Nobody likes negative feedback. Even if you mask it as “constructive criticism,” it still stings. In promotions, it’s not uncommon to receive a negative response from an editor – some of the worst I’ve received is a simple, “No.” However, what you might not realize is that a negative response isn’t a dead end – it’s an opportunity to continue a conversation with the editor. They’ve opened the door to build a relationship and earn future placements, but the trick is how to get there.
The best response should sound like the beginning of a natural conversation – you want an editor to know that you’re interested in their feedback and are willing to listen to what they have to say. You want to come across as genuine if you want to get the very best feedback from them.
Here, we’ll walk you through seven practices that can improve your ROI for negative pitch replies, increasing the likelihood of future coverage and a mutually beneficial relationship with an editor.
1. Follow up to a negative reply immediately.
This is crucial. Why? Because you finally have the editor’s attention, which is not an easy feat for most promotions associates. And even though the response is negative, a prompt response is the easiest way to begin a conversation with the editor.
If they didn’t already provide it in their response, you’ll want to begin by asking for feedback on why they’re not interested in your topic or asset. Does the publisher not post infographics? Do they prefer to look at the raw data and make a graphic themselves? Is the story not timely enough? These are questions you want to answer.
You also want to find out what topics interest them the most. Ask them what stories they like to cover or even what they like to read – understanding what they enjoy is key so that additional pitches can be tailored specifically to the editor in the future.
Another great idea to offer immediately: Ask them whether or not they’d be willing to collaborate in the future. Especially if the publisher receives high levels of natural syndication, this is a great opportunity to secure a placement before you’ve even begun production.
2. Do not be combative or defensive in any of your response.
So you know you want to follow up immediately with an editor, but another crucial behavior to keep in mind: Do not come across like you are difficult to work with. If you do, I can guarantee you the editor will blacklist you or worse – your entire agency.
A common issue I’ve run into while pitching is when an editor says that they do not publish infographics and yet you can find four or five on their site. An easy response would be to point out these articles, but that’s also the easiest way to ruin the potential relationship. They don’t want to look bad just as much as you don’t, so work around this by asking specifics on the topic of the articles or the campaign itself. Perhaps only certain sections do not cover infographics or the publisher knows that their audience tends to respond poorly to this type of assets. The only way to know the answers to these questions is to ask.
3. Keep a spreadsheet for publisher feedback and update it regularly.
Once you’ve received feedback from an editor, you’ll want to record it. Why? So you don’t make the same mistake twice. Maintaining a publisher feedback spreadsheet can help you stay organized while also ensuring that multiple promotions associates have access to information about potential targets.
A great place to start is by recording compliments from editors. Was an editor blown away by your campaign? Copy the feedback into your document along with the publisher, the editor’s name, and which campaign you pitched. It’s a great way to understand what the publisher is looking for when you put together a list of potential targets for any future campaigns.
BuzzStream also has great features that can help you and your team record publisher feedback. In each contacts’ profile, there is an option to add someone to a “do not contact” list as well as a section to add quick notes, like what an editor’s beat is or topics they frequently cover.
You’ll also want to record any feedback from editors regarding your asset. Some publishers’ sites might have a maximum width for an infographic while others might not be able to host dynamic graphics. Knowing which publishers can handle your assets is crucial to know when targeting – if a site can’t host your entire asset, hold off on offering them the exclusive.
Noting constructive criticism is also helpful. This can range anywhere from a lack of actionable takeaways from a to your sources being too old. This is all great feedback that will help you during production of future campaigns.
One of the most important facts to note: Whether or not an editor is overly critical. Some editors have a shorter fuse than others, and it only takes one negative response to determine who these editors are. If someone’s response sounds like it could’ve been written in all caps, make a note of that immediately. A great way to organize this is simply creating a “do not contact” list.
Remind your team to refer to this document and update it regularly. This will limit the amount of negative responses you receive to future pitches.
4. Organize a monthly ThinkTank.
You’ve probably noticed a common theme throughout most of these tips, and that is the importance of collaboration. Whether it is with an editor or your team, bouncing ideas back and forth is a great way to produce unique campaigns. One way to do this internally is through a monthly ThinkTank.
Ask everyone on your team to come together with one or two pieces of content they found inspiring. Note what everyone liked and didn’t like about this new content, and integrate these ideas into your new campaigns.
This is also a great opportunity to review all the campaigns your team currently has in promotions and those recently closed out. Take a look at the most successful campaigns and see if you can identify any themes. Did one do well because of where the exclusive went live? Did another include a graphic that provided a surprising statistic? And then take a look at low-performing campaigns. Were they about a similar topic? Was the timeliness of the story in a narrow promotions window? Answering all these questions can help you create more successful campaigns and promotion cycles while also limiting the amount of negative feedback you receive in the future.
5. Keep a running document of successful pitches.
This list is one of the most important documents a promotions team can have. Just like you want to see what is and isn’t working with your promotable assets, you also want to see what types of pitches work and don’t work.
The most obvious element this list should include is the entire email of a successful pitch, including who sent it and the subject line. You’ll also want to note which campaign you were promoting along with the name of the targeted publisher.
But how does this help you with ROI on negative responses? It offers a comparison for what worked with a similar publisher. Perhaps you didn’t include enough statistics in your pitch? This document can help you and the rest of your promotions team understand what editors are interested in so you can avoid a “no.”
6. Offer to repurpose your content or provide the raw data.
This is a common issue you can run into with publishers. Some sites have strict visual guidelines, or their editorial guidelines may not allow them to post third-party graphics. They also might not be willing to run your graphic because it is too heavily branded. If that is included in their negative response, offer to rework your infographic or provide your data set.
The reason these offers are so successful is because it provides the editor a sense of ownership. They are more likely to publish your content if they feel like they’ve pulled their own conclusions, so make this as simple to do as possible.
7. Connect your campaign to a recent trend or story.
Another common reason for an editor to say no is because they believe your campaign isn’t timely enough. Before you begin promotions, take a look at what current stories are trending on potential targets’ sites. Notice what angles seem to be doing well at the moment along with which verticals are receiving the most traction. If you can tie your campaign into one of these current trends, an editor is much more likely to rethink their response and consider covering your campaign.
Remember, you can always find a way to turn a negative reply into a possible placement. Sometimes the best way to earn coverage is by overcoming a “no.” Keep in mind the context in which you receive negative feedback because it will shape your response. The first step in turning a negative reply into a conversation with an editor is to ask questions and understand where they are coming from. Look for solutions in their response, and although you might not earn coverage right away, you’ll definitely increase the likelihood of a future placement.