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7 outreach fails all content marketers should avoid

The line between content marketing and PR is closing fast, making competition for online coverage even harder to come by as it’s not only PR pushing their clients, its digital marketers now too.

The media are overstretched as it is, with many print publications closing to make way for online versions, meaning job cuts and a spike in freelance journalists. With this in mind, it means every opportunity to pitch your story has to count!


Not sharing notes

If you work on a team or even with just one other, then don’t underestimate the power of sharing pitching notes. All press lists should have a space of notes, which is where you can pass on important details about their current workload, opinions on stories and even favorite food, which could be beneficial to other people in your team. Google docs are a great way to do this, especially as they are updated in real time.


Image source: memegenerator.net 

Using the term ‘guest posts’

If you are speaking to a journalist then ditch the term guest post, as this automatically gives your content a superior authority. Articles, stories and bylines are terms which resonate with journalists, so in order to appeal to them you need to be speaking the same language. When I used to use the term guest post, I found that 80% of the time it would result in the journalist not being as interested in the article and feeling that it would be lower quality compared to a byline.


Not doing your homework

I am often asked about how to reach out to the media, but my stance still remains strong. It is much easier to sell in your story in to the press if you can pitch it over the phone. However, lots of journalists prefer email contact or don’t list phone details. It really comes down to what is going to get you coverage, based on individual research on each journalist. Getting caught out on the phone or even by email by pitching a story that isn’t relevant or when something similar has already been covered is not only embarrassing but will kill any potential future relationship!


Becoming a sales person

A common mistake is to only contact the media when you want your client or business covered, but have you ever thought about flagging an interesting story that isn’t your client? Strong journalists relationships aren’t just about having something newsworthy to push. Many of my best contacts have developed through sending cake memes and a shared love of Mad Men.


Image source: memegenerator.net

Scrimping on a decent media database

Keeping up to date with a publication’s team so that you know who is leaving to be a freelancer, who is the new editor and who is covering maternity leave should be part of your daily routine. The worst outreach is carried out with untargeted and out of date press lists. If your data is outdated, which can happen overnight your time and effort will be wasted. Whilst I don’t recommend solely relying on media databases they do have their major advantages. Personally, I use a combination or Gorkana and Response Source to get the most up to date information.


Writing, long, boring email titles

When you are sending your pitch or press release to a journalist it can be easy to forget to make it interesting. When your email is one of hundreds being sent every day you need to make yours stand out. Sometimes, I use a news style heading or if I have already spoken to the journalist on the phone and they are familiar with the story I might just put a short phrase to make it stand out.


A bad follow up

When you have sent out emails and spoken to lots of press in the hope that you suddenly get a blast of coverage, it often doesn’t work so you will need to follow up. Calling just to see if someone has received your press release is a bad approach, instead follow up with additional images or an interview opportunity so that you are offering more content not just pestering someone. You can also use email tracking software like Yesware that will tell you when your emails have been opened, making your outreach much more targeted.


Image source: runt-of-the-web.com

I hope these outreach fails will help you to curb some bad habits when it comes to speaking to the media and of course help you get more coverage in the long run. Selling in stories and pitching content can be daunting so the more practice you get the better you will become, just remember to learn from mistakes and feedback, however negative it might be. The best PR’s I know all have a few tales to tell about their media relations way back when.

If you have any other top outreach tips, please leave them in the comments below.



Rebecca Lee is a digital communications specialist at Dynamo PR in London. Dynamo are a consumer technology agency with fully integrated digital services, specialising in app, wearable technology and e-commerce PR SEO.
  • Niraj Ranjan Rout

    Excellent article, Rebecca. Found some good checkpoints to take note of. I think that short subject line is a real attention grabber. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at grexit.com)