Outreach is a huge part of SEO and when PR and search engine optimizationstrategies are combined it creates a highly effective way to get exposure for your business on industry related websites, as well as major media outlets. When done correctly it can reward you with referral traffic, leads, sales, revenue and earned links.
My company recently worked on creating a content asset for a startup and we set out to get some expert insight from within their particular industry. We had their internal marketing manager create an account with HARO in order to put this opportunity out there. We have used Help A Reporter Out on several occasions in the past with great success, but this particular resulted in a big goose egg. Out of 62 responses, we had nothing of substance. Rather than chalking up that experience as a total loss, I decided to point out the reasons all of that interest was flushed down the toilet.
There was a golden opportunity for several people to gain major exposure (as well as a great link) from this piece of content — but not a single one was able to capitalize. Avoid making these eight stupid mistakes when you are doing press outreach and take full advantage of every opportunity you come across.
1. Responding to Requests Without Putting Thought into Your Pitch
HARO sends out three emails during weekdays, one at 5:35 a.m., another at 12:35 p.m. and a final one at 5:35 p.m. EST. Our client’s request went out in the afternoon slot and within seconds we were already receiving replies. I’m sorry, but if a reply comes in within 30 seconds of the request, I immediately assume three things:
- The individual put absolutely zero thought into their response
- They are probably replying to every single request — tossing a bunch of crap against the wall hoping that some of it will stick
- Their response isn’t worth wasting even 10 seconds to read
When you are responding to a media request, take some time to really think about their question and figure out how you can best help them. Put some thought into crafting an intelligent and helpful response. Not only will you stand a better chance of having your insight published, but you also have the opportunity to create a long-term relationship that can present you with plenty of exposure opportunities down the road as well.
Take a deep breath and put some time and effort into your response. A well thought out reply is very easy to spot and gets rewarded accordingly.
2. Poor Grammar
The percentage of HARO responses that were filled with grammar mistakes was shocking. I’m not saying everyone has to be a spelling bee champion, but at the very least run spell check before hitting the send button. Even better yet, have an employee read through it to see if they catch any mistakes.
Spelling isn’t the only grammar blunder we encountered. It is amazing how much social media and text message slang has contaminated every day business email communication. Reading though some of the responses we received I couldn’t help asking myself, “R U serious?”
No media outlet, big or small, is going to take anyone serious that speaks in text-slang. Don’t do it – simple as that.
3. Using Unprofessional Email Addresses
Avoid using a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email address. It just isn’t professional. If you are really stuck on using one of these services for your email at the very least make sure that your email address contains your name and not anything that would be considered inappropriate or unprofessional.
You would probably figure I was joking if I told you we received a response from a business owner with an email address RippednBuff69@[free email].com, right? Sadly, that really happened. This was the CEO of a major company and he was fine with reaching out to the media using this email address. I don’t care how insightful or useful a response is – if it is coming from an unprofessional email address it is going right into the trash, and I think it is safe to say that the majority of media outlets (legitimate ones at least) would feel the same way.
4. Sending Copy/Paste Outreach Requests
It is so easy to quickly spot a copy/paste reply. The tone is usually off and it will never directly address your original request. This means that the individual didn’t put any thought into responding. Your response will be considered only if it answers/addresses the question(s) asked.
What is the worst copy/paste offense? That would be when you receive a response addressed to a different media contact or outlet. This type of error happens when an “advanced” copy/paste master replies. These individuals send the same response to everyone but they will typically change the name it is addressed to and replace the media outlet name if they have it.
Out of the 62 responses we received, 7 of them were addressed to the wrong individual and media outlet. That means over 11% of the responses came from these advanced copy/paste experts.
5. Asking For a Link
“For my time I want a link back to my website, which is www.blah-blah-blah.com”
Yes, that was a real request at the bottom of a very insightful (sarcasm alert) three sentence response. Never ask for a link. It doesn’t come across that you are genuinely interested in providing helpful information when you ask for a link.
If you put time and effort into your reply and do what is asked – providing helpful information pertaining to the original request – then you are going to be rewarded with a link without having to ask.
6. Providing Wrong/Inaccurate Information
The particular client we were working with was in an industry that featured a lot of technical jargon. A lot of data, stats, and figures were being thrown around in some of the replies. Some of the information that self-proclaimed experts were coming back with was just plain wrong and inaccurate.
Instead of just firing off replies to everything within sight, stick to what you are an expert in. Do you think firing off 10 quick emails that contain guesses and assumptions or three well thought out (and accurate) responses are going to help you get what you are after: exposure and possible links? Quality over quantity wins every time.
7. Chasing Unrelated Media Outlets
If you are a fitness professional, don’t chase media opportunities seeking insight from a web developer. Focus your outreach on opportunities that are going to put your business in front of people who will have an interest in what you do. Let’s just assume for a minute that as a fitness professional you did get a mention on a web design blog. Is that really going to benefit you? Not really.
A large majority of the requests we received were from people who didn’t have experience with our client’s industry. It was very clear in the responses that they were just throwing information out there in hopes we would bite.
8. Providing a 1-Sentence Pitch
“Hi. My advice would be to XXXXXX.”
Again, this was a real response. In fact, we received a half-dozen responses that were a single sentence. This is a complete waste of two seconds for both sides: the person who sent the email, as well as the person that has to delete the email.
I would be willing to bet that these 1-sentence wonders were all in the middle of something when they saw the HARO request come across their email. They probably wanted to roll the dice and give it a shot, but what they should have done was flag the email or add responding to the request to their “to-do” list and addressed it when they had some free time to compose an intelligent response.
Dedicate a chunk of time every day to outreach when you aren’t juggling several tasks or wearing many hats. If you want to experience success through press outreach, it requires you put some effort in.