With any endeavor you start, recognition is probably the most critical thing.
It’s as simple as that: you, your blog or company, an app or service you’ve launched just can’t be a success if people haven’t ever heard of them. Your friends and family can’t be the only customers, right?
Of course, you can wait for the popularity to grow organically, and chances are actually high that after gaining critical mass, this something-you-want-to-promote will eventually boom. But if waiting for too long, the market and customer needs may change leaving you behind. On the other hand, gaining quick and tangible results by spending tons on marketing and advertising might not be an option for startups and entrepreneurs in the budget mode.
The golden mean will be PR and guerrilla activities – these will cost you nothing or a little and still have impact if done right, of course. One of the things ANYONE can do to get publicity is to reach out to influencers and try to show off a product or news. We at Everhour love pitching: it’s free and it can be really effective. A properly composed email sent to the right person seriously works wonders.
I guess the concept of “properly composed” is different for different industries and purposes – you don’t pitch a new dog clothes brand the same way as bank accounting software. But there are a few general guidelines to apply to make your email more likely to be read till the end and replied.
1. Find a reporter’s personal email address
Don’t go for [email protected] or [email protected]. I know they usually say your message will reach one of the editors or reporters and it probably will, but I prefer to contact a specific person instead of an abstract community. If you choose a particular reporter, it means you’ve done your homework and researched the sphere of his/her interest and now shares a targeted piece of information.
If you can’t find a personal email on the site, make a little investigation. If they mention a reporter’s Twitter account in the bio, check it and see if he/she have other blogs or projects listed because those may include emails as well. And never underestimate Google 🙂
In case your inner Holmes hasn’t made it, don’t give up and try to guess the email. It’s actually not as hard as you may think. The desired address usually comes down to [email protected], so play with combinations like john.smith, j.smith, johnsmith and google each of your guessings (don’t forget to put addresses in quotes for accurate results).
There are dedicated services providing media contacts databases such as MyMediaInfo, for example. This one is paid, and if you’re looking for free options, I suggest giving MuckRack a try. It has paid pro accounts as well, but you can totally go with free subscription and still be able to browse through media outlets and journalists’ bios. Not each of them contains an email but you’ll get links to all the social accounts which doesn’t hurt 🙂
2. Greet a person by name
This one is probably nothing new as it’s been said by lots of people in many articles, but I’ve included this point anyway. Calling a person by name next to loads of “hey-there” emails is the first step to winning a reporter over.
3. Make a connection
In theory, you can jump to accolades on your product right from the start, and that may even work for journalists with a distinct time-is-money approach. However, others can find such behavior too straightforward or intrusive and give you thumbs down. And we don’t want that, don’t we?
So try to build a bridge connecting introduction with your actual news for smooth transition. You can do it by mentioning a website a person writes for, his/her blog posts or articles you’ve come across, people who have referred to this person or anything that will fit in your particular case.
4. A little praise goes a long way
Boost your karma and let people know how good they are at what they are doing: blogging, covering news, coaching, etc. Firstly, it will add more to the right attitude of your addressee and secondly, the fact that you’ve chosen a person who is (in your opinion) an expert means you’re a professional yourself and don’t seek for second-rate solutions.
As for the wording, you can incorporate praise in the connection part or separate these in two lexical units.
5. Show your trump card
Make it clear on how your solution is different from similar ones and what is great about it. Don’t save the specialty for later and brag right now, right here. You might not simply have a second chance, so put your modesty aside. A journalist should get confident that what you’re talking about is by all means worth covering.
6. Be specific
Generalization is not your friend here. It’s important that your state clearly what you expect from your addressee: review your product, feature your website on the main website page, meet with you, etc. A person you’re writing to is probably a well-known journalist, editor or media person and hardly has time for guessing games. You should wrap up information in such a way that he/she only needs to agree or disagree (though agree is certainly preferred 🙂 ).
Being specific also applies to details, e.g. if you say you love a person’s articles, name a few of them to show that you’ve actually read them. If you want to arrange a meeting, include the exact day and time and a person will be more likely to accept the invitation.
7. The last but not the least is a tip that can actually override the previous ones and it’s about being yourself.
While information flows and amount of content become almost infinite, one of the best ways to stand out is with your unique personality. Nobody cancels the human factor, and it’s ok if you get a publication because of an incredible sense of humor instead of perfect technical characteristics of your software.
And now tell me, do you use these tips yourself? In your opinion, what is the most important rule to follow in emails/pitches?