Perhaps the biggest disadvantage PRs face when conducting outreach is that they have rarely been on the other side of their emails.

Many are not aware of the eye-roll-inducing falseness of their chirpy emails, or how infuriating it is reading your tenth email of the day addressed to “there” or “madam/sir”.
Fortunately, we here at Glaze Digital have enough experience on both sides of the conversation to know how to make sure our outreach is pitch perfect. Check out the ten most common PR mistakes which drive journalists and bloggers up the wall, and how to avoid them:

1. Not addressing it to them personally (or getting their name wrong!)

If you reaching out to a contact for the first time, do the bare minimum and get their name right. This includes actually including their first name, rather than just a generic placeholder. Not only does it reveal PR laziness, but it proves that you have sent this exact same email to a hundred other people, rather than handpicking your contact and their work.
You can be forgiven, of course, if you are emailing a general info@ or hello@ email address, or if the contact’s name does not match the one in the email address, but other than that, if you make this mistake prepare to be banished to the Trash folder.

2. Offering irrelevant content

If you go to the effort of emailing a journalist, make sure that what you are emailing them about matters to them as best you can. This includes taking the time to work out their location, audience’s age group and the general tone of their website.
For example, when inviting film websites to your press screening of a grisly horror movie, make sure they write about horror, and more importantly, check that their editorial is aimed at adults, not younger viewers.
It will always save you time, in the long run, to properly research the websites you are pitching to, and keep you from irritating journalists, too.

3. Pretending to be your pal

You may want to convey your warmth and enthusiasm in your introductory email but tread carefully. What you consider friendly may reek of insincerity to a journalist. If you have failed to like or follow them on social media whilst claiming to be a ‘big fan’, you have only confirmed their assumption.
There’s never really a need for false-niceties, especially assuming that your pitch is of genuine interest and value to the recipient. Unless you already have a long-established relationship or know each other outside of a work context, always approach a journalist with polite professionalism.

4. Ghosting

The term ghosting is used when a person disappears or drops all communication with someone else, and can be applied to this situation. Whether you got busy, or the project moved on, always respond to the journalist who took the time to consider your pitch and reply to you. Even if you are now unable to offer them the content, letting them know and ending the conversation professionally will serve you much better in future. After all, how many journalists will give a flakey PR a second chance?

5. Offering poor quality content

Your email was received, read and accepted. Now the journalist has actually requested your content. You nailed it! Well done you. The only job now is to make sure that the content you prepare is good.
Seems obvious, right? But failing to meet expectations and deliver quality content is a common issue. The amount of journalists and bloggers who complain about low-quality content and general rubbish sent to their inboxes is startling. So, make sure that the copy is genuinely helpful and insightful. Don’t just rehash an article you found online, and that it fits the tone of the website. Minimise the chance of the journalist closing the conversation this close to the finish line.
Before you send it, ask yourself:

  • Would you publish it on your own site?
  • Would you share it with your friends on Facebook?
  • Did you really enjoy reading it or find any of it interesting?

If the answer is “no” to any of the above, then it’s not good enough to send to a publisher.

6. Trying to take creative control

PRs, once your content has been accepted by a website, let them do what they need to do with it. Even if that means rewording your copy, or reframing the narrative, allow the journalist to make the piece their own and position it in a way that will appeal to their readers.
There are a few exceptions to this, such as if a website drastically misunderstands your campaign and publishes a confusing write-up, but otherwise, trust the journalist to do their job. Requesting edit after edit, and final sign off on an editorial piece will win you no favours.

7. Following up…too soon

No one wants to send a follow-up email. In an ideal world, PRs would get responses for all of their emails and journalists would spare them the suspense. However, in the chaotic world we exist in, sometimes a follow up is necessary. Emails get lost, after all, or forgotten about. What’s important for PRs to remember here is not to jump the gun.
You may be keen to hear a journalist’s response, but they may have a million other things on their plate and not be able to get back to you for a few days. Unless your piece is incredibly time sensitive, wait at least a few days before following up.

8. Following up…too often

When your pitch doesn’t receive a response, feel free to send a follow up after a reasonable amount of time. If there isn’t a response to your follow up, think very carefully about your next move.
Do you have a good relationship with this PR, and is it unusual that they have not replied to your emails? Is there a possibility that you are emailing at a bad time, such as holiday time or when there is a popular industry conference held, and would it be worth dropping just one more email after this time has passed?
If you think it’s acceptable to send a second follow up, do so at your own risk, but go no further. Any more than two follow ups is not only annoying, but a sure sign of desperation.

9. Arguing with them

This may be rare but still happens. It is irritating enough to warrant a mention.
When a journalist declines your content or pitch, accept that they are not interested. This is not the time to press them further. It is certainly not the time to address their need for articles to generate traffic, or claim to know their audience better than they do.
Do yourself a favour and leave it. At most, you can politely ask for feedback on why the content wasn’t right for them, so you can avoid sending them irrelevant pitches in future, but the most favourable response in this case is “Thank you for letting me know, have a nice day”.

10. No rapport

You don’t want to be too palsy with a journalist you aren’t familiar with, but worse still may be the other side of the spectrum.
It’s fine to be direct, and even more so to be brief, but reducing your email to little more than a one-line request takes it too far. Your email should be at least a little personable, with some evidence that you know who you are speaking to and why your content may be of interest to them. Even referencing one of the journalist’s past articles and suggesting your content would be in the same sphere of interest is better than shooting off something like this.
If you really want a glimpse into how bad some PRs can be, just have a look at #prfail on Twitter. Maybe after a few scrolls through this worrying hashtag, you can fully appreciate how irritating bad PR can be – and how wonderfully refreshing your pitch will be when you get it right.
Glaze Digital is a Belfast-based digital marketing consultancy that can support your business growth through digital marketing, expertly combining PR, SEO, website development, asset production and social media marketing.