenSpark)

HARO, How You’ve Changed!

A Lesson in How to Handle Your Tribe

Help a reporter out was a 3 times a day newsletter where media could put out what they were looking for. People who read the free newsletter would respond to the reporter to pitch themselves or their clients. It came out 3 times a day and he sold single ads in each one. At one point there was around a 2-3 month waiting list to get an ad in HARO. It was very popular and best of all it was FREE to use for the reader. Peter Shankman used social media well and told little stories about his travel and life and what he was doing. Then a huge PR company bought HARO. I have been watching to see how the newsletter would change with someone else at the helm.

Here is what has happened.

Peter Shankman is well loved and respected in the social media space, so they kept him on. At first you could hardly tell that the new company owned it. The big give away was that the new company to sell their services used every ad space. It made it look like they had bought a lot of ad space. So instead of learning about an innovative new business that had a cool service to sell in each newsletter, you saw the same lame ad from the big company. Everything looked pretty much the same. I didn’t think they would keep Peter on forever and I was correct. After a while the newsletter ‘introduced” the new editors.

There seemed to be a team of editors for the newsletter. They “introduced” themselves, talked about what they did and tried to write some cute banter about what was going on in the office or in their lives. The problem was, nobody cared. Peter’s shared bits of his life and it was interesting. His travels, his meetings, his cat dying, all that make for a tight connection to his tribe. The new editors tried to converse with the tribe as if they were their tribe. Like a new stepfather in the home trying to connect with the kids, the tribe basically ignored them. They didn’t know these new people and didn’t care about the office stories. Frankly, they worked in an office like everyone else. They didn’t travel and have an interesting life.

Somehow big company figured that out and thankfully stopped adding that crap to the newsletter. Then began the big chop. The newsletter came out three times a day with over 100 opportunities. As of today, less than 55 were on the list. Something has changed in their policy. I know a couple of reporters who have been cut off from being able to post requests. Once your email is blacklisted you can no longer post any requests. Perhaps that practice is wide spread. Or perhaps they only allow people who pay for big company services to post. I am not sure what the criterion is.

HARO has certainly seen better days. Her second husband (big company) does not treat her as well as Peter Shankman did. She has had to downgrade her lifestyle and runs on her old reputation. She seems to be on the decline. While people still use it, I don’t hear people sharing the “secret” anymore and I can’t remember the last time anyone said they got a really big media opening from it.

Many reporters have learned they don’t need a central place to send out their media needs. They can create their own following on social media and get pitches everyday. I know I do. If you are with a major outlet, you don’t need a HARO to help you get the word out. People who want to be in the outlet or publication are constantly looking on line for any opportunity. Many people have just focused on where they want to be seen and waiting for the right opportunity and no longer look to HARO to bring them information. Google alerts and just following a reporter on twitter can serve to get you a nice write up.

The lesson here is about the tribe. The tribe is not transferable. You can tell when Peter left, when the information was being phoned in. I think some of the last few posts were ghost written for him by the company. It just didn’t have his voice anymore.

Only you can feed your tribe. People want more contact and interaction with you. They don’t want to be sent to another company to get what they want. People are not excited about JV product launches. Why? Because while you can partner and sell with people, your tribe is looking for more of you! Not more of someone else.

I think JV connections are great but tribes cannot be passed around for everyone to pitch anymore. They are on the list for the person they got on the list for. No one else really matters.

Something else that is better that HARO will come along soon. There are always people to innovate. But like the hot chick from High School who got FAT AND UGLY, HARO has lost its main appeal.

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3 Responses to “HARO, How You’ve Changed!”
  1. Dr. Wright:

    I don’t work with HARO anymore, so these are my own comments, and don’t represent Vocus. I have no doubt though, that they’ll be responding as well.

    A few points:

    1) Whether your post had any merit or not, it lost all credibility with me the second you had to bring up fat and ugly women. You’re a doctor, right? That’s your photo on the top right, correct? You couldn’t possibly find a nicer, less offensive way to make your point?

    2) Everything that HARO does now is asked for by users. Users ask to put limits on which reporters can post, because they don’t want to waste their time answering a query from a blog with two readers. Users don’t need the fun information I would post when I ran it because – wait for it, it’s not about me anymore. HARO has a quarter-million users (And growing) who get the queries, and want the queries. They don’t need to know where I am, or where I’m eating lunch. They want a service, that’s provided to them.

    3) In response to “journalists don’t need HARO anymore” – The number of journalists using HARO has continued to grow, month over month, year over year, since I started it in 2008. It shows no signs of slowing down. So while you think journalists might not “need” HARO, I’m pretty sure the majority of the 150,000 journalists who use HARO more than once on a regular basis would disagree with you.

    4) Finally, there’s a difference between a “tribe,” and a newsletter that has content that benefits people. The 120,000 monthly readers of my blog, my 150k Twitter followers and my 150k Facebook subscribers? They’re my tribe. People reading HARO? They’re there because I built a service that could benefit them. And when I sold it to Vocus, I did so because I knew Vocus could keep it up better than I could. And they’re doing that.

    Sounds to me like you’re reading the wrong things. You don’t need a newsletter like HARO – Sounds to me like you’re hoping for a fun, gossipy MySpace page. Those exist – You can find them. But to say HARO has become useless? I’m pretty sure close to 400,000 people per day would disagree with you.


    -Peter Shankman

  2. Hi Dr. Wright,

    I have been with HARO since 2009, so prior to the acquisition by Vocus. You’re right in saying some things have changed, but for the most part, HARO has remained true to its roots, thanks to the dedication by both Peter and Vocus to maintain the integrity of the service.

    Every company must make changes throughout the years in order to stay relevant to its users and customers. Every change we have made has been the result of requests from customers. If we ever made a change that didn’t please the overall HARO community, we overturned the change. The HARO community is and always will be our top priority.

    As for your comment that reporters don’t need us, I disagree. I maintain the social media outlets for HARO and receive success stories from both reporters and sources every day.

    I’m sorry that you feel HARO has lost its appeal, but as the former longtime HARO editor and current community manager, I can say that the foundation of HARO is still the same. Sure, a big part of that foundation was Peter, but the core of our service is finding quality sources for reporters and we will continue to do that with or without Peter.


  3. Dr. Letitia Wright says:

    Wow…. if Vocus has responded this quickly, or when I sent them a complaint and digital copy of a nasty message left by a vocus sales person-I would be impressed. A blog post got a response. And I do I see your point.

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