7 Most Common HARO Outreach Mistakes

HARO outreach mistakes

Let’s not beat around the bush…

Media is the source of the best links today.

Blogs, directories, profile pages and many other link sources are now a history long gone.

Mentions in articles, interviews and many other media formats, now that’s what you really strive for, right?

But try as you might, you rarely hear back from sources you reach out to.


Few weeks ago I covered the tools you need to land media mentions.

Today I’m going to show you what are the typical media outreach mistakes. Avoiding these alone will increase your chances of getting accepted.

Mistake 1. Not Following the Journalist’s Requirements

I’m sure you’ve noticed – most HARO queries contain at least some basic requirements for you to follow.

These could be as simple as the length of your pitch. Or as detailed as to about whom a journalist wants to hear from.

Here’s one of my queries:

HARO outreach mistakes

It contains specific instructions about

  • Who I want to talk to (SEOs working on a large site).
  • Pitch acceptance criteria (providing company name, URL and job position).
  • And it states whom I don’t want to hear from (PR or marketing agencies).

Needless to say, most responses I received were from either PR or Marketing firms or included no details about the site the person worked for.

Poor or irrelevant responses are irritating for most writers. They waste their time but also, show how little you value them.

Apply only for pitches you pass criteria for. Follow every single requirement and I can guarantee that this one thing alone will make your pitch stand out.

Mistake 2. Poor Grammar

Think how you reach to emails containing poor grammar or spelling mistakes. I bet you immediately think of the sender in a less favourable light.

It’s no different with media pitches.

A pitch containing misspellings or poor grammar typically gets deleted right away.

The same goes for pitches containing slang, common language or text message slang.

When your goal is to make a great impression and sell yourself for inclusion in the story, spend some extra time to make sure your pitch is perfect.

Mistake 3. Sending Generic, Single Sentence Pitch

  • “I have the info you need. Email me at email@email.com. John”.
  • “Hey, the best way is to do XYZ. Thanks. John”
  • “You should talk to X from our company. She can help you. John”

The above are actual pitches I received. And they aren’t the only single sentence replies I got.

Sending a one-sentence pitch tells a writer one thing – that you didn’t have the time (or didn’t want to put an effort) to write a proper one.

It also says that you’re unlikely to want to invest time in working on the story. That means you won’t want to answer additional questions, send supplementary information or validate certain claims.

Remember, you don’t have to be the first one to send the pitch in.

You should however be the one who’s pitch states “I’m willing to work with you on the story”.

Mistake 4. Looking Unprofessional

A lot of pitches I receive immediately give away the sender as unprofessional.

Here’s how:

Using Gmail or other generic email provider

I have nothing against Gmail (or Hotmail, Yahoo or any other free and generic email service). But if you want to look professional, send your email from a corporate account.

Having a Funny Signature

I once received a pitch ending with: “I’m not anti social, I’m just not user friendly”.

I admit it’s funny.

But at the same time, when I look for participants to my stories, I want to ensure that I pick a serious person so that I get serious answers and insight from them.

A funny signature might sound cool but in this setting, it’s always better to look a bit more formal.

Not signing up your pitch

On the other end of the spectrum are people who don’t sign up their pitch and provide no information about them. It’s hard to accept a pitch from someone you can tell nothing about.

Mistake 5. Copy and Paste

I bet this drives you mad too – emails in which you can see some sections in different font than the rest of the copy.

I appreciate that sending media pitches takes time. But if you don’t want to put an effort to at least make the email look like as if you wrote it specifically for me, how can I reciprocate?

Mistake 6.  Misspelling the Journalist’s Name

I admit, my name isn’t that common for English speakers. At the same time, it’s 5 characters only and not that hard to type correctly.

Yet the amount of pitches addressed to different names (often unrelated to mine) I receive is astonishing.

Some are simply copy and paste jobs where the person didn’t even realise that she’s been sending emails with the same name.

Others are from people who don’t realise they got my name wrong (i.e. recently I’ve been called Pat, Pow and many others).

I often laugh at it. At the same time, it’s unprofessional to misspell a name of a person you’re trying to pitch yourself too. And believe me, you need a very strong pitch to overcome this mistake.

Mistake 7. Lying in Your Pitch

Yes, some people try to lie their way into the story.

A company owner pretends that her agency is smaller than it really is. Only because I specified that I want to speak to companies of certain size only.

Or she claims they do something else than they normally do (common one – marketing agencies claiming to do SEO only. As if I wouldn’t check their website…).

Or they claim to have knowledge and experience I’m looking for. But even their pitch reveals that it might not be the case.

These pitches are easy to spot.

The people behind them become very defensive when I ask to confirm some details. Or their website gives them away.

Never ever lie in your pitch. You will get caught out and I bet it’s not the nicest thing to happen.

If you don’t meet all criteria or have no information to spare, don’t reply. Invest your time in another, more suitable pitch instead.

Last word of advice

From my experience, a thorough and well-written pitch is hard to come by.

It makes it super easy to stand out.

Just follow the writer’s requirements and share relevant knowledge and you stand a big chance for your pitch to get accepted.

Lie, pretend, take shortcuts and you’re guaranteed to end up in the rejected folder.


Creative commons image by Herman Yung / Flickr

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