Agency Outreach Gone Wrong: And How to Avoid It

Agency Outreach Gone Wrong: And How to Avoid It

By: Shelly Kramer
May 31, 2013

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.

This post originally appeared on the PR Breakfast Club blog

Image: Jay Santiago via Compfight cc

  • Without putting myself down, I’d like to add “know who you are reaching out to. A blog that hasn’t had a post in a few months and hasn’t ever posted about your product or something even tangentially related”

    Yes, I still get requests…and not just from the companies who ask EVERYONE to help them out (business cards, posters, those kind of folks) – perhaps I should actually consider these, but that brings up another conundrum – do you go sponsored/etc if you’re just a guy with a blog?

  • ShellyKramer

    Good point, Mark. And something that is also often overlooked. It’s great to do outreach, but if it won’t net you any concrete results, what’s the return on the time, energy, financial investment for the brand. Rhetorical question …. you already know the answer.

  • Bingo. Blog outreach is not the same as sending out a billion credit card applications, in that case it IS cheaper just to send it rather than pay someone to compare lists. But when you’re looking for a comeback, take a minute to decide whether or not that email is worth sending.

  • Homework and prep. Amazing isn’t it that in the food industry the kitchen invests hours in prep before they allow you to see their creation and then they dont just fling hash, they create the experience.

    Why not in here? The number of folks who have called me asking me this or that (and I admit Shelly to digging on their name instantaneously) which has very little to do with my area of expertise – I send them to the bio and suggest they call back if they see a fit cuz I don’t.

    But my favorite is the scare-the-crap out you PR pitch to talk to their expert about something which I might have a bit of expertise – that just screams lack of knowing your audience as Mark noted.

    I also agree (see I do agree sometimes) that the onus is on the agency to teach, train and have their troops engage. When you put Guru next to your Avatar of the Tweet Bird, you’ve sold yourself a chickenwire canoe on the infamous creek.

    Great post Shelly

    Best to you,

  • Sherrilynne7

    Great advice here. I’m going to make this post required reading for my team.

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks Sherrilynne! Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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