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31 digital PR mistakes and how to avoid them

04 / 03 / 19

31 Digital PR mistakes (and how to avoid them)


7 minute read

With many combined years of digital PR campaign experience, the JBH team wanted to share some of the most common (and not-so-common) digital PR mistakes, so you can learn from our errors. Essentially, we’ve learnt the hard way so you don’t have to!

Whilst many of the digital PR do’s and don’ts in this list may sound like common sense, when you’re busy and have multiple campaigns going on and need to get results fast, things can (and often do) go awry.

We’ve also shared our advice, some examples and a few resources to help you along the way.

In no particular order, here are our top 31 do’s and don’ts…


1. Never launch a campaign without discussing expectations first

Whether you’re working in-house for a brand or across multiple brands as part of a digital PR agency, make sure everyone involved understands what is expected and what is achievable. From the outset, agree on what a successful campaign looks like in terms of coverage and inbound links to ensure everyone is aware of what is expected.

Top JBH Tip: Undersell rather that over-promise to avoid disappointment.


2. Don’t go in blind

Benchmarking is your best friend when it comes to the launch of any digital PR campaign. Understanding exactly where the brand sits in terms of competition and rankings can really give you a head start as you begin rounding up ideas.  

Top JBH Tip: Take an initial reading of all important metrics (organic traffic, visibility, rankings) prior to starting any digital PR work to help you with reporting on the impact of your campaign.  


3. Don’t lose sight of the campaign objective

Do make sure you constantly refer to the campaign objectives. We have a template we use to make sure we always stay on track in our ideation phase.

Digital PR ideation template


4. Don’t reject ideas if they seem ridiculous at first

Do hear out all ideas and if someone is passionate about their idea, let them develop it. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and others that an idea is good and will work.


5. Don’t forget to look at social trends

Do look at social media to find hashtag trends that you can use as a starting point for content and even a hook for journalists. This worked really well for our #GirlsThatLift campaign


6. Don’t sniff at existing data

Do spend time looking for existing (current) data that you can use instead of spending precious budget commissioning bespoke surveys. Often data to support your angle already exists. The World Health Organisation (WHO) or the ONS have heaps of current data from all over the world.

Top JBH Tip: Sign up for mailing lists to ensure you get the data as soon as it’s released (and you won’t have to go hunting it down).


7. Don’t assume anything

Whilst an idea might be interesting to you, don’t assume that it will work before testing it out on sites such as Reddit.

Top JBH Tip: Test your idea out on real world audiences via Reddit to see how popular the topic is and what angles people are discussing.


8. Don’t scrimp on the pre-outreach

Test your ideas with target sites before you take them any further. Contact journalists and ask for their opinion – would they place it and if so, would they like an exclusive?

Top JBH Tip: Use pre-outreach to test the feasibility of your ideas. Learn from positive and negative feedback and bake the findings into your campaigns.


9. Don’t start a campaign focusing on the format of the content

Do focus on the concept and presenting it in the strongest style for the target sites. Focusing primarily on the format can restrict the amount of coverage you can receive.

Top JBH Tip: Don’t worry about whether it’s an infographic or an interactive – the content should dictate the deliverable, rather than the other way around.


10. Don’t spend more time on design than on the concept

Do spend as much time as you can ensuring that the concept is strong. Is it timely, does it show any unique data or comparisons? Does it have a solid hook for journalists?

Top JBH Tip: Start thinking about these hooks and angles as you create your content, you’ll save time in the long run.


11. Don’t let stakeholders weaken the angle

Do spend time explaining why the angle is so important and how if the brand compromises on the angle or elements of the content it can adversely affect the success of a campaign.

Top JBH Tip: Have faith in your original idea and try to be as accommodating as possible to brand input (within reason).


12. Don’t pick a campaign with only one angle

Do create campaigns that offer multiple angles for different types of sites. A good campaign should be of interest to journalists across lifestyle, business, food, fashion and travel for example.

Top JBH Tip: This should be one of the first things you do when testing the feasibility of your digital PR campaign idea.


13. Don’t forget the power of social sharing

Do think about how people like to share content. If you’re creating an interactive for example, make sure each element/page is sharable and pre-populate the post for optimum promotion.

Top JBH tip: if your campaign is interactive or has dynamic content (such as results or scoring) you may need to ask your developer to implement dynamic sharing to allow users to share their personalised result.


14. Don’t forget to add an embed code

Do consider how to make it as easy as possible for journalists and bloggers to embed your content. Make sure the embed code is obvious underneath the infographic or in the outreach email.


15. Don’t forget to include a headline

Do ensure that the journalist can see how the content could be covered on their site. By including a headline your giving them ideas on how they can use the content for their audience.


16. Don’t use ironic humour

Do think carefully about the tone of your content. Sometimes what’s humorous to you or the brand can generate negative PR coverage. Irony does not go down well – trust us on that, even if it does get links!


Example PR coverage humour


17. Don’t play safe

Do test the strength of headlines internally before testing on journalists. Choose the punchiest. Does it pass the ‘am I interested in this?’ test? Be very critical and keep tweaking and testing.


18. Don’t stick with one headline

Do mix up your headlines. If one isn’t working try new ones and ensure headlines are targeted for the site in your outreach email. After a while you will see headline patterns emerge for sites.


19. Don’t write the headlines you like

Do research your target sites to discover what style of headlines they write – some like the Daily Mail have a distinct style that you can replicate when you target your outreach email.


20. Don’t use someone else’s outreach email template

Do try different styles until you find one that works for you. Try different tones, intro’s, placement of data, headline lengths, subject lines, bridging questions etc and don’t look too desperate.

Top JBH Tip: Occasionally, journalists will tell you when they like or dislike the way you’ve pitched them a story, so make sure you take the feedback on board – and remember to thank them (good or bad), as feedback is gold dust!


21. Don’t play safe with outreach emails

Do think creatively to make sure your outreach email stands out. If the content is fun, make sure the tone of the email reflects it! It will get the attention of journalists and possibly make their day.


Outreach email example



Oi Oi Outreach email reply



OI Oi Outreach email reply


22. Don’t send to a forwarding list

Do personalise each outreach email, not just with the journalists name but also reference something about their articles or their interests to show you’ve done your research and it’s not a blanket approach.


23. Don’t just try one subject line and hope for the best

Do split test many different subject lines to see which receives the most opens / responses. Monitor subject line performance over time and use it to guide future strategy.

Top JBH Tip: Invest in a tool like Streak that enables you to see how your emails are performing.


24. Don’t get the journalists name wrong

Do check twice especially if you’re copy and pasting! An obvious mistake, but easy to do when you’re not concentrating.


25. Don’t forget to add your phone number

Do ensure that you include a signature in your email with your phone number, company and social media handles, so journalists can contact you quickly and how they want.


26. Don’t make contact last thing on a Friday

Do avoid sending your email either last thing in the day or at the busiest time of the week (Monday morning).


27. Don’t wait for the journalist to ask for the content

Do attach the content to the outreach email – this will increase the likelihood of a journalist placing the content.

Top JBH Tip: There’s a great free tool we use to check for placements, so you shouldn’t miss any coverage, links or mentions even if the journalist doesn’t reply.


28. Don’t hide behind emails (always)

Do use all the tools at your disposal. Does the journalist prefer to be contacted by email, phone or Twitter? PR databases like Gorkana will tell you how the journalist prefers to be contacted.


29. Don’t give up after one email

Do keep contacting journalists even if they don’t reply to the first email. Just don’t send them the same again – tweak the headline and offer new data points to give the journalist a different angle to consider.


30. Don’t give up full stop!

Do keep going. If a campaign isn’t going well, go back to the content, can you pull any different angles out to target new sites?


And lastly, possibly the best advise on here…

31. Don’t end the conversation at “thanks, but not for us”

Do keep talking to journalists when they say a campaign isn’t right for them. We’ve all been there – ask them how you could tweak it for them or what they would be interested in covering instead.

Outreach email reply from Journalist


If you enjoyed reading about our mistakes, then spend a bit more time with us and acquaint yourself with our very thorough guide to digital PR and its nuances.