“Reach out” is just so much mindless business twaddle. There are lots of web pages excoriating its promulgators.
For example, John Smurf’s MBA Jargon Watch defines it as follows:
reach out (v.)
To call or email. For this one, we can blame those old AT&T ads that encouraged folks to "reach out and touch someone." Obviously, you can't actually reach out and TOUCH anyone due to your company's stringent sexual-harrassent policy. But you can "reach out" (but, again, no touching) to a co-worker for information, support, or to start one of those crucial conversations. But keep any interaction to a phone call or email just to be on the safe side.
And here, from the Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary:
Reach out [v.]
To contact. A dramatic way of saying a very mundane thing."I'll have my people reach out sometime next week."
And here from Forbes Magazine no less, in their now very famous and frequently cited page of Most Annoying Business Jargon or via this link of the most annoying, pretentious, and useless business jargon, where reaching out made it to position #7 in their 32-bracket run-off:
The next time you feel the need to reach out, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it, because all that meaningless business jargon makes you sound like a complete moron.
And here from the Daily Muse’s Business Buzzwords to Banish from Your Vocabulary:
“Let’s reach out to someone in accounting to get those numbers.”
“If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.”
“Reach out” is one of the best examples of how corporate jargon makes things unnecessarily complicated. The English language already has lots of useful words related to communication. “Reach out to me by phone?” Seriously? How about just “call me?” In an age when most people are overwhelmed by crowded email inboxes, it’s best to be brief and clear. Never use “reach out” when “email” or “contact” will do just fine.
Whereas Forbes Magazine put the phrase at position ⁷⁄₃₂, at Lackuna.com’s site for Tech and Language News, “reaching out” made it to the #2 slot in their article on Business Language — is it all just mumbo jumbo?. In fact, only “blue-sky thinking” outranks it:
#2 – Reaching Out
This one seems to be popular with American workers. Given today’s global economy, with businesses doing more and more international trade, you’re probably no stranger to receiving speculative emails saying something along the lines of: “Hi there! I’m reaching out to you in the hope that….”
They want to say they are getting in touch. You think they want to touch you, literally. It’s ok…really…
Why they can’t just say “I am contacting you because?”. There’s no need to use such ridiculously emotive language, especially if you’re emailing me for the first time and that we’ve never met before. It won’t make me like you any more, so stop it.
On the Hot To Write Better website, their article on Do you speak Touchy-Feely? writes:
Means contact. Reach out suggests to me an almost-drowning loser grasping unsuccessfully at a life-saver ring. I suspect this is not quite what the originators of this term had in mind. Why does anyone have to reach out merely to get in touch with someone? Why can’t you just contact them?
On a somewhat more reflective and perhaps linguistically relevant note, Global Results Communiations’ article on Word Up: Having Fun with Business Jargon observes:
Even when geography, culture, gender, social class and age group are relatively similar, two people can find themselves speaking entirely different languages if their professions are different. For example, one of my closest girlfriends is a college professor, and I am in public relations in the technology industry. She once asked me what “close the loop” meant and under what circumstances someone would say it. She had literally never heard the expression! She said that there are certain expressions used in “business” that she and her academic colleagues never use or have never heard of, such as “ping,” “reach out,” and “circle back.” These words make her laugh. I am equally amused by the words she and her academic colleagues regularly use in their field, like “rigorous” and “empirical.” Once you’ve heard the same expressions so many times, you become inured and take for granted that if you know and use these expressions, just about everyone else must know and use them, too.
To people coming from a different background, these in-group and in-vogue expressions sound ridiculous. But if you are part of that in-group, they mark you as being just that to the others who are there. To you, it may sound funny if they use that language, while to them, you may sound funny if you do not. I’ve observed first-hand the mismatch between academic and business language when groups from those respective communities interact, and it really does take them quite some time to figure out what each other are saying.