Agency Outreach Gone Wrong: And How to Avoid It

effective agency outreachWork as part of a PR or ad agency team doing outreach to bloggers or influencers on behalf of your client? If so, there are some easy steps to follow to make sure your outreach yields good results.

And before I begin, I’ll say that this post was prompted because I got a very nice email today from someone reaching out on behalf of their client, a very big one, asking about opportunities to connect when we write on topics specific to their client. I’m being intentionally vague here because I believe this person isn’t incompetent, they just don’t know any better. And that? That’s the PR agency’s fault.

Expect To Be Vetted By a Professional

Know that when you’re doing outreach to someone like me, before we finish with the phone call you make to us or the email you send, we are already letting our fingers do the walking and vetting you. We love the Internet and the Internet loves us. We never take anything at face value, and we start vetting you the minute you approach us to see how credible you are and how much of our time we’re willing to devote to you and what you’re interested in.

The Importance of The Place You Found Us

If you say you found us on Twitter, we go there first. If you are using a photo for an avatar pic that was taken whilst at a cocktail party and you have a beer or a beverage in your hand, shame on you. Get a new avatar. STAT.

If your Twitter bio is comprised of six words, none of which really tell us what you do without making us dig further, know that your credibility is already impugned.

If the link that you’re using on Twitter leads to your LinkedIn profile (and all the above is also going on) it makes me wonder even more. If you’re representing a PR firm, why in the world would you link to your own LinkedIn profile instead of to the agency website, which would give you instant credibility as a brand?


If you link to your LinkedIn profile in your Twitter bio and it’s not spectacular in every way, well, know that I’m going to judge you there, too. Harshly. If it reads like a resume and overall looks like crap, I’m going to know you have no idea of the power of the biggest business social network.

If that profile says you provide support and counsel to B2B brands and your LinkedIn profile isn’t knock-my-socks-off-good I’m going to know you know nothing about what it is you claim to be “counseling” your agency’s clients on.

In short, you’ve just blown yourself up, in the space of about 30 seconds. Imagine just one step further – what about if I happen to know your client and mention the foregoing to her? What does that do to your agency? To your job? To your credibility?

And Why This Should Matter to Agencies

And you’ll notice I said above that when this stuff happens (notice I didn’t say “if”), that it’s the PR firm or ad agency’s fault. Well, I believe that it is. Of course, it’s not my intent to make a sweeping generalization; I’m really thinking out loud here and welcome your thoughts on this topic.

My team and I do massive amounts of corporate training and even within my own organization I try never to forget that people aren’t born community managers or social media ninjas. They also don’t come out of college (or even out of another job) knowing innately how to do blogger outreach or influencer outreach or build relationships. You have to teach them. And the onus for that kind of training lies with the agency. And it doesn’t happen in one Social Media 101 session, training needs to be regular and ongoing.

Don’t send your people out to do outreach, especially to people who are often way more web savvy and certainly more savvy about what it is your client is trying to accomplish (or sell), and why you’re reaching out to them in the first place, without training them properly. And that means training them about what their social media profiles should look like and how they, personally and as a representative of the agency, should look and sound on these networks. And what they should say (and what they can expect) when they do outreach.

Anything else is simply setting your people up in a situation that could possibly blow up in their faces and be as dangerous to your agency as a whole as it is to them personally.

And really? I liked this young lady. And I might even work with her in the future. But I was so surprised by what I found as I quickly vetted her that it made me instantly stop what I was doing and write this post. I’ll admit to being a bit of a freak (well, maybe a lot), but I believe this kind of thing is really, really important. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image: Jay Santiago via Compfight cc

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  • Sara Downey

    I think this post is so very important. I wonder how many times I was rejected just based on my social media profiles. Moreover, I don’t even know what a stellar LinkedIn profile looks like. I’m also torn as to if my Twitter account can be used for outreach at all. So much to consider after reading this.

    • Anonymous

      Kudos to you Sara, for recognizing it. And if you want some help with your profiles, let me know – I’d be happy to help.

      • Sara Downey

        Yes, please! I’ll email you. Thanks!

    • Katlyn Rumbold

      I’d have to concur. I don’t even know what a stellar LinkedIn profile looks like. I’m active on Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Pinterest but LinkedIn not so much. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!

      • Anonymous

        Hi Kathlyn,

        Email me – shelly at v3im dot com – and I’ll set up a time to help both you and Sara.

  • Joanne Taylor, Boise

    Anyone who teaches PR, communications, social media strategy, etc., should send their students a link to this article right now. Great discussion piece…on several levels.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Joanne! I appreciate it.

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  • Oh Dear Lord, I can’t even put into words how much I concur with this article and the degree of my frustration from my daily likewise experiences. It’s pitiful the quality and topic of the pitches I receive. For example, I’m still receiving pitches for a column I stopped writing 6 months ago; I receive pitches for topics about which I don’t write; I receive pitches using my last name as if it were my first name or no name at all. The list could go on and on. And the thing is, each one of these pitches requires some type of action from me, and that action takes up (so it often wastes) my time.

    I blame the agencies but I also “blame” the technology. There are so many PR database tools now that enable PR neophytes or unprofessionals to essentially spam the journalist/writer. If it wasn’t so easy to do so, maybe we’d receive fewer of them. Heck, I’m from the days of an old-fashioned Rolodex where you built real relationships with your contacts. That’s why it’s called MEDIA RELATIONS.

    Must get off my soapbox now. Shelly, I blame this Friday afternoon rant on you. >;-)

    • Anonymous

      Hahaha! Well, I can empathize with it Hollis. I get the same things!! I’m old-school too and value those “real relationships” … at some point, people will figure out the easy button doesn’t work.

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  • Cicero

    I love this article, sharing it so many times.

  • Thanks for the article, Appreciate your effort….

  • Really fabulous information.

    SAP Education.

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