How to use HARO to get PR with Donna Jones

| 26-min read

The newest episode of the Marketing Mentor Podcast, #444 with Donna Jones, is jam packed!

It’s for you if you want to use content marketing and thought leadership to build your business and position yourself as an expert.

It’s also for you if you are looking for a niche and want to know more about what I mean when I talk about "listening to the market" and "letting your niche find you."

My guest is Donna Jones, a relatively new copywriter who wasn’t quite ready to put herself out there. Then she came across a unique ghostwriting opportunity that has turned out to be perfect for her.

In our conversation, she explains what she’s doing and for whom, what pain points she’s curing (they could be yours) and even how much she’s making doing it.

If you like Donna's approach, try these baby steps:

Whether you’re trying to get quoted yourself or you want to be a ghostwriter like Donna, here are the 2 baby steps she suggested:

  1. First, sign up for the HARO newsletter at https://www.helpareporter.com/. Then start perusing it.
  2. Listen for that "tingle" I sometimes talk about – when you suddenly see something you can offer or a way you can help. That is indeed what "Help a Reporter Out" is all about! 

Then:

  1. Use the tools in the Simplest Marketing Plan to do the content marketing that will support your positioning and reinforce your expertise as a thought leader.
  2. Or check out the GRO (Get Ready for Opportunity) Business Incubator.

That will keep y'all busy!

So listen here (or below) and learn.

 

If you like what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

Read the complete transcript here 

ilise benun

Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor. And this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good. 

This episode is jam-packed. It's for you, if you want to use content marketing and thought leadership to build your business and position yourself as an expert. But it's also for you if you're looking for a niche and want to know more about what I mean when I talk about listening to the market and especially letting your niche find you.

Today, I'm talking to Donna Jones, a new copywriter who wasn't quite ready to put herself out there, then she came across a unique ghostwriting opportunity that has turned out to be perfect for her. In our conversation, she explains what she's doing and for whom, what pain points she's curing—and they could be yours, and even how much she's making doing it. So listen and learn. Hello, Donna, welcome to the podcast.

Donna Jones

Hi, ilise.

ilise benun

So please introduce yourself. I like everyone to introduce themselves when we start.

Donna Jones

So, I am Donna Jones. I'm a freelance copywriter and a ghostwriter. I'm also a horse trainer, and I can neither confirm nor deny that I sometimes fight crime on the weekends.

ilise benun

So, you have a sense of humor, which you bring into your marketing, which is one of the things I love.

Donna Jones

I try. I definitely try.

ilise benun

We're talking, today, because you went through the GRO Program, which is a Business Incubator I run with the American Writers and Artists Institute. It stands for "Get Ready for Opportunity" and in it, you laid the foundation for your copywriting business and it's been a few months now, and you reached out to me or I reached out to you; I can't remember exactly how this came about. But, you started describing what you're doing—which sounded to me a lot like one of the principles that I am teaching about listening to the market. And so I thought it would be interesting to have you on the podcast to talk about what are you doing, and how can other people do it, too. And how do you think about it in terms of listening to the market? Like, what did you hear? So answer any of those questions in whatever order makes sense to you.

Donna Jones

Well, honestly, the GRO Program is the reason that I am doing what I'm doing right now, because it's difficult starting out as a writer, especially as a copywriter, because at least for me, there ... it felt like there was this pressure and it was all pressure that I put on myself. But pressure to, like: I've got to be a marketer and I've got to do this and I've got to do that. 

And that's really just not me. I tend to be somewhat disagreeable on literally everything. Don't necessarily like to go with the norm. And so, trying to put myself into what the norm of copywriting is was somewhat difficult for me. 

So, I ended up finding this small, little niche of writing that deals with HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. It's a newsletter where journalists can submit their queries and their ... so basically, you get a newsletter three times a day, Monday through Friday, and it's just filled with different needs of journalists. 

It goes the gamut from medical issues to lifestyle and fitness, to business issues, there's a little bit of news and politics and that kind of stuff, stuff about tech, and it literally just spans everything. Anything that anybody would be interested in reading about, there's generally a journalist asking for comments or quotes or information in order to help them write these stories.

So, what I do is, as a ghostwriter, I have basically like a list of clients that I write for and write as, basically. I pretend to be these people and give a quote. And, generally, I have an idea of who these people are and their businesses and that kind of stuff. And so, we send in a quote to the journalist and then that, in turn, gets the people's names and businesses and/or links to their website in print.

So that when people go and like, just for an example, like Todd Smith. We'll just make that name up. If you know Todd and you want to google Todd, whenever you google his name now, all of a sudden, he's got thousands of articles where he's been quoted. So, now Todd Smith looks like a genius, as far as business goes, because he's been quoted in all of these articles.

So, it's somewhat of a mutually-beneficial arrangement for everyone on both sides because, for me, it's great as a writer because it's a challenge every single day because I never know what the queries are going to be. I never know what I'm going to have to write about that day. So number one, it's not boring, for sure. And there are some days where I kind of want to pull my hair out because I'm like, I know nothing about any of these things that I'm supposed to be writing about, today. But, a little bit of research and I can make a somewhat intelligent statement, maybe, sometimes. And then other days, it'll take me 20 minutes and I've done 10 already, because I already know the subject matter and I can just bang them out really quickly.

So, it's great that way for, again, for me, because of the boredom piece and because it is a challenge, and it's also beneficial to the clients because they're getting recognition that they wouldn't be getting otherwise and they don't have to do anything for it.

ilise benun

So, just to frame it from a different point of view to help people understand, because it's a little complicated and I understand because I'm very familiar with HARO, Help a Reporter Out; I remember when it started, actually—which is, I don't know, maybe 20 years ago, 15 years ago? I don't know. And I used to receive it. I actually still do receive it; I just don't have time to look at it—and that's the problem.

Donna Jones

Right.

ilise benun

Right. That's the pain point you are curing, is that people like me, if I wanted to be quoted in Forbes or The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal—because these are legitimate journalists who put their queries in HARO—and if I wanted to be quoted, I would have to monitor, three times a day, this newsletter to see if there was anything I could answer. And so, basically, people hire you to do that on their behalf.

Donna Jones

Yes, exactly. That time piece is a big pain point because some of the newsletters … like the one that comes early in the morning, that one's generally a little bit shorter. So you might get like 60 queries in that one or so. So that one's a little bit more manageable. 

But the other two, you have to sift through up to 160 to 180 queries. And it just comes as a list. So, part of my job is literally to sit and read each one, down the list, and find ones that are suitable for the clients to be quoted in. 

After submitting them, you don't know if the journalist is going to pick up your query or not, and it's a little bit of a time game, as well. So, the faster you can get in your pitches, the better chances that you have that the journalist will pick yours because this journalist is going to get hundreds of pitches submitted for their query. After 25 to 50, they're probably going to get tired of reading them all. And so, if you can get yours in first, then you have a much better chance of getting actually picked up. So, for a business person, like a lot of my clients are CEOs, and for them, it's just not reasonable at all to think, “Yes, I have time, three times a day, to sit and look through all of these and form a coherent pitch to pitch back to this journalist so that I can get quoted.”

ilise benun

Yeah, it's interesting. I was just trying to remember because I know that I definitely got quoted and even interviewed as a result of some of the pitches that I sent. Again, very early on in my business when I wanted that, and that was very valuable to me and was helping to increase my own visibility. That's why I kind of liked what you said you were doing because I wouldn't do it myself, but I might hire someone like you to do it for me just to see what could it do at this point in my career, right?

Donna Jones

Well, it's actually really neat and it's really kind of fun for me because some of the clients that I have are very, very established people and very established businesses. But then on the flip side, there's a lot of people who are very new ... there's a lot of startup people and their businesses are just taking off. And it's honestly really exciting for me for those startup guys to, all of a sudden, they're getting picked up and their names are showing up more and more and more. 

And so, it's just neat to see that process where, on both ends of the spectrum, it's a beneficial thing for your exposure, and all of that, to have this service available to you—because it doesn't matter whether you're completely established and people know who you are and you are The Name in your industry.

Or, if you're a startup and nobody knows who you are. Both ends of that spectrum get benefits from this. 

And even if you’re starting … if you want to have your own niche website—even that, you can find benefits from HARO with that, because even then, you can still, even ... It doesn't matter what your niche is—pretty guaranteed that there's going to be a reporter with a query about it. So, if you've got the time, and as a website designer or owner, whatever, if you've got the time to sit and look through the HARO queries, there's a possibility that there's going to be queries about your niche, your specific niche, that you can send in pitches for.

And then that gets exposure for your website, as well. So it works on many different levels. It's a really neat system that I honestly didn't know existed until a year ago when I started this.

ilise benun

Yeah. And anyone can sign up to receive the newsletter, right? It's free.

Donna Jones

Anyone can sign up. It's totally free. You can sign up either as a journalist or as a contributor. Again, with the website thing, if you're a blogger or anything like that, and you want to interview …

ilise benun

Like a food blogger, let's say.

Donna Jones

Right. You can submit your own query on HARO and ask for ... even just last week, I saw queries about needing chefs for an article. So, it doesn't matter what you do. You can put a query out there and get experts in that industry responding to you. So that there, again, that boosts your ratings on Google and the algorithm loves you more and you're the princess of food blogging.

ilise benun

So, we're really talking about thought leadership here, right? Positioning oneself as an authority, as an expert, as a thought leader, whether you're brand new to the business that you're in or you're established.

Donna Jones

Yep. Absolutely.

ilise benun

And so, there are two really important questions that I know the listeners are wondering about, even if it's not quite conscious, yet. So, let's address exactly who are the clients and how would one find them, and how much can you make?

Donna Jones

So. I actually work ... I haven't found any of the clients myself. I actually work for people who do find the clients—which is what I prefer at this point because I am still so new. 

I work for two different people. And I know one … I know a little bit of how he gets his clients. But the other one, I think his clients are all his peers because he is one ... he's actually one of the clients. He owns this little side business. He has a group of ghostwriters that work for him, but he also owns his own business. And so he is one of the people that we write for. And then, I think everybody else that we write for on his list of clients are just his peers. It's more of a word-of-mouth kind of thing because it's all like that list of clients is all basically the same. They're all CEOs of their own startup companies or owners; there's a couple of owners and that kind of thing. 

The other one, I think, he has set up like a full business and advertises this as a service. So that's another way that you can do this; just kind of like make this your business model and this is what I do: I have a group of writers. We provide this service for you. If you sign up, this is what we do, basically. 

And then as far as money goes, you can kind of ... it depends on ... I have an assigned number of queries that I do for each of them. So, that's what I'm doing, but …

ilise benun

And you're paid per query, you're saying?

Donna Jones

And yes. I'm paid per query, with a little bit of a commission, if they get, if they actually get picked up. It gives me a little bit of a push in the butt, if you will, to do a better job.

ilise benun

An incentive. They call that “an incentive.”

Donna Jones

There you go. “Incentive” is the word that I was looking for. Yeah. Good ghostwriting right there. So, it gives me a little bit of an incentive to do a really great job and get as many quotes picked up as I possibly can because then I make more money. But there is a base, there's a base amount of money that I make. And it is totally part-time hours. It's just a couple of hours a day that I do this. And it's an extra two to three grand a month that I'm making from this. So, it is really, it's not as lucrative as some of the other copywriting stuff, but given that I'm also still basically working full time doing horse training and that kind of stuff, it's 100% perfect for me, at the moment, because I can make the time to do this and I enjoy it, and it really gives me enough of a buffer that my horses can enjoy the lifestyle that they've become accustomed to.

ilise benun

That's awesome. And so I'm going to just press you a little bit on the numbers and you don't have to answer, but are we talking about like $10 a pitch or $50 a pitch?

Donna Jones

No. No, no, no. Not anywhere like that. So it's definitely a numbers game. It's usually under $5 a pitch. But, if you ... I'm doing at least 20 to 30 pitches in a session. And again, I do one or two sessions a day, generally. It's not a ton, but the real money comes in whenever you get your pitches accepted. So, again, as you do this, you learn what reporters are looking for and the buzzwords that will definitely get your pitch picked up. And because I do have a good sense of humor, I can give them the punchy answers that they're kind of looking for and that will quote really well. So, I definitely leverage that and try to make my answers as animated and as funny as I can, while still remaining as professional as possible about it, even though sometimes it physically pains me to be serious and professional. But I do it. I do it, and it works.

ilise benun

This strikes me as something, Donna, that would be perfect for a former journalist, also, right, who knows all about HARO, I would think, and wants to be a ghostwriter and knows what gets quoted. So, that's just one thought I have.

Donna Jones

Again, for me, it is kind of perfect because when you're first starting out as a writer, it's really hard to put your name out there, which is what I found I was struggling with, like attaching my name to my writing. All of a sudden, I'm opening myself up for people to judge my writing and therefore judge me, and be critical of all of the things. But this way, I'm like, whatever, it's not me saying this. So there's that little bit of, it's just a psychological trick for me that really worked out well.

And now it's basically those restraints that I had on myself, mentally, are completely off and I'm like, “Well, I can say whatever I want to say because this isn't me.” And so I ... yeah, and I've kind of, it's almost ... It's definitely nonfiction that I'm writing, but I'm almost making ... I'm almost building these characters, if you will. 

Like with this client list, I kind of, there's been a couple of times where I've submitted pitches that I feel are really great and have actually gotten picked up later, but sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to a month or two to learn whether your pitches got picked up or not, just because of the process. But I've submitted pitches and I'm like, “Man, that was really good. I hope these guys don't let me down in real life. Like they better be this awesome in real life, because I'm going to be really disappointed if I find out otherwise.”

ilise benun

What you're saying is reminding me a little bit of a point that Terri Trespicio made in a recent podcast. We were talking about her book, Unfollow Your Passion. And she talked about “disappearing into the message” as a way of dealing with that self-consciousness or hyper-criticalness that I do think you're not alone in and a lot of people struggle with when they're just starting out. And even Terry was talking about wanting to disappear into the message. Does that resonate with you?

Donna Jones

Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, it's just, it's a way to get my writing out there, just without my name on it. And so it is absolutely disappearing into the message because the message is the only thing. Again, it's their names are attached to it, but it is my writing. Again, it's that slight little psychological trick that you can play on yourself. And it's a confidence boost because they're not going to be ... They are critical of my writing if I do something incorrect or wrong or something they don't like or anything like that, but that is that rarely ... well, it hasn't happened to me yet. Knock on wood. But I'm sure it will at some point. I'll say something that somebody doesn't like at some point. But other than that …

ilise benun
And everyone will get over it.

Donna Jones

Yeah. Pretty much. We'll fix it. We'll move on, and it's not that big of a deal. Whereas if someone is critical of writing that my name is attached to, it's so much easier, especially as a new writer, it's so much easier to take that as personal criticism instead of criticism of the work. So, it's better, at least for me and for my writing career getting started and that kind of stuff, it was a lot easier to separate those two, at first.

ilise benun

Before we wrap up, one of the new things I'm doing on the podcast is adding a baby step, which you might be familiar with, that anyone listening could take if they wanted to move in this direction. So, do you have in mind, or what would you say a first baby step would be in this direction?

Donna Jones

So, I actually have two baby steps that you can do with this. So the first one would be to just sign up for the newsletter. Just sign up for it. It's really easy. Just google HARO, H-A-R-O, and you'll find their website. I can't remember exactly what the website is, off the top of my head, but it is really easy to find. It's totally free. You can sign up. Just get the newsletter and look through it. And then once you do that, you'll look through it and you'll read the headlines of these queries and you'll say, “Well, I know something about that.” 

And then all you have to do is reply. With the query, each reporter has their own individual email address that you reply to for your pitch. It's all included in the newsletter. You just have to click it. It will come up in your email already. Just write them an email back and say, “This is my answer to your question,” and hit send. 

A lot of times journalists won't tell you that they've picked up your quote, but most of the time they will give you an email back and say, “Hey, we used this quote in our article. Here's the link to it, so you can see it.” 

Even if you don't get picked up, it doesn't matter, because you're still putting yourself out there. And that's the biggest step—is putting yourself out there. So, get the newsletter. Look through ‘em for a little while. Once you start finding the ones that you're like, “Hey, I know something about that,” then just reply. Just reply to them. And reply as, “I have this website; it deals with this,” or “I'm a writer and these are my thoughts on this.” You can set yourself up however you need to set yourself up for to answer the pitch. But just reply, and it's not a big deal. If you never hear from them again, it's not a big deal. It's no skin off your back, if you will.

ilise benun

Right. There's nothing at stake. You have nothing to lose.

Donna Jones

Exactly.

ilise benun

So, was that both of your baby steps?

Donna Jones

Yes. So, the first baby step was just to get the newsletter to see how easy it is. And then the second baby step is just to start replying.

ilise benun

Got it. And so, I just want to clarify one thing. If you're ghostwriting, you reply as “Donna” or “on behalf of someone else,” and how do you handle that practical thing if you're not that person?

Donna Jones

It goes both ways. Some clients, I actually have their email and I reply from their email. So I reply as them. Other clients, I have my own email that I reply from. And I say, “I'm sending this on behalf of this person.” And I give them their list of attribution details at the end and say, “If you quote this, this is who you credit at the end.” And then I sign my email as me and say, “If you need any more information, here's where you get the information,” which is from me.

ilise benun

As if you were the PR rep basically for …

Donna Jones

Exactly. Exactly.

ilise benun

Excellent. All right. My last question, then, for you, Donna, is if I wanted to hire you to do this for myself or maybe even for some of my clients, like thinking of your familiarity with these three messages, newsletters a day, are there things in there that I should be replying to?

Donna Jones

Yes, absolutely. There is a ton of marketing questions and marketing tools that you can use for your business. How do you set your business up to be more successful? What's your marketing strategy for 2022? What kind of marketing tools have you used? Do you use more social media? Do you use more email marketing? It basically, it runs the gamut. And honestly, every time ... because I do have to answer a lot of those, and every time I do, I'm like, “Thank God I was in the GRO Program because I know the answer to this. It's one of the ... “

I just chuckled to my myself every time and I'm like “productivity tools—I don't even have to look that up.” It's just, it's that moment, that little moment, of like, “I am awesome,” whenever I do that and it's all because of GRO. So, there you go.

ilise benun

Wow. That's a nice little testimonial. Thank you so much.

Donna Jones

Right?

ilise benun

So, thank you, Donna, for sharing this little “ultra niche,” as you called it. And, tell the people where they can find you online.

Donna Jones

It's easiest to find me on LinkedIn. So just search Donna Jones on LinkedIn and you will find me. I have a picture of a horse, so I'm sure there's like 10,000 Donna Jones out there, but the one with the horse is me.

ilise benun

All right. And we'll link to you in the companion blog post that comes along with this, with the baby steps and the transcript and everything. But, I'm sure there are many Donna Jones.

Donna Jones

I'm sure there's got to be. There's got to be.

ilise benun

All right, Donna. Thanks again. And can't wait to hear how this grows, actually.

Donna Jones

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, ilise.

ilise benun

You're welcome. Whether you're trying to get quoted yourself or you want to be a ghostwriter like Donna, here again are the two baby steps Donna suggested. 

First, sign up for the HARO newsletter at helpareporter.com, then start perusing it and listen for that tingle I sometimes talk about; when you suddenly see something you can offer or a way you can help. That is indeed what Help a Reporter Out is all about. 

Then use the tools in the Simplest Marketing Plan to do the content marketing that will support your positioning and reinforce your expertise as a thought leader. 

So, did you learn a little something? I hope so because that's how this works. One baby step at a time, and before you know it, you'll have better clients with bigger budgets. Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I keep hawking my Simplest Marketing Plan.

If you want to build a thriving business, on your own terms, you need the 4.0 version for 2022. It is packed with all new content, including six new case studies and six new lessons. You'll also get three different planners, plus access to the free monthly Office Hours group coaching session, where you'll meet other creative pros who are practicing what I preach, and taking control over their business and their life. You can find it all in the Marketing Mentor shop at marketing-mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast or famine syndrome. Until next time.

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