Take a minute and think about all of the work emails you received today. Chances are that many of them were from people you know. Co-workers, customers, existing vendors, and the like. You probably read and perhaps responded to many, if not all of these emails. Now think about all of the emails you received from people you had never heard of before. Did you open all of them? Some of them? Any of them? If you are like most folks you have a quick trigger finger on the delete key for an unsolicited email from unrecognized names. Sure, once in a great while, a subject line might be powerful enough to earn a click, but I bet if you look at your unread deleted messages, most of them are from strangers.
If you are sending mass email pitches to journalists, you are the stranger. There’s a good chance that your carefully crafted email has joined a bunch of others in the discard pile.
The way to turn this around is to develop a relationship with your media contacts that moves you from the stranger zone to their sphere of trusted contacts. Here are some good ways to do just that.
Connect When You Don’t Need Anything
Imagine you went on a first date and your date asked to borrow $10. I suspect that would put you off a bit, even if you would have no problem lending a long-time co-worker ten bucks. That’s sort of what is like if the first thing a journalist ever hears from you is, “Hey would you cover my story?” Instead of reaching out when you need something, connect with the contact before you begin pitching. Follow them on social media and comment on the stories they publish. People love to get retweets and direct messages with positive comments. You can eventually pitch stories on social, but this will also make it so your name rings a bell when they see it in their email inbox.
Journalists need more than just brand-centric pitches all of the time. You can become a valuable, trusted resource by providing relevant statistics, trends, industry events, and other information to your media contacts outside the context of a pitch or a brand message. The goal is to do everything you can to make your contact’s job a little easier.
Get Together IRL
Human connections happen faster and go much deeper when people meet face-to-face (that’s how we evolved, after all). It may not be possible to get in front of every media contact, but the more the better. We’re not talking about a press tour for your latest product or a chance to drop off a media kit. What we are recommending is to take every chance you can get to just chat with the reporter or blogger and get to know them better. What are their interests inside and outside of the office? How do they like to get more information? A nice conversation over lunch or a drink might give you the insight you need to create a more meaningful bond.
Never Send Generic Pitches
Mass emailed, generic pitches are not only ineffective, but they can also damage the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build. Instead, only send a brand-related story idea to the specific journalists who write about the topic at hand. Include references to the writer’s other works or explain why it might be specifically relevant to them. If there is a local angle or a publication specific angle, be sure to leverage it to make your pitch stronger.
Do the Legwork
Even if you do get the right pitch to the right reporter, your story can go untold if it requires too much work on the part of your contact to turn it into a publishable asset. If you want to become a journalist’s best friend, be sure to provide all of the back -up facts, quotes, and images necessarily to tell the story. You can take it over the top if you also provide less common artifacts like video and infographics. What you are creating is a package that the reporter can easily turn into a story. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the fact that you’ve done most of the work?
Above all, the most important thing to remember is that journalists and other media contacts are people just like you. They get busy and overwhelmed. They are concerned about doing excellent work and are attracted to people who help them succeed. Don’t be a drain on their time and energy, instead be a partner. When you are ready to ask for coverage, they’ll be happy to listen.
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