By now, you should be familiar with ways of finding bloggers, influencers and journalists in your niche, along with the tools and channels to start facilitating engagement. Email is the most common way of alerting targets to your brand’s presence and content. This lesson will explain how to craft successful outreach emails in order to increase your response rate.
Social Before Email
Journalists receive hundreds of ‘cold’ emails a day from firms desperate for PR coverage. They usually block out an hour before and after work to sift through pitches, which means they aren’t checking their inboxes around the clock and your email might get lost in the avalanche. Journalists and editors are, however, constantly active on Twitter.
Therefore it makes sense to engage with them here first in order to build up rapport. Retweet their articles or compliment their work before tweeting them from your personal (not brand!) account. Provide a teaser for your content, and ask them permission to send them an email. They will appreciate the courtesy.
Topsy is a great way of monitoring your targets’ social media activity, and for a one-off purchase of £179, BuzzBundle, pictured below, allows you to participate in conversations across multiple social media channels on a single interface.
Note: It is only really important to use social media before pitching journalists.
Email Outreach for Guest Blogging
We have discussed guest blogging as a method for link building and increasing referral traffic. Outreach has been scaled, automated and abused by SEO agencies, so editors and webmasters tend to be very sceptical about ulterior motives when reading pitches.
Sam Miranda, content strategist at RightCasino.com, delivered a presentation where he outlines his tactics for guest blogging around the gambling niche. His approach has seen him secure guest posts on authority sites such Moz, Gamasutra and The Bleacher Report. Here is an example of one of his successful outreach emails:
What we Learned…
From here, we can establish 10 best practice guidelines:
1) Pitch as a writer, journalist or a fellow editor, not as a link builder, outreach executive or anyone on behalf of an SEO agency.
2) Establish your credibility by positioning yourself as an authority. Do this by describing your previous experience and linking to published examples of your work.
3) Be specific about the content you’re pitching, and provide a brief synopsis.
4) Explain why your content is timely, and relevant to the website’s readership.
5) Where possible, personalise your pitch. Try and find the name of the editor, and comment on some of his/her previous work.
6) Provide a reason for offering your content (you want to broaden your portfolio, help consumers get to grips with a new product etc)
7) Ideally, write the content and include it as an attachment. This shows your commitment.
8) Ensure that your signature contains all your contact details (email, telephone, Skype).
9) Do not mention the word ‘link’.
10) Do not mention the words ‘guest post’.
Email Outreach to Journalists
Pitching your company story or product to journalists is the most difficult pitch of all. Journalists are busy, often under-paid and pretty judgemental. A study by iAcquire and BuzzStream puts industry average content placement rates at 4.8% for males, and 4.5% for emails. That means, on average, you’ll have to send out a minimum of 20 tailored pitches in order to receive a single bit of media coverage.
Paul Sawers from The Next Web has produced a great guide, entitled ‘A Startup’s Guide to Getting Coverage’. In it, he includes the perfect email pitch template:
From here, we can establish 10 best practice guidelines:
1) Approach the journalist through social media first, asking for their permission to send an email.
2) Keep the subject line under 55 characters, and make sure it references the story. You don’t want to be misleading.
3) Be short and concise. The email body shouldn’t really be more than 200 words.
4) Explain why your content is mutually beneficial. Is it news? Is shocking, inspiring or educational?
5) Avoid buzzwords such as ‘unique’ and ‘revolutionary’. Journalists don’t want sales patter.
6) Don’t overload your email with attachments such as press releases. If the journalist wants to know more, they will be in touch.
7) Create an emotional hook to induce a response; this should come in the form of offering first refusal. It creates urgency, and journalists love an exclusive.
8) If you’re using a product such as BuzzStream, you can create multiple email templates, and track the performance of each.
9) Always leave your full contact details at the end of the email.
10) Try and forge a relationship with the journalist through HARO, Response Source or MuckRack.
The Softly-Softly Approach
In the email template above, you’re essentially selling your brand’s product or content.
You can enjoy similar success, however, by selling your personal expertise to a journalist. This can translate into brand references and links further down the line. This approach doesn’t require inspirational content or a ground-breaking product, simply your willingness to pick the phone or go and meet them in person. Here’s a fantastic email template developed by Matt Ackerson at Petovera.
This template is clever because it starts by praising the journalist’s recent work (ego-baiting), before positioning yourself as an authority and a potential source for a future article. When suggesting a tip, make sure you reference something interesting or divisive. The email ends with a confident call to action, without sounding too pushy or desperate.
Being Ignored? Try These 5 Steps
Outreach requires patience and perseverance – you will have to send out a significant volume of personalised emails to receive a content placement. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t receive a response; instead follow these steps:
1) Always send at least one follow-up email, ideally a week later
2) Add your target on LinkedIn. In fact, you should do this before you send your email.
3) Get on the phone! It’s more effective than email for building rapport.
4) Offer to meet a journalist face to face. It’s worth it if they are from the BBC, Forbes etc.
5) Try snail mail or ‘creating a mystery’ – techniques outlined by Distilled’s Rob Toledo.