An Interview with Thom Brodeur, COO of HARO
I 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. 🙂
June 8, 2009 @ 3:38 pm
I am glad to see Peter taking HARO to a new level. It’s very exciting! I can’t wait to see what’s in the pipeline.
Good luck Thom.
June 8, 2009 @ 4:49 pm
Hi Greg, thanks for commenting. I agree! It’s great that Thom is onboard with HARO. I’m sure we’ll see many exciting developments in the future 🙂
June 8, 2009 @ 5:02 pm
I’ve been following HARO for about 8 months, and have been able to properly respond to several queries, resulting in some great interviews. Was just in Paris, had lunch with Peter, and attended his Happy Hour there. I am excited to hear about Thom and the expanded directions (can’t call then “new”) where HARO is heading. Good luck, Thom — you have 70,00 new friends!!
June 10, 2009 @ 12:55 am
Stuart, thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts on HARO. Very exciting to have Thom onboard!
June 11, 2009 @ 11:00 pm
Great to see where HARO is going. The whole social media/crowdsourcing angle is interesting and will be fun to watch as these alternative sources for driving traffic as well as revenue begin to take shape.
June 11, 2009 @ 11:04 pm
Darwin, I agree. Many of these new service providers are really forging ahead and offering excellent resources for PR professionals. I think we will continue to see great things from HARO!
June 11, 2009 @ 11:10 pm
Congrats Thom, Peter, and HARO
Can’t wait to see what you guys do next. Wow, that is some amazing growth and you know, great things happen to great people. I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter about a month ago and he told us to always, always have FUN. Looks like HARO is having some really FUN times.
June 11, 2009 @ 11:15 pm
Great interview! HARO is such an interesting platform to look at. Newsletters have been around for a long time and are easy for anyone to start. HARO simply gave them a slightly new angle and look at it! Shows how easy things can be to create. You don’t have to be a tech wizard to create something that can truly help people.
June 11, 2009 @ 11:58 pm
Jared, thank you! I really enjoyed the interview with Thom! You’re right, HARO is so simple and yet so useful. A great of example of how you don’t have to overthink a newsletter to provide an excellent service.
June 12, 2009 @ 12:25 am
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE HARO. I think what Peter S did and does is amazing. And you can tell he truly cares and is passionate about it.
However, journalists and writers need to know that they are accountable for their own reputations as well as those of whom they write for too. They don’t hold the ONLY keys to the publicity kingdom any more. There are avenues around them to get noticed. So they should treat everyone with respect as well. For example, I’ve submitted over ten responses. I sent thoughtful, detailed, and appropriate to the topic responses. Not ONE journalist or writer even acknowledged me. Not one of them – not even a canned copy & pasted “thanks but i’ve got all the material I need now.”
I posted a query on HARO once, and we responded to EVERY single person who responded to us, even if we didn’t use them. It was important for us to stabilize our reputation and treat people well who took their time. Yeah, we’re busy too guys. No, I didn’t really want to respond to them each. But we did, and there is no excuse for you not acknowledging people who reach out to help you in this day and age. You may well one day be out of a job and find that people have long memories.
June 12, 2009 @ 3:51 am
I agree – great interview! Congrats! I love HARO and how everyone helps one another. I have learned so much from following and have made great media contacts and helped others connect too.
It will be exciting to watch HARO grow and evolve. Rock on Peter and Thom!
June 12, 2009 @ 5:11 am
Great interview. As a PR/Journ hybrid. I’m excited about HARO and its future. Great blog, Deirdre! 🙂
Janet Meiners Thaeler
June 12, 2009 @ 12:14 pm
I predict that next HARO will hire an attorney (or maybe already has one?). Peter Shankman is pretty aggressive in this issue from what I’ve seen.
What happens when someone starts a local version of HARO (but calls it something else)? And they get local sponsors. Is this idea copyrightable? What about if people put #HARO on Twitter and pitch people directly rather than through the email list?
Like many online marketers, the email list is how HARO makes money. (Sideline: HARO’s ads are my favorite part of the email, plus I’ve heard great results from running an ad. They are stories about the usefulness of a service. Peter does a good job at making them relevant to the audience).
As the list grows can you maintain integrity? Can you do it without alienating fans? What about confidentiality? How much of the replies will become spam or ads?
These are the questions I’d ask.
June 12, 2009 @ 5:06 pm
I appreciate everyone’s comments and questions!
Michael, I agree with you that journalists should take the time to acknowledge the responses. I think this has been a PR issue for years, even before the birth of HARO. There are many journalists that I know who will get back to a PR person with a yes or no, and many who are just too busy to respond. Doesn’t make it right, especially when there are other avenues to pursue with new influencers and direct to consumer social media communications.
Janet, you raise some very interesting questions. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think you can copywrite the idea of HARO. As a matter of fact, I’m seeing HARO type newsletters pop up, including Reporters Source. I can only hope that HARO as it grows maintains the integrity of the service. They have done a very good job so far! As for some of your other questions, I ask the community to respond and provide insight!
Dawn & Dee, glad you enjoyed the interview and thanks Dee for saying you like my blog!
June 13, 2009 @ 12:53 am
Great to see HARO reaching new heights. In the 9 months that I have followed, I have been quoted in at least 6 publications including a book. I have also had great success as an advertiser. Running another HARO ad in a few weeks.
Arthur Germain (@ArthurGermain)
January 8, 2010 @ 8:59 am
Great interview. I’ve been a HARO subscriber since its inception and have found it an invaluable resource — especially reaching and working with freelancers who actively seek new expert sources for their stories. Unlike its competitors, HARO has always seemed to be part of the industry — collegial with both sides of the aisle as it were. I hope this will continue as Thom helps take HARO to the next level.
January 8, 2010 @ 9:36 am
Thank you! I’m a HARO subscriber and find the service to be an invaluable resource too! I’m sure we’ll see great things in from HARO in the future. Glad you liked the interview with Thom.