Our email accounts are a sacred space, constantly under the threat of unwelcome intrusion from unknown sources. We have become increasingly suspicious of any non-familiar messages that make their way past our spam filter. No one likes receiving a barrage of unsolicited emails. This is especially true for reporters, who receive countless emails every single day from PR pros (like me) all across the country, all vying for that one coveted article placement. How can you make sure your article is seen and considered by the reporter? Through personalization.
Ask yourself, which of these headlines would you be more willing to open: “Big Expansion Announcement,” or “Hi [Reporter’s Name], Did You Know There’s a Huge Expansion Announcement Taking Place in Your Hometown?” Chances are, you’re more likely to open the second one, because it has a more personal feel to it and suggests outside research has been done.
It’s part of a reporter’s job to receive tons of pitches every day. In fact, we PR pros help reporters do their jobs by offering them relevant news to write about, but no one said they have to read our pitches and/or give our stories placement. Throughout my career, I’ve had countless pitch emails go unanswered. I’ve even basically been told to back off by reporters. Instead of getting frustrated or engaging in an email brawl, I reconsider my strategy.
One thing we at NRPR Group pride ourselves on is the use of personalized pitches. Basically, this means that before any pitch is sent to a reporter, our team does thorough research on the outlet, the reporter, their prior coverage and subject matter, their hobbies, their interests, (their pets) and more! The subject lines of emails and the pitches themselves always address the reporter by first name, so there is no question on their end that we meant to contact them, specifically. We’ll be sure to have read and become familiar with their previous work, so we can find a strong source of interest in connecting them to our clients.
After implementing this strategy, I immediately noticed a significant spike in replies I’d receive from reporters. Many have thanked me for taking the time to go the extra step and include their past work. A reporter, like anyone else, wants to be seen as a human, not as a means to an end. This personalized process has made such a difference in building relationships with media that one reporter at Good Housekeeping even told me that I should “teach a class in PR!” I must say, that is definitely something that will be forever remembered throughout my professional career.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve definitely had reporters pass on my pitches since practicing this, but at least they took the time to tell me so (versus outright ignoring me, as often happens in the PR world). Another benefit is that the reporter is now an engaged contact, whom I can reach out to at a later date with story ideas that may be more in-line with what they prefer to write about.
The last thing you want a reporter to do is assume your email pitch is spam. No one likes spam. Don’t be that spam man. By adding a touch of personalization, you’re showing the reporter that there’s an actual human behind the e-mail – one who has done real research and is here to help the reporter get a great story. That is the bread and butter of relationship building. The dessert is when they decide to write the story based on how you’ve served it up to them! Three parties win here: the reporter, the client, and you, for having done your job consciously and well.
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