As part of the internal marketing team here at Oneupweb, I spend some time trying to get the attention of journalists. If you’ve ever worked in PR, you’ll know that that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. That half hour you just spend perfecting an email? It’s getting scanned for something newsworthy, for surprising facts, something to make it an interesting story, and one that will make their readers hit the “share” buttons.
Another part of my job is to on the sales side, and I am often on the receiving end of the kind of emails I send out from the PR side. More often than not, I hit the delete button and move on. Why? Because a lot of the emails I get are completely irrelevant to my industry, are from a company selling a similar service to what we sell here at Oneupweb, or—the worst—a generic email with nothing connecting me to their product, one where the only thing different from email to email is the name at the top.
So I hit delete, which means you go to the trash folder. And that is not where you (or I) want to be. You (and I) want your (my) email to be so compelling, so full of little details that make a journalist’s job easier, that their mouse doesn’t even hover near the delete button, let alone press it.
So how do you make it easy for a journalist to say yes to you?
Maybe you have an awesome interactive graphic the journalist can feature, or a video created for the project, or an infographic. Maybe you have all of these things.
Do you have images that the journalist can use should they choose to run the story? Do you have a press release with more information in it? Do you offer contact details for your company or client’s spokesperson so journalists or editors can speak with a real person?
Conversely, please don’t send a super-short email/release and then say something like, “I have some photos of the product if you want to use them” “I can also get you the details of our expert on this,” or “Let me know if you need anything else.”
Seriously? If you have these things available, give them to the journalist now. They need enough information up front so they can use the article as is, without spending more time reaching out to you.
Journalists are under more pressure than ever to get stories published. They don’t spend all week working on one article, they’re writing multiple articles. This is why it’s so important that you give them everything you think they could possibly need so that they can get on with writing the story instead of replying to your email.
Relationship building 101
Good news: you did your research, you sent the right pitch to the right outlet, and an editor covered your story. But your relationship with that journalist doesn’t stop there. In fact, what you do after is almost as important.
A simple, “Thank you” goes a long way. For whatever reason, manners are dying a slow and painful death. When someone goes out of their way to say “thank you” to me these days, I remember it. It may be sad—but it’s the truth. And if I get a hand-written card I will hang it up and read it over and over. Send the email; write the card—it takes all of 15 seconds and really shows that you noticed and appreciated what they did for you.
Spotting a fake from a mile away
Flattery works when you’re doing blogger outreach. Or, scratch that, genuine flattery works. As a blogger I’ve received way too many emails where the first sentence reads like a positive adjective generator’s been used to say some nice things, first clue that the sender didn’t do any prior research.
Genuine flattery though, works with bloggers and journalists because it’s their hard work that goes into each and every article or blog post. But the key word here is genuine. If you sincerely appreciated an article they wrote for Inc.com, tell them. If you printed their blog post about Google Tips and Tricks and used it as a resource, tell them.
But, that being said, they don’t want to weed through the fluff to find the real purpose of your email—your article. Just get to the point and they’ll appreciate you even more for it.
CC is a Hell no
Do not, I repeat do not send the same email to multiple journalists with all of the other journalists cc’d. Journalists know that you are also pitching the same story to other journalists, and that’s OK. In fact, that is what you should be doing to try and obtain the maximum amount of coverage for your company or client—just take the time to send a separate email to each. Because if you send a blanket email to all journalists you are basically saying, “I’ve done zero research into the kinds of articles you’ve written in the past, and I haven’t tailored any of my pitch to appeal to you or your audience,” which is exactly what you don’t want.
Another tip is to pick the top publications that you want to target and write customized cover letters to each of your contacts there—the extra effort is worth your time.
These are just a few tips that I have learned (some the hard way) throughout the years. What tricks do you have to get the attention of journalists? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s put our heads together—two light bulbs are brighter than one.