HARO: Tapping Into Sources This simple service is connecting journalists with sources.

By Scott Gerber

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What: HARO - Help A Reporter Out
Who: Peter Shankman, 36
Where: www.HelpAReporter.com
When: 2008
Projected 2009 Revenue: $1 million

The Pitch: HARO is a revolutionary social media platform that connects journalists from around the world with sources for their news stories. Each day founder Peter Shankman sends three ad-supported emails, each with 30 to 50 queries from journalists seeking experts, to an opt-in email list comprised of small businesses and PR professionals. If a HARO member feels they are a fit for a journalist's story, they simply reach out to the journalist directly. The service is free, easy and provides results. Since the founding of HelpAReporter.com, members from the HARO community have been featured in hundreds of national and international media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the TODAY show, to name a few.

The Startup Story: In November 2007, Peter Shankman, founder of The Geek Factory, a boutique PR and marketing strategy firm, started a Facebook group in hopes of helping his journalist friends connect with sources. Within three weeks, word of mouth about the group had spread. What began as 150 friends quickly became a 1,200-person community. In order to keep up with the explosive growth, Shankman launched HelpAReporter.com. In just over a year and a half, HARO has become a global social media powerhouse, with 75,000 active members and growing.

Impressive Stat: While most businesses are lucky to attain a 5 percent open rate on a monthly email blast, HARO averages an impressive 80 percent open rate, three times a day.

Founder Fun Fact: Peter Shankman isn't a traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination. Why should the capital raised for his first venture be any different? Simultaneous to the film release of Titanic, Shankman had the idea of selling T-shirts that poked fun at the blockbuster in Times Square. The shirts' slogan read, "It Sank. Get Over It." His out-of-the-box plan paid off big. Shankman was able to sell $100 thousand in shirts in a little less than two months -- then funded his first venture. No wonder he wrote the book, Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work and Why Your Company Needs Them.

Founder's Advice: "Find something that works and do it again. If something doesn't work, make it better, then try it again."

Are you a young entrepreneur with a unique venture? Email us about it at youngentrepreneurcolumn@gmail.com

Scott Gerber is the founder of Sizzle It!, a New York-based sizzle reel production company specializing in promotional videos for PR and marketing professionals, and the Young Entrepreneur Council. He is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, columnist, public speaker and author of Never Get a "Real" Job: How To Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (Wiley, 2010).

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