An unsolicited marketing email can feel like a bad pickup line. You know the feeling: there you are, minding your own business, when out of the blue an unwanted, unappealing, awkwardly worded email appears in your inbox. Maybe you feel obligated to respond politely, but honestly, it feels more like an imposition than an opportunity.
It’s not pretty.
Don’t be that guy (or gal) when it comes to connecting with the media. Step up your media outreach game with these simple—but often overlooked—tips.
1. Be Relevant
Do your research, then target and personalize your pitches accordingly. Make sure your information is actually relevant to the outlet or person you’re contacting. Don’t send a press release about a new app to a fashion publication (unless it’s the next Polyvore, of course!), or promote a book to a movie review site.
Once you’ve selected media outlets that are a good match for your pitch, identify the individuals at each one who would be most responsive. This will probably not be the CEO. Hunt their website for a “submit news” link, editorial calendar, or masthead identifying where to send which types of queries.
2. Follow the Rules
If the outlet you are reaching provides contact guidelines, follow them to the letter. The rules are there for a reason, and not following them may result in your information getting misplaced or thrown out entirely.
3. Be Interesting and Personable
Spend some time refining your text to make it shine. Media contacts get the same boilerplate press releases and emails over and over, so make your text stand out from the crowd. Play to your strengths: share some facts about your product or company that are unique and compelling, and ones that prove there’s a viable hook to your story. If you have previous press, include links. When appropriate, find a (genuine) human interest element to your information.
Make your text grab attention even without any images, attachments, or other bells and whistles—these are often stripped from emails by overcautious spam filters.
Make your email as easy for the reader to process as possible: use bullet points, concise language, and short paragraphs. Remember that your email or submission is only one of many your contact will receive—keep it short and sweet.
Put your most important information in the body of your email, and minimize attachments. Not only is your recipient unlikely to open a bunch of attachments, they may trigger their email security system and relegate your email to the black hole of the spam folder.
5. Build Relationships Over Time
Follow industry influencers and journalists on social media long before you expect to approach them with a pitch. Cultivate a relationship by sharing, liking, or thoughtfully commenting on their social media postings or content.
Make this process even more convenient by creating a narrowed-down list of industry-specific profiles you can check and engage with in just a few minutes a day (without scrolling through your entire Twitter feed).
6. Cast a Wide Net
Find contacts at a variety of outlets by exploring a wide range of networks. LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are great places to start. Tools like Klout, Klear, BuzzSumo, and Topsy can help you identify influencers in your industry. These are good accounts to follow to keep up with news in your field, whether or not you wind up reaching out to them.
7. Don’t Facebook Stalk
Private lives are private. Stick to work-related accounts rather than searching out personal social media profiles and sending messages there. Messaging a media contact at their non-work profile is intrusive (and a little creepy). Remember your manners and professional boundaries.
8. Follow Up Thoughtfully
A follow-up email or phone call, particularly if you have something new to add to your story or an additional resource to offer, may increase your story’s chances of being picked up. That said, there is such a thing as too much follow-up. At a certain point, you have to accept that your recipient isn’t interested in your news (or perhaps your contact info is out of date). Don’t be too pushy.
Just because an outlet doesn’t respond this time doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the future. They may be swamped, or your story may not be the right thing at the right time. The next time you have a press release or other information to share, try again. You can also reach out when a good opportunity—a related anniversary or holiday, a relevant current event—arises.
9. Be Patient
It takes time to cultivate fruitful relationships with contacts. In the best-case scenario, your relationship with a media contact is symbiotic, with both of you benefitting: you gain visibility, they get a great quote or story. But that type of dynamic only develops with time and dedicated effort, and ideally, you will be building many of these relationships. Be prepared to put in the time and plan for long-term results.
10. Be Realistic, But Plan to Scale
When you’re just beginning to publicize your company or product, start small: try industry blogs, local newspapers, news channels, and the like. Big-name, national news outlets are unlikely to be interested in your unknown product or service.
As you research appropriate outlets, make note of any you come across that would make a good secondary step. Every little bit of press will help you to gain the exposure (and experience dealing with the media) needed to scale up your efforts in the future.
Remember: skip the bad pickup line. Play to your strengths. Be polite and remember boundaries. Don’t be pushy. Have realistic expectations. Many of the rules for meeting a new potential romantic partner also qualify for introducing yourself and your pitch to someone in the media.
After all, you’re trying to present yourself (and your company) in the best light possible and exploring whether this might make a good partnership. It can be a daunting prospect to undertake, but hang in there: a little finesse can go a long way.
What other strategies have you found effective when reaching out to the media? Let us know in the comments below!