The 8 best HARO alternatives for connecting with journalists & sources
Find the right people for your brand or media outlet using these growing HARO alternatives, according to the experts
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is pretty brilliant. On the surface, HARO fills a significant need for journalists and media sources to connect. However, as media evolves, so do the needs of journalists and sources.
Here are some HARO alternatives attempting to take the throne of the most prominent media sourcing platform. But wait…
Like most great things, HARO started as a Facebook group in 2008 and eventually evolved into what it is today. Essentially, HARO is a place where journalists can put out requests (called “queries”) for expertise on a particular subject, and sources can respond via “pitches”. The pitch outlines the source's subject matter expertise and their perspective on the topic in the form of quotes that journalists can pull from to use directly in their stories and articles.
Daily digest emails separated into categories (such as “technology” and “medicine”) are sent three times a day, Monday through Friday. Sources can scan the queries, respond to the relevant ones, and voila! Everyone is happy.
Now, I'm sure you can see why this was such a massive game-changer. Having a centralized location where sources and journalists could come together was so revolutionary 15 years ago (and it kinda still is today).
Imagine it’s pre-HARO days, and you’re a journalist with a deadline. You’re writing an article on, I don’t know, “Can You Give Turtles Coffee?” You'd have to pull out your rotary phone, dust off your paper phonebook, flip all the way to the V section, and start calling animal doctors one by one until you found a veterinarian willing to chime in on whether or not caffeine is safe for turtles (it isn’t).
This could be extraordinarily time-consuming.
HARO took this objectively terrible, laborious process and connected journalists with the subject matter experts they needed in one user-friendly platform. Now, a journalist can log onto HARO, submit a query, and sources in the animal medical field can chime in with their expertise on whether or not coffee is good for turtles (again, it’s not).
As a side note, HARO will soon be transferring to an online app experience called Connectively, a big change for the platform and the first significant overhaul that HARO has seen in a good long while.
Obviously, it makes sense why journalists would want to use HARO: to get expertise and quotes from subject matter experts. But why would the sources themselves use the service?
The primary reason is for backlinks. (The secondary reason is for fame and glory.)
When a subject matter expert gives their perspective on a topic, the expectation is that the journalist will provide a link to their brand or service in exchange for their expertise. These valuable, high-DA (domain authority) links can profoundly impact a growing website. A veterinarian, to run the metaphor into the ground, would give their turtle thoughts to a reporter in exchange for a link to the website for their animal care practice. Win–win–win (with the third win being, of course, for the uncaffeinated turtles).
That said, backlinks are not always guaranteed. Many major publications don't provide backlinks in exchange for sources. Sometimes, the source will find it worthwhile enough to even get a mention in a major publication and be able to say that they were quoted or featured in Forbes, New York Times, etc. (gotta love that sweet, sweet social proof).
Okay, so far, all we've done is compliment the service and talk about why it's so amazing and why everyone wants to use it. But this is an article about alternatives. Why would we need other options if HARO is so great?
While HARO is pretty cool, it has some significant downsides. Let’s discuss both here in excruciating detail.
1. It’s the OG
HARO was the first, and for the longest time, the only, service for connecting journalists and sources. It’s also still the biggest and most well-known. Everyone and their mother knows what HARO is (assuming their mother also works in PR).
2. They’re quick to respond to feedback
Considering it’s a large platform owned by a large media company, their customer service is (in my experience) relatively quick to respond. Issues with the platform are quickly resolved.
3. It's simple
There aren't a ton of bells and whistles. It does precisely what it promises to do, and it's pretty intuitive to learn.
4. It’s free
Gotta love free! There is a premium version, but the free one works just fine.
1. The source pool is limited
If you submit several queries, particularly within the same niche, odds are you will get quotes from the same sources repeatedly. People who use HARO tend to use it A LOT. This isn't necessarily bad, but it can become problematic with a lack of diverse sourcing. It can seem biased to editors and media outlets if their writers consistently quote the same pool of people.
2. The service is free (and all that implies)
The barrier to using HARO is very low. This is a good thing because it allows many different people from different niches to gain exposure for their brand. However, this also means you will get an absolutely enormous amount of responses every time you submit a query. And, as a source, you'll find the competition is high. Most of your pitches go unanswered. This is an inevitable problem when you have a very popular service.
– AJ Silberman-Moffitt, Senior Editor of SEO, Tandem
3. Generative AI
I'll say this with as much patience and self-restraint as I can muster: ChatGPT and generative AI have been a nightmare for the service. As somebody who regularly uses HARO for the articles I write for Prezly, it is entirely bonkers and so frustrating to get 150 pitches for one query, with the majority of the pitches saying the exact same thing in the exact same way with the exact same cadence.
The problem isn’t just that everybody is submitting the same pitches either. The problem is that people give extremely generic, unhelpful responses on subjects they have no background in. For example, a pitch asking for a doctor will get some "marketing guru" using generative AI to LARP as someone with an opinion on a topic they shouldn’t be speaking on. Journalists hate this. Journalists can’t (and shouldn’t) quote this. It’s so wildly unprofessional, and it’s happening far too often.
The robots are here to stay, and we need to talk about the ethical implications.
4. Sketchy “HARO helping” people have taken over
No matter where you go on the internet, whenever there's a service available, you'll have people trying to profit from it. HARO is no exception. There are seemingly endless "digital marketing professionals” who offer HARO services claiming to be able to get backlinks from remarkably high DA sites… only to flood every query with (generative AI) spam on behalf of their "clients”.
This is exhausting because it's not what the website was intended for. The point was to get helpful sources matched with journalists, not to get some digital marketer’s best guesstimation of the source’s take just to gain brand exposure and backlinks. It cheapens the whole process and wastes everyone's time.
HARO was the only name in town providing this service for a while, but some promising rivals have started popping up. Here are the new kids on the block.
We talk about this in-depth in this guide, but essentially, journalists and PRs have been connecting via Twitter (now unfathomably X) for years now using the hashtags “journorequest” and “PRrequest,” among other more niche hashtags. Journalists and writers send out the request tweets, and people respond either directly or via email. It's quite straightforward and doesn't rely on a third-party service (besides X, of course).
- Low barrier to participate (you just need an X account)
- Updates more frequently and is more real-time than other services
- There is less competition to speak with the journalist
- Connect directly with the journalists and sources without the middleman, making it easier to build more organic relationships
- Hashtags on X are not organized into categories, so you’ll need to scroll through many irrelevant pitch requests to find something that matches your area of expertise
Qwoted takes HARO's vaguely anonymous “anyone could be anyone” energy and puts real faces and names to the people. Their online platform allows journalists to filter through sources with categories including gender, industry topic, title, location, and more. Queries are made public, and journalists can specifically tap sources on the shoulder to pitch their questions.
As of now, my experience with Qwoted is hopeful but slightly underwhelming. I've put out two queries, each receiving less than three responses. While the responses were high quality and obviously thoughtful, the volume is significantly lower than what you'd get with HARO. It's clear that Qwoted is still growing, and its usefulness will skyrocket as more people jump aboard.
I still use HARO at the same pace, but as I see many journalists post their requests in both places, I tend to send those via Qwoted, primarily because many PRs and brands won't pay for a premium subscription. HARO, due to being free, has experienced explosive user growth, so much that journalists' inboxes are flooded from the responses there. The advent of AI has made this even more problematic.
– Joe Karasin, PR Specialist & Founder, Karasin PPC
- Well-organized and transparent (you know exactly who you're talking to, their credentials and industry relevance)
- Journalists and writers require verification to make sure they’re working for a reputable news source, which lends an air of authenticity to the platform
- Still not quite as popular or well-known as HARO
- The Pro PR version starts at $124.99 per month
- There’s no way to be both a journalist and a source at this point
- It doesn’t seem like there’s an email digest option, meaning your ability to attract sources is limited to the website
Featured is another up-and-coming media source website. While similar to HARO and Qwoted, Featured requests appear to need to be submitted weeks before the quote deadline.
This is obviously not ideal for journalists and writers with tight deadlines who need a quick turnaround, but it could still be helpful for those with longer lead times. There also seems to be a feature where you can request the article to be written for you, presumably by AI or one of their internal writers (though how this works is unclear).
I came across Featured (formerly Terkel) and I really loved it. Now, I have 10+ mentions in a month and more than 20 pitches selected for publishing. It's easy to use and I love that it's rather on the professional side of the web, unlike Connectively (formerly HARO), where you have to scroll through, I would say, even bizarre questions and get nothing in return.
– Kseniia Mykolaienko, CMO, Parentaler
- Clean interface
- Fairly straightforward
- Free for journalists
- They seem to vet their sources more than other services
- It takes a long time to get quotes
- “Experts” only get to answer three prompts per month for free
- Upgrading to the “pro” version is $99/month
SourceBottle was a (pleasantly) surprising entry to this article. I’d never heard of it before starting to write this, but I put out a pitch (called “callouts”) and received 17 thoughtful responses, with only a couple seemingly pulled straight from the jaws of ChatGPT.
The user experience is pretty simple as a journalist: just fill out your information, ask your question, and wait for the responses. Like HARO, it is also filtered by topics, which allows the sources to apply only to targeted niches.
I even became a long-term contributor to a very authoritative website.
Due to the success with SourceBottle, I decided to give Qwoted and Featured a try. Featured works amazing for me, and I'm even considering getting the premium membership. Qwoted hasn't been very helpful so far (in my specific case, of course, it might be great for others).
I encourage everybody who's having a hard time landing links from HARO to check out the alternatives. I personally find them 10X better.
– Pazit, Fashion Designer and Writer, Shawlovers
As a source, the layout is also fantastic. You can browse callouts by niche and respond straight from the website, and they send daily digest emails as well. There’s an option to upgrade to an “expert profile” for $25 a month, but the service works perfectly fine from the free account. The only problem is that once your callout expires, there's no way to see the responses on the website. Unless you have them saved in your email, you'll lose them.
- Online and email options
- Lots of high-quality responses to our callout for this article
- Can report low-quality or spam responses straight from the email
- It seems like the locations are limited to Australia, New Zealand, the UK & Ireland, Canada, the US, and Singapore as of now
- No way to view and interact with sources on the website after the callout expires (unless we just can't find it)
A pretty straightforward (and, dare we say it, aesthetic) service, Editorielle does what the other services do, but unlike the other services, it seems more PR and brand-focused than simply “journalists” and “sources”. Of course, there's a niche for this, to be sure, but it won’t be the right fit for many industries and professionals.
Editorielle also continues to be an invaluable resource in our media outreach. We liked its clean style and functionality, which made for straightforward use and a quick pitching process. The platform seems highly professional and has helped us in building meaningful connections with journalists in our industry.
Both Sourcebottle and Editorielle seem to offer a more focused environment, enabling us to pitch our stories to journalists who are specifically interested in what we have to share. We have been able to develop more strategic and specialized pitches because of these platforms, which has improved our relationships with media professionals.
– Kate Geldart, Online Marketing Specialist, Custom Neon
- Free for journalists
- Suitable for brands, businesses, PR, and journalists who primarily work with brands and companies
- Cute branding
- Costs $5.99+ for PR/brands/businesses
- Not ideal for all use cases
Press Plugs advertises itself as a platform to “help a journalist out and gain small business PR”. Like Editorielle, it’s more of a way to specifically connect businesses and PR folks with journalists than for “anyone” to be a source for “anything”. It also seems to be a predominately UK service, so do with that information what you will.
– Dominik Mąka, Managing Director, dominikmaka.com
They do seem to vet their sources and journalists quite thoroughly. I tried signing up as a “journalist” through my work email and a “source” through my Gmail, but got an email notification stating they don’t typically accept Gmail and asking what the dealio was (paraphrased). I responded I was writing this article and wanted to see the service from “the other side” and never got a response. So. Very well vetted.
- Free for journalists
- The Press Plugs team vets each account
- Seems to be specifically for UK journalists and publications
- PR and businesses must pay to use the service
- There is a 7-day trial, with the paid service starting at £59 (around $70)
Help A B2B Writer Is an excellent resource for those writers who create content to, you guessed it, connect businesses with other businesses. The service is run by the team over at Superpath and has a friendly, modern feel. Help A B2B Writer is great for tech and SaaS content marketers who want to ask industry questions without some random food blogger chiming in with her ChatGPT-generated hot take.
Source Bottle has been excellent for general queries, but what I love about Help A B2B Writer is its focus on B2B-specific queries. It's a goldmine for someone like me who specializes in B2B marketing. The platform allows me to easily find and answer queries that are directly related to my expertise, making the entire process much more efficient.
– Justyna Dzikowska, Head of Marketing, Brand24
- Easily toggle between being both a writer and a source
- Great for those within the specific B2B niches
- Obviously, it is not useful for B2C writers
- Pitches are generally sent out email-only, which can be limiting for those who prefer a web browser experience
It is unsurprising given its name, but Radio Guest List is a way to connect sources with podcasts, radio shows, and all forms of audio media. Sources and show hosts can connect directly through regular email digests sent out on Monday and Wednesday (they also have a weekly digest option for the Inbox Zero crowd). There is an "all" option, as well as targeted lists such as "Entertainment & Arts" and "Health & Wellness".
Managing all the emails from these services is not a stress for me. I get to them when I can and if I miss the deadline I never worry, there's always some other opportunity around the corner.
I usually browse them during coffee breaks because I can scan the topic and decide if I need to click it at a glance. Therefore scanning through a doz or more of these emails during a quick coffee break is easily done – pausing at ones that have promise and exploring those, sending a query takes only a few minutes because I've been doing it so long. It is easy for me to scan through the recent publications to see if they are a good fit and glancing at their guidelines/policies before querying can really help make the query more effective. I make a quick note about who I queried and when in my spreadsheet and then move on to the next email.
– Lillian Brummet, Author, Brummet Media Group
- Many different email options for various niches and email frequency preferences
- It's free, with premium options available
- The pricing options for the premium plans are a little bit confusing
- The website is rather text-heavy and a bit difficult to navigate
Now that HARO is rebranding to Connectively, we’re interested to see what comes out of this and how it will change the platform. In the meantime, it's good to have a diverse pool of sources and journalists to connect with, so hopefully these HARO alternatives work for your PR & media needs.
Monday, October 30, 2023