Meet Keith Willard from Keith Willard Events

Keith Willard from Keith Willard Events

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Keith has been using HARO for ~90 days. He went from never having heard of HARO to landing himself and his business in articles in The New York Times,,, U.S. News & World Report, and much more — all from just ~40 pitches in ~90 days.

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Keith, you and I connected because, quite frankly, our company, Jolly, reached out to you because we noticed that you’re your own powerhouse in HARO.

Oh, wow.

And you know, it’s part of our lead generation as a business where you keep tabs on people who use it and everything. Oh, maybe they would want to outsource to us. This isn’t a sales pitch as you rightly said. No one’s here to hear that. But what excited me was you, as a user, picked up on how to hit HARO. Maybe it’s because you’re in touch with the right PR people as guests, or probably not.

No, you know, that’s interesting.

You hit New York Times,, which has to be huge for you. You know, Travel Weekly, planning for the big day. A lot of these seem to be —

Parade Magazine.

Yeah, thank you. Parade.

Pretty crazy.

I mean was this a post-coronavirus, kind of you had extra time? Like they seem 2020-2021, or have you been doing HARO a while?

No, actually, I have only been doing HARO about 90 days.


100 days? Maybe 100 days. Maybe 4 months. Let me think back. November, December, January, so yeah, it’s around 90 to 120 days is about how long I have been using HARO.

And it was because of this show that we had with Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting. So, she was on talking about — and of course, COVID.

So many businesses have very little money when it comes to marketing. So we were doing a show about what you can do in order to get as much free marketing and PR as possible, knowing that everybody’s struggling.

So, Meghan came on and she talked about HARO. Help A Reporter Out. Yeah, she is amazing. I picked up on it. Of course I listened to that segment multiple times because she dropped a bunch of information. Free stuff. So, I signed up for HARO knowing nothing.

Like walked into it like, oh okay, this is how you set it up. I mean, I don’t even know if I set up my alerts correctly because I think I put it as wedding.

So I don’t even know if I set it up correctly, but I get them, once in a while. But then I just start going — Haro sends out 6 different emails a day, right? Three of them specifically, morning, noon, and night. Morning, noon, and evening, but there seems to be two pieces, like one that’s separated out by —

It depends on your subscription settings, actually. You can choose the category, and for you, a lot wouldn’t be relevant, tech —

Well, you know, you’d think that.

You’re a pro user. I shouldn’t be talking like that to you.

No, no, no. You know what I find interesting is that if you take the time to read through all those subjects, lifestyle, tech, all of those things will come up with how — and because I’m a small business owner, it doesn’t just have to be wedding, it could be all about small business.

It could be. It depends on how comfortable you are. You could tie in your personal life.


You can do a lot of things with it.

Yeah, and so what I started doing is, I started thinking — so my husband is a English teacher, not an English teacher, actually, he —

Oh, you had the best man —

Right, right exactly. Well, no, but one of the lessons that he teaches his kids is he would say, okay, write two paragraphs about this particular subject, and then he would say, rewrite it into a single paragraph, getting your same thoughts across. Now take that paragraph and bring it down to four sentences, still getting across all that you wanted to say. Now, bring that down to two sentences, being able to say everything that you wanted to say. And that is actually what I use when I respond to HARO inquiries.

That’s wonderful. We put out a lot of tips too, and it sounds like you have a lot of great ones, but being concise. These journalists want to copy paste. They’re free agents. They don’t have time for all the “let me know if you need more thoughts.” They don’t have time for a wall of text. They want you to send this, and they want to take it and put it in their article.

And that’s exactly — and so that’s what I would do. I would reply very quickly with — I think being quick on your response is a big piece because you do want to be on top of the pile because they are going to get a million emails, so you definitely want to be at the top of the pile. But then I separate my emails into sections.

So, I take their question, I copy and paste it into the email so that way I have their original question, so that way I can make sure that I’m answering that original question, and then I break it down into supportive pieces.

When U.S. News and World Report was about finding the right engagement ring, and so, I basically broke it down into three different parts. The kind of metal, the kind of diamond, and the personality behind, right?

Knowing they may choose one of those three and that’s all you need.


That’s fantastic. Was that insight you brought to the platform, or it just happened, or did you hear that from —

No, that was just me thinking like what would a reporter need.

That’s wonderful. That’s what they want.

Yeah, because you have to do it, and I’m used to this because as an event planner, I have to —

Yes, provide options and —

Right? I had to provide options, but I had to educate my clients a lot in layman’s terms, I got to bring it down into layman’s terms so that way they understand it because not everybody understands all the technical words and phrases that are used in the hotel industry, and so, it’s about, I don’t want to say dumbing it down, but it is about translating so that way everybody understands it.

And so, for everyone listening, Keith obviously with the amazing background, runs an event planning business, in weddings specifically. Keith, what your saying is translatable for every industry, as you said early on.

Any business can actually hit multiple segments of the PR opportunities available on any given day. Any business can take the jargon out of what they’re trying to communicate and make it more understandable for lay people.

Let’s be honest. Most of the content these publications are putting out is to explain stuff. We all know the average reading level in our country is around 7th or 6th grade, in a way that the common person can consume. This is the business they are in, content for consumption.

Right. But I’m curious. Your advice is amazing. I’m wondering if it was geared, were you only targeting the top publications, or were you hitting anything that seemed appropriate, or were you, you know, some people are looking at SEO metrics. Some people are looking at opening a website and looking at the content, does it align with my business. Like, where was your target?

That’s funny. I had no direction when it came to that. I basically was answering as many things that I felt were relevant to me as possible, and I never thought of it as a waste of time because I feel like practice makes perfect.


And so, you know, like I think I did something about moving in with your boyfriend before marriage or something like that.

You should.

Right, but it was just this random ask. But it got published and it’s part of if you Google search my name it comes up. Why not?


And I think that if you get too picky and you try to get too high-brow, it may come across as high-brow and not as authentic. I think reporters are looking for authentic people to reply and to provide information.

Let me throw a curve ball maybe.

Go ahead.

You’ve only been there four months, but your success is amazing, so you put out some volume obviously.

I have a few questions about that, but one is, have you yet run into anybody pulling what we call a bait and switch, or asking you for money where they say, “Hey it’s going to go live on this publication” and you’re like, can’t wait for it, and then it pops up on a completely different website, or you get a reply from them that says, I would love to put your quote in but first I just need maybe some money.


Or maybe a product or maybe —

Nobody has.

Wonderful. That’s wonderful.

No, like nobody. Like that is actually surprising. Now the bait and switch is kind of interesting because, you know, a lot of these Associated Press, they may do the story for New York Times but that story is going to go everywhere.

Yes, it gets syndicated.

Yeah, it goes everywhere. So that was a little surprising, actually.

Yes. It’s amplified.

Oh my god, yeah. All of the sudden it’s like wow that’s amazing, you know, so I love that part of it.

This is why I love that you had a PR agency guest on your show recommending HARO and giving concrete tips. We share as much as we can too because this platform really enables people like you, the small business owner, to not need a $10,000 a month PR agency, so I think that was incredible of your guest.

Well, and that’s the thing, and that is why I really love Meghan, because honestly Meghan is really good about providing as much information as possible. Obviously, she is a business owner.

She has OFD Consulting which is an amazing wedding consultation firm that specifically focuses on the wedding industry. Her ability to get her clients in front of the right people is amazing. But a small business like me that is just coming out of COVID can’t afford that particular price tag.


Luckily she has multiple levels. I’m at a $100 or $150 level a month which kind of gives me some general access to some of the stuff that she has. But even so, I haven’t actually gotten to read anything on her site, because I was too busy writing, and I am too busy trying to recover my own business. But yeah, it’s awesome.

I mean HARO is an awesome, awesome site that I was completely blown away with, could not believe it was something that was out there, and I have been in business for 5 years, I didn’t know about it until 120 days ago.


Really, I mean, and actually, you know what, I take that back. She actually said something at the beginning of summer, and I remember one of the episodes, the early episodes, she actually said something, and I didn’t follow the advice immediately. Summer came and went. Obviously we were trying to stop the bleeding.

You still had hopes to turn it all around, I’m sure.

Yeah, so once it got to October, I was like I got to do more. I got to figure out how to get my name out there without writing a check. And so that’s when I relistened to the show and was like yeah, HARO is crazy. It’s like amazing. I can’t even believe it’s out there. And the fact that more people don’t know about it.

You’re married to an English teacher though.


So you have a fight advantage in that you’ve, by osmosis, picked up — and I don’t know you background. Some small business owners will protest and say, well sure, you can do the time thing, you can say I don’t have time, right? You can say I got other things.

Have you thought about how many pitches you actually sent to secure these wins? Do you have any idea? Like, four months but you weren’t doing this full time or even close. Like, do you know what kind of investment you’ve made into this?

I mean I probably made 40 pitches.

Wow, and you’ve got almost —

Yeah, and actually I only sent you a partial list.


Yeah, I think I did 40, and I was actually really surprised at the turnaround, to be honest. I was really, really surprised at how many people actually did start picking me up.

I mean, when the New York Times happened the first time, when I told Meghan that the New York Times was using part of what I wrote, I mean, it was a Cinderella moment.

You deserve it. You need to be parading that all around.

Well, that’s why she was like, that’s amazing, that takes people years to figure out how to do that, and then when it happened again, then I started realizing, well shit, I know I what I’m doing. I know what I’m supposed to be writing and the formula is simple.

Keep it concise, be straightforward, be authentic. And come up with something that other people aren’t going to talk about. Like if people say “Oh, how do you set a romantic mood?” and you say light a bunch of candles, there is going to be a million people —

Get a dozen roses.

Light a bunch of candles. You gotta figure out what makes you unique.

With our tool that we’re creating, one of the common requests internally and from people interested is, you know, let us make templates. And for me, as someone who has sent a few thousand of these pitches and has run a team that sends thousands a month,


There shouldn’t be a template.

No, I don’t believe it.

Okay, I’ll admit, we did template the signatures because —


You know, as in personal and business communications you don’t need to retype your own last name every time.

One hundred percent.

But anything else in there you didn’t template?

Nope. Every single response I did from scratch. I would put it into a Word document, start typing. I am using Grammarly. Grammarly has helped a lot. I love Grammarly.

As long as you’re careful not to let it cut up your expertise.


But this is what I try to coach people on is, look, if you’re looking at the template as a timesaver, save your time somewhere else. Don’t proofread it as heavily or use a tool that can proofread for you. The time that Keith, you put in, Even if you did something outlandish, like an hour a pitch.


You’re in the New York Times multiple times, you’re in Parade, you’re in Brides. I mean the value there for your brand.

Oh, it’s crazy. And you know, I typically spent about 30 to 45 minutes per pitch.

There you go. So you did come close to

Yeah, but considering how much I got out of it, that’s nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket as far as cost of my time. And stuff is still coming out.

Oh yeah.

The beauty of this is you never know, like something just came out this last week that I wrote almost at the very beginning of working with HARO.

We say the turnaround time is between 24 hours and 5 months. I sent a Business Insider pitch in February 2020 and it came out in May or June, and I thought that’s par for the course.

You’re like, alright, yeah. I mean I find it fascinating, but again, and it was one of those things I had such great success that I was actually worried that this was normal.

Yeah, no.

And I was like, God. And yeah, I’ve been told multiple times, nope, it’s not normal.

To anybody listening, we are not trying to say that you’re going to enjoy exactly Keith’s success. I do think though, Keith, if instead of sighing and thinking it’s not for me, and going the templated route and going to —

If they could absorb some of what you’re saying right know, this is what makes a successful HARO outreach.

If they could absorb some of what you’re saying right know, this is what makes a successful HARO outreach.

And the thing is that I feel like reporters are looking for authentic voices, and they want a point of view, they want you to be honest, they want you to be straightforward.

They don’t want a canned response. Don’t try to write something that you think that oh, this would be good, somebody is gonna really want this.

Write it with a point of view and write like you care about the subject. Again, when I did the U.S. News and World Report about the engagement ring, I wrote it up based on what I really felt people should know.

What do they really need to take into consideration? And one of those things is guys sometimes don’t even ask the girl or even pay attention to what she likes. They don’t know if she likes vintage or brand new or gold or platinum or wants a big ring or small ring. You got to pay attention to that stuff.

You can’t just go into the store, because guys’ brains do not work the same. And so I felt like that information needed to be put across.

Well this is the beauty of HARO. If you’re willing to get into the nuance of your day-to-day, all these things that make you the pro capable of having your own business in this space, you talked about it early on. You can use HARO in so many different ways. It doesn’t have to be only about how to have a wedding. There’s a lot of intricacies to it, and for every business.

You know what I really find fascinating though, and this happens a lot, I will be reading through all of the requests from reporters and I’ll see stuff and I’m like, Oh my god, I would really like to read that article. Because I mean, I’m like that’s a really good question and I’m like, oh I would love to see what people respond with that. It may have nothing to do with my industry at all, but it’s just such a cool concept or it’s just one of those things that I would be interested in.

You don’t even want to pitch it.


You’re just saying I wish I could flag it so I could see it later.

Yeah, so I could read it. So when it actually comes into being, I’d love to read that article because I feel like the question is so interesting that I would think that would be something I would read.

So I’m curious Keith, where do you go from here with HARO? You know, we’re hoping, all of us, 2021 begins to look different.

And it is.

You especially with the live events, so are you going to keep putting all of this time and energy into HARO, or do you think maybe there is a law of diminishing returns, or do you think maybe somewhere in between and you’re going to try, but business needs need to be attended to?

Yeah, so I’m gonna continue, obviously. I feel like it’s super important to continue that marketing. If you allow — again, it’s great that I have the New York Times in my back pocket, but it’s gonna be old at some point.

You’d like the LA Times at some point or maybe a Sentinel or whatever.

But do you know what I mean? But if you say, oh I was in the New York Times two years ago, wah wah, nobody cares.

You don’t want to be has-been’ed.

No, you don’t want to be has-been’ed, so you got to stay present. It’s also informative to me as a business owner when I see these questions it kinda lets me know what people are interested in because it also tells me what the community is turning to.

Or it could tell you the market research on HARO.

Right, exactly, but it tells me what brides are interested in. It gives me an idea of where the trend is going. So if I see a lot of questions about boho chic, then I know that’s something that brides are really starting to want and to investigate and read.

Now you’re getting into something, and again, I said I come from the SEO and content world, so forgive me if this doesn’t make sense, but you can also use HARO for a content creation.

Oh, 100%.

It’s got a lot of purposes besides just pitching. You can use it to crowdsource that information. If you wanted, you could say I need to talk to 100 brides to be because I want to know about this, or it’s got so many different uses.

Oh, 100%. I haven’t even used it yet for Behind the Veil but I’m going to.

I mean, because that’s going to be a massive resource. I mean, so far we’ve had no shortage of guests, which is crazy, because I really thought after a year, I would be like oh god, we’ve got to have talked about it all because we’ve done it every single Tuesday.

A new show every single Tuesday for a year. That’s a lot of shows. It’s 52 shows.

Well, people are still getting married, Keith.

I know, but the advice, the information, the insight, all of those things. I mean, it’s just crazy that we are not repeating stuff. It’s all-new. Yeah, I love HARO because again, if you read through it, sorry about the noise in the background if you read through it, then you get an idea of what is interesting to the world at large.

It’s a dynamically changing space. A lot of people are concerned about that, but we think it’s fascinating.

Why would they be concerned?

Oh, you know how some people are anti-change. They just are worried that if it changes it won’t be as good as it was. We don’t see if that way.

It’d be better.

If you are doing it with your strategy, helping provide value to people, I don’t see why the demand won’t increase. I don’t see why everything won’t get better on both sides of the plate.

I’m actually surprised. At first, I was really surprised at the number of leads that would come through because it was like 90 or 120 or 80, each email. And as I’ve gone through it and gotten kinda used to it, then I start realizing well, I mean if you talk about the hundreds of thousands of publications, not just print, but online everywhere, that feels like a very small piece of the pie.


As far as what people are looking out for.

And then I just feel like what I would like moving forward if it was a possibility, is a way of, just like you were talking about crowdsourcing for information, it would be interesting if I would be able to put in my own likes, my own interests into it, so that way I can say I’m interested in business, I’m interested in lifestyle, I’m interested in Buddhism, I’m interested in yachts.

And so not only does it send me the stuff for the event and wedding industry, but then also I get to have an insight into what people are asking about the other subjects that I’m interested in.


I know that’s totally random, but when you talk about crowdsourcing portion of it, I mean being able to put in your interests and being able to see what people are asking in those things, I find fascinating.

Well, you rightly advised don’t turn a podcast to promo, but here I go. We’re going to have this feature in our tool where you can enter these keywords and be notified of them, for what it’s worth, and you could filter it by those.

Isn’t that already there?

In HARO it is, so I’m curious, you can CTRL+F, but you’re saying you would like that tweaked a little bit, right?

Yeah, well, because like right now I think I pay $12.95 a month or something. It’s minimal compared to how much I’ve gotten out of it, and I think it allows me to put in a key.

I think I put in keyword wedding in my search so it only does wedding. But I like the fact that it does send me an alert. I love the fact that I get an alert saying, hey, be on the lookout for the next round of emails because there is something in there for you specifically.

But if I just waited for that, I wouldn’t have gotten in as many publications as I did.

That’s always our gripe against the premium. We really hope one day Cision will upgrade the user experience on some of the paid tiers because there’s a lot of room. And again, I think the change is going to be for the better when they figure which way they want to take it, because there’s a lot of users like you.

It’s gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be so good. And as I learn about it, of course, I start bragging on it and start talking about it, I’m like oh my god, you gotta check out this resource, holy crap.

You would not believe how many questions are out there and how many reporters are needing information. And honestly, people just need to bite the bullet and suck it up and sit down and write something.

I think we’ve gotten so away from being able to actually write anything outside of 56 characters off of our phone. I mean, part of our communication is being able to talk to each other and being able to write to each other, and I think it makes you a better business person overall because it makes you stop and write something out and have a complete thought.

Now that I’ve thought about my stance on multiple subjects, I am better able to relate that to my clients and to future clients, because I’ve though about it and I have a very specific and quick answer when they ask me those kinds of questions.

Keith, that’s about as fantastic a conclusion we can get about the ROI of HARO. Just as a fun last question, what’s on your radar for pitching HARO this week or next? Do you have any that you’re focused on, or you’re just gonna wait and see what each day brings?

I like to see what each day brings. I mean, there’s a couple out there, like there’s Wedding Wire and there’s, and then there’s a knot piece out there about, one was really interesting.

It had like 9 different themes and it asked for 2 or 3 sentences underneath each theme to best describe that theme. I love that idea because you’re going to get a lot of different viewpoints from a lot of different people and quick concise answers. And so like, romantic, I said use gauzy fabric, blah, blah, blah.

It doesn’t come across Disney, but it does give you that very romantic vibe and underneath that, underneath that, underneath that, underneath that. But, you know, obviously, I’m gonna continue to use HARO. It will increase as the wedding industry down here slows down, because like right now, I’m as busy this March as I was when business ended, so it feels very full circle right now.

That’s wonderful.

Because all our business ended at March 13th down here in South Florida, and so my last major event was March 13th and my first major wedding is March 13th.

I’m so happy for you.

I know, it’s incredible, and honestly, the more and more people as they start researching me and they type in my name and stuff comes up, it just really adds a level of authentication about what I do, and so yeah, so once we get to May-June, I’m gonna be right back at it.

Yes, yeah, yeah. You know, don’t let it idle too long.

Oh, no, no, no. You know, I have a goal of answering three questions a week right now. No matter how busy I am, answer three just so that you keep in practice and you never know.

One will stick for you, I know, at least every other week with your conversion ratio.

Yeah, but stick to it. You know, make it part of your day, and it keeps your brain moving.

Well I’m really appreciative. Just to be sure we caught it on the recording here, can you tell people your YouTube channel again, because it’s fascinating you’re not making a pitch, you’re offering genuine advise a lot of humans listening to this could use.

Oh, yeah, thank you. So the show’s Behind the Veil. It’s on my YouTube channel which is

So, I guess the C is for channel. I don’t know, I’m not in that world.

Yeah, and then you’ll see all of the Behind the Veil episodes, all 40, 50 of them at this point.

Or go to our I Heart Radio or iTunes and just do a search for Behind the Veil with Keith Willard and that will pull it up on iTunes and I Heart and Pandora, because there’s a couple of other Behind the Veils out there, so make sure you put Behind the Veil with Keith Willard because then it will pull it up.

Yeah, and it sounds like there is even advice on HARO there.


I really appreciate you, Keith. Is there anything, a parting thought you’d like to offer, cause I have really enjoyed hearing your success story.

You know, I just don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t take advantage of this. I don’t understand why anybody would say, oh no, free PR, access to reporters all over the world, no, not me. You know, don’t be afraid of it. Jump in. Nobody is gonna smack you because you didn’t answer correctly. It doesn’t go against you if you write a bad answer. Practice makes perfect.

They’re not gonna, you know what I mean? There’s no downside to being involved with HARO or responding to HARO inquiries. There’s nothing. There’s no downside at all, so why not?

I love it. Thank you Keith. Come check us out in our Facebook group, Earned Backlinks.

We just talk about earning them like Keith does here. Link Sorcery is our tool coming out, but Keith, I’m gonna be looking out for more wins by you.

I love seeing this, it’s just amazing. If you’re comfortable with it, I’d love to share a few of the links when I post this.

Oh please, are you kidding? I’m gonna say no to free PR? Please.

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