Bright Hub (BH): How did you get the idea for HARO?
Peter Shankman (PS): I was a journalist from way back and one of the founders of the newsroom at America Online. When I moved back to New York in the late '90s, I started consulting and doing some PR work. I had a PR firm at this time and I had a lot of reporters who would always call and ask me “I’m doing a story on whatever…who do you know, who do you know?"
Over time what I found happening was these reporters would call me and ask for help, which I was glad to offer. However, it became harder to find sources with more requests and less time. I figured it might be easier to go the Facebook route, which I did.
I built and launched a Facebook group in November of 2007. The goal was to get those reporters to send me their questions, and then I forwarded them to the group. We outgrew the Facebook group in about two months.
I moved the service to the Web in March of 2008, and HARO became what it is now. By June of last year, we had 125,000 members and HARO was acquired by a larger company called Vocus. Since then, we’ve grown to about 200,000 members (journalists, sources and media outlets). To be able to help as many people as we have, that’s really exciting.
Do you refer to the company as Help a Reporter Out or HARO?
I call it both, actually.