The do’s and (definitely f***ing) don’ts of outreach
Kate Leach Head of Rise Live
7 min read
Monday, 21st February 2022
There are a lot of opinions when it comes to getting digital PR and SEO perfect.
From the perfect pitch, timing and seeding lists to personalisation, outreach takes time to get right and every campaign is different. It’s impossible to get everything spot on, but there are a few stellar things that you should always be keeping first in mind when crafting and executing your next outreach strategy.
Here are some top 10 do’s and don’ts to help your outreach plan.
Do’s and Don’ts
DO - Pitch early doors and schedule if you can. Journalists like to start early and are already looking for news so get in ahead of the competition to help them pick their potentials.
How: Journalists receive SO many pitches daily and know that we bulk send, an email hitting their inbox at 9am on the dot isn’t natural so send a few minutes before or after.
DO - Give the journalist everything they need.
How: Always include all the details a journalist might need - statistics, methodology and most importantly a download link for photos (preferably DropBox) and ensure they’re high quality and royalty free - and tell the journalist this.
Why? Journalists have NO time to waste. They’re writing 6-8 articles a day, make their lives easy by having everything they’d need easily accessible. However, that doesn't mean make it lengthy - it actually means the opposite. Keep it short. Concise. To the point. But useful in ticking all the boxes.
DO - Personalise your emails.
How: It’s impossible to personalise every email but for your key targets engage with them, journalists are people too! The more emails you send, the more opportunities you have to build a relationship with them. If you’ve sent them something previously - mention it!
DO - Say thanks to the journalist if they cover your story.
How: Just say thanks! Whether you need to chase for a link or not, a little thanks can go a long way. It’s also a great time to introduce other clients who can provide things in their area of interest.
DO - Constantly grow your seeding list while your campaign is in motion.
How: Constantly check the news and use similar headlines to your targets. Use tools like Similar Sites when you land placements to find sites you might not be aware of that will love your story. Or maybe, the topic starts trending and you can newsjack with some data you have. There’s always more than one opportunity to build links.
DON’T - Just send a press release.
How: Make your pitch exciting, include data sources, images and designs to grab your reader’s attention.
DON’T - Send automated follow ups.
How: Take the time to craft a follow up, if you can personalise it even better - if someone keeps opening your email offer more information to reel them in.
DON’T - Presume just one angle is going to work for all industries.
How: Personalise your outreach with different angles and seeding lists for each. Find as many markets as possible to share your story with.
DON’T - Ignore the metrics.
How: Track your open rates to test if your email subject line is strong enough. The more a journalist looks, the more they’re thinking of covering. Don’t be afraid to switch up a headline to A/B test.
Top tip: Multiple opens are great, but if there’s two extremely close together (by less than 2-3 minutes) there’s a high chance it’s been deleted straight out.
Top tips from the Rise at Seven team:
Alex Hickson, Senior Digital PR Executive: ”Imagine your outreach email to be a short, snappy story stuffed with campaign information. A journalist wants to know EXACTLY what, who and WHY they should care about the campaign from a quick glance, spell it out for them. But remember they want to see the story hook immediately. Before you send it out, read it to yourself out loud. Are you bored? If you are, it's time to tart it up.”
Alice Buttery, Digital PR Executive: “Learn as much as you can about the sector you're sending to and research it! Showbiz reporters love a weekend story, so we prioritise outreach to hit them on a Friday.”
Katy Powell, Digital PR Strategist: “When writing your outreach template, look at how similar stories and, more importantly, headlines have been written in your target publication. Matching the style of the journalist you’re sending to means they’ll more easily be able to visualise how this will fit into their publication.”
Outreach myths debunked
“Digital PR means fast results”
Client pressure, a personal drive to get quick results and fear of competitor campaigns can all be combining factors to making speed being the #1 priority when it comes to outreach.
But it’s called strategy for a reason. Slow and steady definitely doesn’t win the race in the PR world but over in 30 seconds isn’t ideal either (for any aspect of life).
- Choose your top three contacts and focus on them - even better offer them an exclusive before you launch.
- Only send to one journalist from each national to start, if they don't interact with the email then send it through to someone else.
- Use your results to drive your outreach - if someone covers with a great headline - incorporate it!
“Never outreach on a Friday”
This is a bigger myth than the flakes in Smirnoff Gold cutting your throat to make you drunk quicker. Since I started in digital PR one of the golden rules was never to prioritise outreach on a Friday, and it put the fear in me to never send anything just before the weekend.
But don’t be afraid to share a story on a Friday - weekend editors are always looking for stories big and small and most journalists will always give a story the time of day if it’s the right fit - regardless of the time.
We’ve had a number of great placements from Friday outreach including the Sun, Metro and Ladbible. Don’t forget the news is happening 24/7 and there are always journalists looking for a juicy story to share - so don’t underestimate the weekend.
“You should always pitch over the phone”
This one feels like something everyone’s now getting a grasp of, but I’ll bet there are still PR’s thinking it’s best practice to pick up the phone. Don’t get me wrong if you have a relationship with the journalist and know it’s something they’re going to love - then call them!
But journalists are busy people who get thousands of pitches a day, imagine your phone calling a thousand times a day when you have a deadline. If they are interested, they’re going to need the press release regardless, so save everyone some time and focus on making your email pitch irresistible.
3 common mistakes that I've personally learnt from
🌍 Location, location location
ALWAYS research where your journalists are located and if you’re unsure - double check. With so many titles sharing UK and US editions, it can be easy to send to the wrong side of the pond and hit your targets at 3am their time - ultimately getting lost in a pitch abyss never to be seen again.
If you struggle to keep on track, split your time by targeting UK journalists in the AM and US in the PM if you don’t have access to a scheduling tool (or if you do, but like me you can be too eager to press send).
🤓 Have the facts to back it up
Whether it’s data, research or simply believing in your campaign to make it work. You need to know the story inside out to a) get people excited about it and b) answer any questions you get!
Doing the research will pay off in the long run and it will also help you craft your story to appeal to that industry. The more you know also benefits your clients in the future to know what will work for them (trust me, ask me anything on astronomy, cars or jewellery, I can formulate a full response now, unlike before 😉).
❌ Never throw in the towel
Don’t turn your back on a campaign if it isn’t hitting, learn how to PIVOT: add more data, search existing news, find something new and juicy to back up what you’re pitching.
Always remember that not everyone is going to love your story - and that isn’t a reason to give up. I’ve had stories be fully rejected and completely ignored but had other journalists that LOVE it. At the end of the day you made the story work for a reason - share it!
In the words of our Creative Director Carrie Rose: “Never give up. You believed in the campaign to pitch it. Your belief can make it work”