The digital age has spawned new methods of obtaining press coverage. Gone are the days of opening a rolodex and calling a few reporters in the hopes of obtaining an article in The New York Times.
Unfortunately, the digital age has also caused many to forget a key point about public relations – it’s all about the relationship!
Hell, even the name says it all (“relations”). So, next time you begin a media outreach campaign, keep this in mind. No one owes you anything. You’re not special and journalists really don’t care about you.
If you keep in mind that you are one of millions of others seeking press, you will start to do better at picking up the coverage. Building a relationship is the key.
Again, It’s All About Quality
One thing in common with all successful marketing plans is that they focus on quality. I write about this all the time but some people still don’t seem to get the point.
Just a few years ago, the best way to maximize your marketing efforts was to saturate the internet with your message. This meant you sent out a ton of press releases, created a huge number of backlinks (even irrelevant links), and spammed more people through email than the population of California.
The focus has always been on quantity which is a huge mistake. Times have changed and so is the way you need to approach marketing.
According to PR Daily, “enhance quality with quantity, and you’ve got measurement that matters.”
Quality is now the key. Those who don’t realize that are destined to fail!
So what does this have to do with press coverage? Let me show you.
You can see by the above screenshot that this is about the most generic outreach email in the history of public relations. This email was likely sent out to hundreds (if not thousands) of freelance writers and journalists.
Let me ask you this. If you were a journalist and received that email, how interested would you be in giving them coverage?
The only press coverage likely obtained by the above email was receiving a screenshot in this article. Think about that one for a minute!
Many PR companies do this. They know that playing the percentages in a digital world is a good way to obtain press coverage. If you send out a thousand of these emails, you may pick up one or two pieces of coverage. Sounds easy except for the fact that it takes time to build a list of 1,000 writers and many will simply unsubscribe if they receive too many of these spammy coverage requests.
So now on to quality. Again, this is all about relationships. You need to have a quality outreach email that talks personally to the writer. I am not simply talking about addressing them by name, but about talking to them personally so they know you are not just sending a template.
Finally, remember that the better the relationship your email builds, the fewer you will have to send. If you are able to get more of a response from fewer emails, you will make your job easier.
Tips for Writing Better Outreach Emails
If you want to get media coverage, you need to start with a great outreach email. Here are a few things to keep in mind and a few examples of good ones that I have received.
- Have a catchy headline – no-one will even open the email if you don’t have a catchy headline. There are so many articles out there about how to write a good email headline so I will not rehash it here.
- Address a specific person, not a company – the one thing I hate is receiving an outreach email that says “Dear Legalmorning” or “Hi everyone at Legalmorning.” As with all outreach emails, if you don’t know my name, why the hell are you even emailing me?
- Make it personal – there is more than just using someone’s name in an email. You need to put something in there to show that you did more than just put their name in an email template. Put something personal such as “I loved your recent post in XYZ Magazine about entrepreneurship.” That way the recipient knows you are doing more than just spamming everyone.
- Tell them what you want – don’t brag about who you are or who you represent. Just be direct with the recipient. Tell them why you are reaching out to them. No need to write a long-winded email when all the recipient wants to know is why you are emailing them.
- What’s in it for them – always tell the person you are reaching out to what they will be receiving. If it’s access to an expert, say so. If it is an exclusive story, say that as well. Writers are not going to give you publicity simply because you ask for it. There needs to be something in it for them. (Note – do NOT offer monetary compensation unless you are contacting a publication for native advertising).
While I could likely add a few more things to keep in mind, these are the five main points that will increase your likelihood of getting press coverage.
Now, I am not going to give you a template to use for media outreach.
Because you shouldn’t be using one.
If you employ the examples I showed you above, each email will be personable. Coupled with quality emails, you won’t have to worry about the “quantity” of shot-gunning out as many emails as you can.
So, what happens when you don’t get a response? Follow up.
What happens when you get a rejection? Still maintain the relationship.
Help Them Out, Even if They Don’t Help You
If a writer or journalist is unable to help you out with coverage, that doesn’t mean the relationship is over. This means that it is only just getting started.
Instead of getting mad and removing them from your contact list, email them regularly to compliment on a story they wrote (without pitching them of course). Make sure you also connect with them on LinkedIn and they will be notified of your activity such as work anniversaries and each time you share a post.
Start sharing their content through your social media channels, tagging them in each one so they are aware.
“One of the easiest things to do is to become a fan of relevant journalists first,” notes Cision, one of the world’s largest public relations software firms. “And of course, you can also show your support for the writer’s content by sharing it (as appropriate) through your social distribution channels and by email.”
By doing these things, you don’t look like a leech. You are actually helping them without seeking anything in return. You are building a relationship that may not pay off today, but will in the near future.
Finally, be sincere with helping them out. I do this for a lot of writers. In the beginning the only reason I did it was hoping they would help me in the future. Now, I do it because I truly enjoy it. Just seeing them “like” something on social media that I shared (a story they wrote), is good enough for me. Yes, I wouldn’t mind if they are able to help me in the future; but, if not, I still enjoy sharing their content.
Good Public Relations Companies Already Have the Contacts
Good public relations companies have already built these relationships over the years. They have done everything I have described herein and more. They don’t just send out thousands of emails, they actually have specific journalists and writers they can reach out to in order to pitch a story.
Next time you are looking at spending thousands of dollars with a PR firm, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Ask them how they go about obtaining coverage. Do they send out emails to everyone or do they actually know journalists and freelancers who write for major publications? Do they know anyone personally over at The New York Times or do they simply send an email through the website’s contact form?
A firm that can get things done will likely tell you they “know a few writers” at a specific publication or that they have a “journalist in mind” they think would be a good fit for a story. These are the type of responses that should make you comfortable, knowing there is a relationship with the firm and you will likely see a return on your investment.
Guest writer for Entrepreneur, Jane Porter, also has a good article on questions to ask a PR firm, including how they measure success and industry experience.
Of course, not all companies can afford publicity. If you plan to go it alone, make sure to study up on how PR firms measure success so that you know if you are actually obtaining a benefit for your time.
Always Keep Relationships in Mind with Media Outreach
The main point of this article is that you need to establish relationships. Without them, you are small fish in a big pond and it’s unlikely you will obtain the coverage you desire.
If you are doing your own media outreach, build relationships through more personal emails. Help out writers even if they don’t help you out and don’t be discouraged if someone declines to give you coverage.
If hiring a firm to do your outreach for you, make sure they have specific people they can pitch stories to, not just send out random emails hoping to obtain coverage. These are the types of relationships that can secure press coverage.
What do you do for relationship building with journalists and freelance writers?