4 Ways to Rescue a Negative Pitch Response

Constructive criticism, critique or review – however you phrase it – no one really enjoys receiving negative feedback on any aspect of their work. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for content marketers to receive this kind of response from publishers.

Feedback can range from a one word email simply saying ‘no’ to a variety of requests for further information on the content you are pitching. However desperate or demanding it may seem, there are ways to transform negative replies into brilliant relationships.

Use your words

You’ve had a response from someone at your target publication. You’ve now got a name, an email address, and potentially a phone number to add into your little black book. You’ve got a foot in their inbox, so use this as a positive opportunity to find out more about the publication and get your personality across in the process.

Don’t be afraid to press the publication for more information. You can find out all sorts of interesting details which you can record and remember for the next time you pitch content to them. Ask leading questions to make sure you receive the answers you’re after and you’ll soon be on the right path to amazing coverage and features.

No matter how well you pitch or how brilliant your content is, there will always be objections. Your existing content may not be able to meet all requirements, but you can often work around them.

Problem

Action

“We don’t publish infographics on our website.”

Offer to present your content in a different way that matches the style and tone of the target publication. Perhaps suggest an article based on the infographic or a smaller image representing a specific section of your data. All content can be adjusted or tweaked.

“Your content is too heavily branded.”

Offer to amend the content to be less brand focussed and focus exclusively on the information.

“We prefer raw data.”

If it will secure a placement, provide a summary of the raw data or send them your data set if you can.

“Your pitch doesn't fit into our editorial calendar.”

Ask about their editorial calendar and discover if they have anything in the pipeline you could collaborate on.

“We don’t understand how your pitch is relevant to our audience”

You will have had found a relevant reason to contact them in the first instance. Reiterate your initial reasons and explain the benefit of your content featuring on their site.

“We prefer exclusivity on any content that we publish.”

Even though you might have missed the boat on this particular occasion, bear exclusivity in mind for any relevant future campaigns.

Offering your contact the opportunity to provide insight and input can provide a sense of ownership. Giving editors the option to suggest further ideas also encourages involvement, which in turn can make your pitch seem more favourable, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

Conquer the ‘No’ response

You’ve got all the ingredients right, a perfectly crafted press release, accompanying graphics and a friendly, personalised introductory email. You’re confident that when you hit the send button, the only possible response is ‘yes please’.

You should be so lucky.

You’ve received a reply containing a single word; ‘No’. No feedback. No guidance or critique. Just ‘No’.

Resist the urge to shrug your shoulders and go on to your next email – think about why your contact has rebuffed your pitch. Try and discover the reasons behind the decision. It could be something as simple as that they are having a bad or busy day. A quick look at the social profiles that belong to the person or company you’re contacting can sometimes shed light on this.

There’s a range of external issues that could complicate and hinder the success of a pitch. The most successful conversations will occur if you can combine sensitivity to these factors with considered questioning. Following up a ‘no’ in this manner can result in getting an opportunity from initial opposition.

Avoid fighting fire with fire

Whilst it may be disheartening to discover that your perfectly crafted content is not being received as well as you had initially predicted and hoped, it’s really important to be polite and courteous in your responses – no matter how annoyed or frustrated you feel.

It’s worth remembering that people talk. If word gets around that you are hostile or difficult to work with, this might hinder any potential relationships with other publications in their industry.

Ask questions on both the topic of the campaign and the publication’s objectives to see if you can come to a mutual agreement. There may have been an oversight or a misunderstanding (easily done via email) that could be easily rectified with further dialogue.

By all means, have a whinge at your colleagues about it, but resist the urge to send back a defensive email.

Organise a review

Campaigns don’t always go to plan. If you’re receiving a moderate to large number of negative responses and believe you have exhausted all of the techniques that could rescue the campaign, don’t feel like it’s all on you as the content marketer to fix the issue.

Organise a review with your team. Get the copywriters involved. Get the interns and account managers in the room. Chat to the receptionist about it. Any extra insight might incite a new idea or open up an avenue that you hadn’t considered exploring before.


There will inevitably be times when negative responses feel like a personal attack on you and your campaign. It’s important to understand that this is not the case at all and to never take any knockbacks personally.

By being flexible and persistent, as well as approaching subjects tactfully, it’s possible to turn objections into options.

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