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How I Got Mentioned by USA Today (And You Can Too)

When it comes to building credibility and being seen as an expert in your field, there’s nothing that comes close to being quoted in a national newspaper or on a major website.

Not only does this help show that you are a legitimate source of information in your niche, but if you get a backlink from a major website, then it’s a big score for your site’s search engine presence.

If you’ve ever published a site, then you know that getting noticed and picked up by most major sites can be tough. It doesn’t have to be, however. There are ways that you can get noticed. We know because we just did it.

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to get a mention and link on USAToday.com. According to Alexa, USA Today ranks as the 79th highest-trafficked website in the United States. It ranks just behind Forbes.com in traffic and ahead of NBCNews.com and Business Insider.

Take a look. You can see the article listed as backlink here:

usa-today-backlink

(Note: If you ever want to see what articles link to you site, check out this cool backlink tool.)

So how did I do it? Did I schmooze the right people? Camp outside a reporter’s door until they agreed to give me a mention? Pay to get mentioned? No. No. And no.

The truth is, I was asked to contribute to USA Today. And not just them, but dozens of major websites (and hundreds of smaller ones, too). In fact, three times a day I get dozens of requests in my email. Best of all, you can get the exact same thing — for free — today.

Let me back up. Before I was asked to be included in the article, I signed up for a service called HARO. HARO stands for Help A Report Out. You can sign-up yourself at http://www.helpareporter.com/. It’s completely free.

The site acts as a connection between journalists working on stories and expert sources of information. Journalists sign up and describe the sources they are looking for on a story. For example, a person writing an article about the latest lottery jackpot might look for past winners to interview and quote in their stories.

That means you have an opportunity to be quoted as a source.

Three times every weekday you’ll receive a list of all the reporters looking for sources (you can select the list you want based on topics). Topic range the entire gamut, so no matter what topic you’re an expert in, there will be something for you. When you find one that interests you, then you can click it to get more details:


HARO Stories

HARO story

Now, you and your niche won’t be a great source for every HARO request. But checking regularly, you should come across 2-3 requests a week that you are a good fit for. It’s important that you respond to these immediately. The reporters are almost always on tight deadlines and can’t wait for sources to get back to them.

So what do you do when you get a request that you’d be perfect for? You respond via email and send in your pitch. Here’s where what you write is extremely important. Remember, the reporters you’re contacting are under tight deadlines and they are also looking for interesting content to include in their articles. That’s why you can use some easy tricks to get your pitches noticed. Using these tricks, not only did I pick up a link from USAToday.com, but my site was also mentioned on FoxNews.com and other blogs:

backlinks

How to Get Your Response Noticed on HARO

1. Always tweak your pitch
First, no two pitches you write should ever be the same. This is not something you can just create a template for and ship it out for every request. Every request you see will be different, and so your response should be as well.

Why is it so important that each pitch be different? No two reporters are looking for the same thing, and they are usually very specific about what they are looking for. A generic templated response to their request will be ignored.

2. Make your pitch quotable
As we’ve said time and again, reporters on HARO are usually under tight deadlines (less than 24 hours sometimes). That means they don’t have time to get in touch, get to know you, and do a full-on interview. In fact, sometimes your response will be used without you even realizing it.

When you craft a response to a HARO, be sure to write in full sentences that don’t have to rely on other parts of your response. You want to write in bites that can be easily pulled from your message and put into a story without further explanation or several lines of copy. Tell your story in a sentence, not a paragraph.

3. Lead with your qualifications
Every response you send should lead with who you are and why the reporter should care about what you say. That means outlining your credentials, past press mentions, experience, or anything else that makes you stand out as a potential source. Remember, reporters are usually looking for experts that they can quote for a story. Build yourself at the start of your pitch to stand out.

Have experience using HARO? Let us know in the comments below.

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