Case Study: Does Pitching HARO Opportunities ASAP Impact or Hurt Success?

What is HARO?

Help-a-Reporter-Out, otherwise known as HARO, is a platform that connects expert sources with journalists looking for quotes. Whether your goal is to secure publicity, drive traffic, or improve your domain authority, HARO boasts a wide array of media opportunities every week for you to explore. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s almost certainly a query for you.

It may sound too good to be true. But in anything of such lucrative PR value, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the masses. HARO started as a humble Facebook group in 2008 but has since evolved into a bustling mailing list with 55,000 journalists and over 800,000 sources. As one might expect, the space has grown highly competitive over the years. Journalists brace for at least two or three hundred responses to each published query, and in most circumstances, no more than ~7% of those make it to the finished article.

Question: Does the response time affect your success rate?

HARO can be equal parts unforgiving and unpredictable. Even if your expertise is perfect for the queries you approach, journalists may still skip over your quotes. Though it’s not immediately obvious, there are a number of factors at play beyond the content within your pitch, and not least of all is the time you hit ‘send’:

  • Do you pitch early to be first?
  • Should you just barely beat the buzzer and reach their inbox last?
  • Or, is it just that little bit easier to leave it up to fate?

If you’re sending 100+ pitches a month, these little decisions add up. And with so many pitches hitting a journalist’s inbox at once, this could single-handedly dictate your level of success.

We got tired of the uncertainty. To find an answer once and for all, we embarked upon a study that enlisted two of Jolly’s most trusted writers, henceforth named Writer A and Writer B.

The goal was to determine which of the two pitching options was superior in terms of landing placements, and to see if our findings could improve conversion rates on a grander scale.

To obtain the most actionable data, we selected writers with at least two years of HARO writing experience. Here’s a breakdown of each writer’s stats and experience.

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These writers were tasked with sending 50 pitches each: half to be sent as soon as possible, and half scheduled to send five minutes before the deadline.

With all that said, you’re here because you want to improve your pitching performance. So without further ado, let’s discuss how big of a role your timing really plays.

When should you pitch for HARO?

Things were slow at first, as per the ramp-up period that all HARO writers experience. But as the wins rolled in gradually, a pattern began to form.

Before long, we noticed that Writer A found much greater success pitching early compared with pitching late:

Out of their 25 early pitches, 3 resulted in a successful placement. This equates to a success rate of 12%, or a conversion rate of 1 in 8.33. However, their late pitches failed to land. Out of the 25 late pitches, none resulted in a successful placement.

While these results already seem to swing firmly in favor of early pitching, things went quite differently with Writer B. Writer B sent 19 early pitches, and just 1 found its mark — a 5.2% success rate.

Though this is discernibly lower than Writer A, they did see greater success pitching late. 2 of their 23 late pitches resulted in a placement, equating to an 8.7% success rate, or a conversion rate of 1 in 11.5. Pitching late actually improved Writer B’s lifetime average.

It’s worth noting that Writer B sent 8 fewer pitches than Writer A overall, which may have slightly influenced the outcome of our research. Regardless, the results are in – 2 late placements and 4 early placements locked in.

Here’s a visual breakdown.

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It appears that pitching early has a slight edge over pitching late.

Though there are a number of working theories, the main one is simple: your pitch hits the inbox when the journalist has made the least progress on their article. At this stage, you have their attention. They need to finish their piece, and you’ve just made it a whole lot easier for them to do so. After all, journalists operate on tight schedules.

If you pitch too late, they could meet their pitch quota long before you have a chance to contribute. It’s hard for journalists to use a good pitch when the article has been sent off to the editor, so strike while the iron’s hot and take advantage as soon as possible.

TAKEAWAY: If you’re able to respond within an hour, you’ll beat most of your competition to the punch.

In any case, we know what you’re thinking. The difference might not sound like much on paper, but landing just two extra placements could make a massive difference to your company’s financial health and team morale.

Consider the cost of scaling up:

(2 wins per client per month) x (20 pitches per win) = 40 pitches per client per month

Two extra placements per client per month require an additional 20 pitches from even the most experienced set of writers. When you’re paying by the pitch, the financial practicalities of pitching efficiently really start to add up.

Think about how much 20 pitches are costing you month by month — both in time and money. Imagine shaving them off without impacting performance in any way. Per these findings, it could take no additional effort other than pitching at an earlier time.

Recommendations for Future Research

For full transparency, these results are far from conclusive. There are a number of ways we could improve this study, and we have plans to do so in the future. To start with, expanding the volume by a factor of five would have produced much more data. This would have made it easier to tell whether there truly is a link between pitch timing and success.

With our data, we couldn’t tell whether specific publications have a preference for pitches sent early or late due to our sample size. That being said, HARO regulars such as ShareThis (DR87) and (DR83) were quick to publish our early pitches, and have a higher average DR compared to our later-pitched placements.

It could be theorized that their higher DR resulted in a greater volume of high-quality responses, and pitching early brought us to the front of a competitive line-up. By replicating this study, we plan to identify which publications – if any – have a strong preference for early or late pitching.

Finally, take note that results may vary depending on your niche. Both of our writers focused on general business, finance, and marketing-related queries, which leaves a fair few categories out of the equation entirely. This will have factored into our findings. If you pitch healthcare, fitness, or lifestyle-related queries, you may see different results depending on what those journalists are looking for.

To use healthcare-related queries as an example, early pitching will have little influence compared with direct medical knowledge. Instead, the substance of your pitch and the extent of your subject matter expertise will count for the most.

In contrast, early pitching could give you an edge regarding product round-ups, advice columns, and generic quote requests. In future research, experimenting with domains across a variety of niches could help us narrow down more concrete correlations.

Closing Thoughts

We’re hoping that this study helps you pitch as efficiently as possible. But where one business succeeds, another could fall short. Every business owner pitching HARO in-house could benefit from replicating this experiment — ideally with the aid of their most trusted writers. That way, they can more easily determine if pitch timing impacts their individual conversion rate and placement success.
From our research, we know that one thing is for certain: it takes more than writing skills alone to land high-quality placements. For those looking to make the most of their time while pitching, check out this helpful article on what qualities to look out for in a high quality HARO query. Whether you’re managing a team or conducting outreach yourself, making these small, incremental changes could be the push your business needs to reach the next stage of growth and visibility.

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