An Interview with Thom Brodeur, COO of HARO 18

Thom BrodeurI had the pleasure of interviewing Thom Brodeur for my book, PR 2.0, New Media, New Tools & New Audiences.  Thom reached out to me recently to inform me about some exciting news.  He accepted a position at HARO as COO.  I thought it would be great to talk to Thom to see what he’ll be doing in his new role and to have him discuss his perspective on the future of PR.  He provided me with another great interview that I’d like to share with you!

What are your new responsibilities at HARO?

I will be leading the company’s expansion efforts. Of course I will be working with Peter on setting strategy for HARO as it grows and builds on its amazing track record thus far. More specifically I will have direct responsibility for marketing, business development, sales and operations. I will be working very closely with the team and with our customers on developing and introducing new products and services that help them best leverage all of what HARO can provide.

What’s the best advice you can give a PR professional for responding to HARO PR inquiries that result in coverage?

Like with anything. Be on your game, and make your outreach “count”. Have a relevant pitch that directly answers the query. Don’t look for an angle that might help you get your foot in the door for some other thing you may want to pitch a specific reporter. A lot of PR pros miss the boat on this critical item. Give the journalist what he or she is asking for, and you’ll have a friend and partnership that works for years to come. It’s pretty simple, really.

How does HARO measure its success in the PR community, with journalists and with bloggers?

Great question with a number of answers, but fundamentally it comes down to metrics. Numbers don’t lie. What started with a couple hundred “friends” on Facebook has turned into over 70,000 “source” members in less than 14 months. What started out as a couple hundred reporters who knew Peter has grown into nearly 25,000 who regularly submit queries through HARO.  What started out as non-revenue generating source / journalist matching service now counts over 900 advertisers with a waiting list several months out. The beauty of HARO’s success is truly that it is community generated. This symbiosis and collegial relationships HARO has created and continues to create between these interdependent communities has brought them together in a way that the media has been begging for for years, and that PR pros are beginning to see real value in, in some cases, for the first time.

What is the future direction of HARO?

Ah, the question of the day. HARO will always remain true to its core purpose – matching the right sources with the right reporters and media opportunities real time. But, what you will see is the brand evolve to more of an online destination where smart sources, sharp reporters and relevant advertisers come to: learn more about each other; exchange ideas / share stories, and work with each other in a truly collaborative, meaningful and simple way. Advertisers will have more opportunities to promote useful content (beyond “ads”) to sources and reporters. Sources will have the opportunity to showcase and highlight their expertise in unique ways. And, reporters will have a forum for exchanging and sharing ideas, stories and their personal and professional preferences with peers and sources alike.

Where do you see PR in the next 5 to 10 years?

Crowd-sourced journalism is a phrase you’ll often hear Peter use to describe the direction PR is headed in. The mythology of “who you know” and “how you do it” that has existed in PR circles for decades is being debunked. HARO is helping facilitate this very social media element of interactions between sources and reporters.  It’s been said before…but, command and control  “one-to-many” brand management, marketing and PR are being replaced with shut up, listen and participate appropriately one-to-one communications and PR truly driven by a balanced mix of: traditional media, citizen journalists and individuals who have something relevant and meaningful to contribute to the discussion. Silos are coming down. Social communication, discussion and now, with tools like HARO, even sourcing…are opening up opportunities for expert perspective and opinion from neighbors and friends; not just “pros” who live in gilded cages. The future of PR doesn’t allow for a special prestigious group of “keepers of the grail”. We’re all effectively “keepers” now. This makes all of us ultimately what brands really want us to be…an army of ambassadors talking about companies, products and services. The only difference now and in the future? We will be brand ambassadors communicating our own opinions shaped by our experiences with those brands and the perspective of our peers; not by what a press release, marketing slick or talking head tells us. PR pros who “get it” and get it sooner rather than later, will succeed in what you will likely write a book about someday… PR 10.0 – Same Audiences; Better Approaches:)