What HARO is – And what HARO isn't – A hotel analogy

Have you joined my incredibly non-annoying, once-in-a-while email newsletter?

You know, we get thousands of emails from people using HARO on a regular basis. Tons of them are “Hey, we got published!” or “Hey, our ad on your site rocked!” which is awesome.

But then, every once in a while, we get the emails from people pissed off that our free service doesn’t completely do everything they want, including being a personal publicist, making them a sandwich, and helping them drop 30 pounds from their butt.

I was talking about this with my good friend Adam the other day, and he came up with a spectacular analogy that I’d like to share below.

What HARO IS. And what it isn’t.

We’ve got a reporter who needs to connect with expert sources for a story on X by day after tomorrow at 5pm.

They’re on deadline and have 48 hours to find at least one, but preferably three experts for on-air interviews.

At the same time, there’s a hotel with 150,000 rooms in it.

In each room, is one person, who is an expert on SOMETHING. Room 132,434 has an expert on Space Shuttle ignition systems. In room 94,546 is a woman who has cheated on countless men, and will talk about it since she’s reformed. In room 32,462 is a man who raises llamas.

Problem is, it’s going to take three weeks of 8-hour days for the reporter to physically visit each room of the 150,000 room hotel and speak to each expert to determine which ones are

A) Relevant to what his story is aboutB) QualifiedC) Available on short notice.

It’s simply not practical.

The reporter has a way to email them and a way to call them, but again, without knowing exactly which ones are relevant, qualified and available, he’d have to email or call all of them individually, which would take days.


WHAT THE MASTER HARO (the list you get 3x per day, with all the queries) is:

The reporter recognizes all of the above, so in the interest of time, he has the hotel announce that there will be a gathering in the hotel conference room at 8am. At this gathering, the reporter will be announcing the story he’s working on and will ask those present who feel that they are qualified to act as an expert source to RAISE THEIR HAND. The reporter will then make contact with those folks directly and the others are free to leave the room.

200 people out of 150,000 raise their hand and step forward – a far more manageable number than the 150,000 that came to the gathering.

The reporter narrows the pool by speaking with them directly and gets what he needs, on time.

The others who showed up but did not raise their hand leave and wait for the next meeting. Or maybe there will ultimately be a meeting where 20-30 reporters attend, providing more opportunity for the sources to get coverage.

Or MAYBE, someone will get smart and the reporters will find a way to print a list of the topics they need experts on and the hotel staff will deliver this list and slide it under the doors at 5am of each of 150,000 rooms. It’s there when they wake up. It’s NOT unsolicited. It’s NOT spam, because each of the 150,000 occupants had to indicate on checkin that they wanted to receive it. At their option, when they finally do get their ass out of bed, they can either read it and send a short email to the reporter, or they can toss it, or they can call the front desk and tell them that they’re not interested in being notified of reporters who are looking for experts anymore.

That’s what the Master HARO is.


After several weeks, the guests are VERY happy that they no longer have to get up at 5am and 8am and show up at the expo conference room to hear what stories the reporters are working on. Now they can literally stay in their hotel room and respond from there if interested.

Life is great, but one expert in room #102,009 is upset.

He is LIVID that he has to get out of bed every morning just to scan all the topic headlines of a document that is slid under his room door by the hotel. He’s an expert on bacteriological combustion and 99% of the stories reporters are working on are NOT his area of expertise. Surely SOMEBODY must want to talk to him?

So he calls the hotel desk and suggests that he only be notified or bothered when a reporter is writing a story on Bacteriological combustion.

The desk clerk tells him that, with 150,000 guests, this is simply an unreasonable request from a staffing standpoint, to notify each occupant individually.

The scientist is again LIVID.

“This hotel SUCKS!” he said to the clerk on the phone.

“But Sir,” the clerk replies, “Your room is free. You’ve been staying here for weeks at the hotel’s expense. YOU ARE OUR GUEST, and as a GUEST you are free to leave the hotel any time.”

The desk clerk though, being a nice sort, proposes another option.

“Sir, we can’t notify you ONLY when we have a reporter doing a story on Bacteriological combustion. You’re not paying us to stay here. You’re not paying for the service and from both a time and a business standpoint, it would not work.”

But we could divide the reporters’ needs into topic areas and allow you to only receive the topic areas you want to, slid under your door at 5am. From a logistics standpoint, we can accommodate around TEN categories that we’d have to fit all the types of stories under. But we can list yours under Technology.”

The scientist thinks for a minute and then says, “Yeah but I’m a scientist, so what does that have to do with Technology?”

“I’m not sure, Sir, but I can promise you that if we get a Science need, we will put it on that list.”

“But can you tell me how often a need for my area of expertise will be on the list?”

“No sir,” the clerk replies. “I’m not a mind reader. Only the reporters know what they are writing on and only their editors control the assignments.”

“I’m STILL pissed off!” the scientist says. “I should be able to lay in bed and only be woken up by your staff when a reporter wants to talk to ME. Not ‘Technology’, but ME. And it should continue to be free!”

“I’m sorry, Sir. You’re confusing our Hotel’s service. What you’re looking for is a PUBLICIST. This is something you will have to PAY for.”

“But… I shouldn’t have to PAY just to get called by reporters on my area of expertise!” the scientist says.

“I’m sorry, Sir. Again, you’re making an incorrect assumption. You’re assuming that your need to get press coverage for yourself is more important than a reporter’s need to find expert sources quickly. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding on your part.

“I see,” says the scientist. “I guess it’s not so bad. And as you say, I’d have to pay for a publicist and I don’t pay for the room now or the bulletins I get.”

“Exactly, sir.’ says the clerk.

So again – as we said since the day I launched this site on Facebook – Welcome to HARO. Use it as you like – and we hope it’s helpful.

Leave a Reply