Home > PR > Today, we say goodbye to HARO [PR Tech Sum 53]

Today, we say goodbye to HARO [PR Tech Sum 53]

Top stories in today’s summary of PR news: Cision shutters the HARO brand; Agility adds “Intelligent Insights”; PR tech company replaces employees with AI

On the first Tuesday of every month, I sort through all the news I can find on PR technology or comms tech and present it in a summary post like this one.

It’s a bit of an eclectic mix of announcements this month. However, I thought the HARO news was worth delving into again since the service is being shuttered today – according to an email that was sent to subscribers at the end of March.

And now onward with this month’s PR Tech Sum.

>>> Need an extra pair of hands? Sword and the Script Media can help with B2B marketing, PR and social media.

1. Cision moves to eliminate the HARO brand

Cision is pressing forward with the elimination of the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) brand. The changes are significant, according to an email the company sent to HARO subscribers. The message included the following:

  • You must create a new account at connectively.us in order to access HARO queries.
  • The daily HARO queries email newsletters will be replaced with a new, searchable query feed in Connectively.”

The email also noted it has premium features it would like to sell to potential users, which in my assessment, is probably the real reason for the change.

The change will take effect on April 2, 2024. Here’s the last HARO ever sent.

The founding

HARO was founded by Peter Shankman in 2008 as a Facebook group for journalists in need of sources. It grew eventually into a tech-based email list that was free for users with an advertising model. The key feature was that it served up queries from journalists who were looking for sources for articles they were actively writing. Importantly, the response mechanism kept their email anonymous, which helped to ward off future erroneous PR pitches.

It was a PR goldmine in its heyday.

Small text ads – written by Shankman – were included at the top of every email newsletter which went out to tens of thousands of subscribers three times every day. The newsletter had very high open rates and ads had high CTR’s because Shankman’s personality was infused in the content. In other words, the ads were often informative or entertaining – and that’s why it worked.


PR software company Vocus acquired HARO in 2010 for an undisclosed sum. At the time, I was the Director of PR for Vocus – we put the announcement out at the Vocus customer conference – and hosted Shankman as a keynote speaker. It was, and continues to be, one of the coolest announcements I’ve had the privilege to contribute to in my PR career.

Vocus eliminated the ad model and started to replace Shankman’s ads with white paper and webinar promos. The quality of queries changed too as the web evolved. It was increasingly filled with queries from corporate bloggers with commercial interests rather than journalists with stories to complete on a deadline.

Counterweight to journalist backlash

At that time, Vocus was under fire from journalists who saw the company as a source of PR spam. It was among the first cloud software companies, and almost certainly the first ever SaaS model for PR technology or comms tech.

Before my time, the company had added a footnote to every PR message sent through its system: “powered by Vocus.” This was inspired by the launch of the iPhone which added “sent from iPhone” at the bottom of emails sent from the device.

This move would have been brilliant in another context, but it was a disaster in this case. Reporters were getting more emails than ever – and traced many of them back to Vocus. When I arrived, all the angry reporter calls that used to go to our support line were re-routed to me.

Metaphorically invested

I took a lot of heat personally and professionally for defending the company. Journalists were quite vocal about criticizing the company for selling their emails. Om Malik, who was behind the very popular Business 2.0 sent out a sharp tweet that went viral so quickly – the CMO came to my desk to see if I was okay.

“He just crushed us,” the CMO said with a wry grin.

Peter Kafka cussed me out directly – I can’t remember if it was a call or an email – though he later softened his tone. To the best of my recollection (which probably reflects how the incident made me feel), in that softened tone, he said something to the effect that he thought my employer was dirty or something near to that meaning.

It was a very humbling experience – and a routine one during my tenure too. Indeed, I often worried I might be jeopardizing my future career prospects. However, I learned a lot about reporters and pitching in that capacity; the good ones respect an ethical PR person who’s willing to spar over ideas of their interest.

Rather than avoid a hard and thankless job, I embraced the role. I did my best to defend the company’s reputation. I would never defend spammers, but I will defend a tool, that if used properly, can improve performance:

If a carpenter bangs crooked nails who do you blame – the carpenter or the hammer?

The acquisition of HARO was strategically positioned to soften this criticism – we were now the curators of a tech tool that was designed around the needs of journalists too.

Today there are dozens of companies that provide similar services all around the world.

A mark on PR history

Vocus was eventually acquired by Cision, which has gone on to make a dizzying array of acquisitions. Too many in my opinion, and the company has struggled to find a way to bring it all together – including HARO.

At one point, I was contemplating a way to raise funding to make a bid to buy HARO from Cision – and reinvigorate it. To this day, I think the model is still there, with some tweaks. Reporters are still highly reliant on email to do their jobs. It would take a level of passion that Shankman brought.

One thing that’s clear: HARO and Shankman made an indelible impression on the PR professionals it served back in the day. It challenged PR pros everywhere to consider, what was at the time, a nascent opportunity for digital PR.

The service may be gone, but the idea of “helping reporters” as a means to earn coverage remains.

A piece I wrote on the pending shuttering of HARO in January provides a list of alternative services that might interest readers.

Note: since this post was written, the original HARO founder Peter Shankman has re-started the concept under a new name: Help Every Reporter Out (HERO).

The service may be gone, but the idea of “helping reporters” as a means to earn coverage remains.Click To Tweet

2. Agility adds “Intelligent Insights”

Agility PR Solutions announced a new AI feature called, “Intelligent Insights.” The feature “enables organizations to gather on-the-fly insights from global print, broadcast and social media platforms, contextually analyze specific brand mentions or trends, and perform language translations.”

In simple terms, the idea is that the AI helps to summarize posts and articles captured in the Agility monitoring system. This helps understand the key points of an article without having to spend time reading the entire document. The goal is to save time for those PR professionals in organizations that earned large volumes of coverage.

Agility is the only major PR software provider that has developed a native LLM of its own creation. Burrelles started white labeling Agility’s technology about this time last year (2023), so its customers stand to benefit as well. Most of the other vendors in the space white label technology from OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT and DALL-E.

3. PR tech company replaces employees with AI

According to a French news outlet that covers call centers, Onclusive is has begun replacing some staff from the former Kantar Reputation Intelligence in France with artificial intelligence:

“209 people will leave or have already left the company [at the end of 2023], which had up to 383 positions, made redundant to be replaced by AI-powered computers. Eight vacant positions will be left without replacement and 23 “new functions will be created”, according to the newspaper Libération.

In January of 2022, a private equity firm acquired Kantar Reputation Intelligence, PRgloo and Onclusive – and merged them under the Onclusive brand.

This latest move may make financial sense, but it’s the second serious crisis communications distraction for the company in Europe. Last month, PRWeek reported the company experienced a cyberattack that caused outages – which lasted as long as two weeks for at least one customer.

A spokesperson later contacted this blog to say the disruption of service was limited to European customers – that no U.S.-based customers were impacted.

4. PR tech briefs and mentions

  • Mobile app for Notified PR platform. Notified says it rolled out a mobile app for this platform that is available to customers on iOS and Android. Users can track and share media mentions on the go.
  • Measurement templates. Muck Rack said it will soon release “outcome-based templates to measure” the value of media relations. This includes some improvements to relationship tracking and pitch analytics to evaluate successful pitches.
  • Reddit data. Reddit announced Cision has purchased access to the Reddit Data API for social media monitoring. Customers of Cision and Cision-owned Brandwatch will both have access to the data.

5. Content picks

6. Want to share a PR software or comms tech announcement?

Here’s the updated list of PR technology companies I’m watching and here’s a clear description of the stuff I want to cover.

>>> Need an extra pair of hands? Sword and the Script Media can help with B2B marketing, PR and social media.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Less publicized but more interesting takeaways from 3 reports on marketing and PR

Image credit: Pexels


You may also like
Exclusive and breaking PR news: Burrelles to “exit the media monitoring business” after 130 years; the venerable newspaper clipping service shutters;
Will 2024 be a good year for internal comms? [PR Tech Sum 55]
What does the silence in PR software speak? [PR Tech Sum 54]
The pace of AI announcements in PR software slows [PR Tech Sum 52]
Read previous post:
7 takeaways from a study on B2B thought leadership; why it works or doesn’t

Thought leadership benefits B2B marketing in so many ways – awareness, consideration and even customer retention – but it can...