I caught up with Thom recently and he shared a what’s new and exciting at HARO:
Q. There are some new and exciting developments at HARO! Tell me what’s changed since you took your position in June 2009.
A. Wow. What a difference 7 months makes! As you probably saw, the new and improved HARO 1.0 at www.helpareporter.com was launched on January 19. This was the culmination of an aggressive development cycle that commenced in August of 2009. Six months later, we’ve been able to transform a simple crowd-sourcing tool for reporters, into a full service online sourcing, PR and marketing solution for reporters, sources and small businesses around the world.
Q. What kind of research does HARO conduct to keep on top of what journalists and PR professionals need from your service?
A. As most HARO users know, we keep our finger on the pulse of what reporters, sources and our sponsors need by regularly asking them for input and feedback directly on HAROs themselves. Additionally, we use our presence on Twitter and Facebook as well as Peter Shankman’s personal blog to solicit input and feedback, and to share new developments with HARO users. The recent relaunch of HARO was informed by weeks of formal surveys conducted back in July and early August of all three HARO user groups – Reporters, Sources and Sponsors. The majority of new features rolled out in HARO 1.0 came directly from the feedback our users shared with us in those surveys. HARO 1.0 is a perfect example of innovation from the community who made the service so important and valuable to begin with. As the champion and project leader over this development and launch effort, my hat is off to the HARO community for recommending such smart improvements. Your peers are thrilled with the output you requested. We simply listened.
Q. Has technology played a large role in helping you to advance and fine tune HARO’s service offering?
A. Technology has played a critical role in not only fine tuning HAROs service offering, but on streamlining internal operations. We literally moved HARO from a several-page WordPress web site with subscriber forms and a small ESP managing distribution of the HAROs to nearly 50,000 members managed in large part, manually by HARO staff, to a full-service, entirely-automated online platform that not only serves Reporters, Sources and our Sponsors but that has also streamlined our Editorial and Sales operations by reducing manual workflow and processes by nearly 75%. The operational improvements alone have helped HARO staff, already hyper-responsive from a customer service perspective, become even more helpful and available to our users. Because of these improvements, HARO is now serving more than 100,000 members with the ability to scale into the millions effortlessly. Add to the improvements already mentioned, HARO simultaneously launched a community-based customer support service using GetSatisfaction.com. Technology has enabled the next stage of user-requested innovation at HARO. I expect more of the same in the future.
Q. How much have your communities (journalist and PR) grown since the last time we interviewed?
A. Since we last interviewed, Deirdre, Reporters using HARO have doubled from just under 15,000 to now slightly over 30,000. Sources have grown from just under 40,000 to north of 100,000 – just over 150%. Since the launch itself just 15 days ago, we have accepted nearly 16,000 new subscribers into the HARO family, have processed dozens of automated advertising purchases from Sponsors, and have launched five new industry / vertical HAROs. The overwhelming majority of user feedback, minus the normal ‘hey this is a bug, can you fix it’ comments that go with a launch this comprehensive, has been profoundly supportive of what we’ve done here. It’s been remarkable.
Q. What will HARO look like in the next six months to a year? What will be your focus?
A. Ah, the million dollar (or perhaps multimillion dollar 😉 question). We will continue improving existing features just rolled out in HARO 1.0. Yes, there will be a HARO 2.0. We will continue rolling out additional industry / vertical HAROs, and we will be looking at very smart, strategic partnerships that help Reporters, Sources and Small Business Owners connect in more meaningful, productive and profitable ways. We have set aggressive goals for 2010. By the end of the year, we intend to serve more than 75,000 Reporters and 150,000 Sources. We also intend to continue growing profitably. We’ve found that partners, the media and our users, not to mention this management team and our fearless leader, Peter Shankman, all feel that a profitable social media services company is not only a better enterprise to affiliate with or run, but is a bit unique among our peer set.