As the PR industry grows across the world, the importance of marketing and outreach to bloggers and journalists has risen tremendously. 70% of customers prefer learning about a brand via articles instead of ads, and the number is 80% for business decision-makers.
So it’s important for your brand to reach out to and get coverage from reporters and bloggers. It has also been found that 92% of influencers and journalists prefer email pitches and outreach over other channels.
But whether you want to promote content, pitch guest posts or earn backlinks, your outreach campaign can be successful only with an effective email pitch.
Editors of top blogs and journalists in top publications get hundreds of pitches a day. According to a survey by Adobe, white-collar workers spend an average of 2.5 hours per weekday checking and handling emails.
Since you only have a few seconds to make an impression with your digital outreach, you need to be unique in your approach and pitch the right way. The worst thing you can do is using a generic template you found online, just like everyone else.
In this guide, I’ll share the best outreach campaign steps I have learned over the years working on client projects.
I agree that this approach may be harder to scale and outsource, but your emails will be far more likely to convert than the generic crap you’ve been sending before.
Table of Contents
Build Trust First
Getting a response from an influencer who doesn’t know or trust you is challenging. Regular interactions via social media, done in a genuine manner, can help get you in the door.
If you give something of value, influencers are more likely to return the favor. Social Media, especially Twitter, is heavily used by journalists. In fact, it’s their most important resource for new breaking stories.
As soon as something starts trending on Twitter, it’s sure to capture their attention and become the fodder for more and more news stories.
Start approaching and speaking to your target journalists on social media, ideally 3-4 weeks in advance of your digital outreach. There are a number of ways to get on their radar, before going for the pitch:
- Follow them on social media, share and engage with their posts.
- Post genuine, thoughtful comments on their blog entries.
- Try to help, participate and mention them in relevant threads/conversations.
- Show your support for things they care about.
- Send your thoughts on something you noticed in their profile/activity.
- Give them a free resource, a product or service, that they will find valuable.
- Identify broken links or other issues on their website, then alert them.
- Quote them or link to one of their pages in your content.
- Invite them for an interview/feature them in your podcast or webinar.
This goes a long way in building a foundation for a relationship, which will greatly boost the success of your marketing and outreach.
When you send an email to them after some time, you’ll not be a new name in their inbox. They’ll be familiar with you, and hence more likely to open and act on your email. Warming them up first is far more effective than just sending an email cold.
Engaging Subject Line
The first thing you need to focus on for digital outreach is your email open rate. The language and emoticons you use in your subject line can have a major impact on the extent to which you encourage journalists to open your pitch emails.
Only then you’d be able to get a response, follow up and get your desired outcome from your outreach campaign.
Firstly, you’ll get far more opens if the journalist’s name is in the subject line. A study by Experian found that personalized emails have 29% higher open rates.
Most journalists get hundreds of emails everyday, and seeing their name in the subject line gets their attention.
Also, a study conducted by MailChimp concluded that short, descriptive subject lines are better than clever or cheesy phrases. The subject line must also have a clear indication of what the email is about.
This should be followed by a title - the main data or research that your story covers. Using words like Research, Revealed, Data, Experts etc in this phrase can make a big difference.
When emailing a journalist for example, you can say something like, so he or she knows what to expect when reading the email:
Story Tip for You, Bob: Research Reveals 54% Entrepreneurs Have Business Insurance
Emojis In Subject Line
Emojis in email subject lines have become a common occurrence in marketing and outreach. And it’s obvious that a subject line with emoji catches our attention more than a subject line without one. So the sooner you start using them, the better.
Keep them relevant to the context of your email. If you’re pitching a story about coffee, for example, then use a coffee emoji ☕. A random or general emoji won’t have the same impact.
There are a number of websites which let you use their emojis for free. All you need to do is just copy and paste into the subject line when crafting the email. These include EmojiCopy, CopyAndPasteEmoji, and GetEmoji.
Personalize Email Content
One of the most common digital outreach mistakes people make is to send a generic, templatic or automatic email.
I agree that this approach makes your outreach campaign quick and scalable, but it’s not as effective as manual, personalized outreach.
No matter how clever your marketing and outreach, an influencer can tell a template from a genuine email with a quick glance.
It’s obvious when there is a field or two with specific information that it has been picked up and embedded by a scraper or other software.
I am not saying you shouldn’t try to make your outreach campaigns scalable and I am not against using automation. But there is a fine line between personalization and excessive automation.
You need to make sure there’s enough personalization in your digital outreach for the reader to feel respected and appreciated. Here’s a list of ways to personalize your pitch:
- Use their name in the subject line and content.
- Refer to one of their previous works, with your thoughts on them.
- Explain how you found them/their website.
- Use a specific detail which shows you’re spent more than a few seconds studying their online footprints (website, social profiles, work portfolio etc.)
Show that you have done your research and connect that research with your pitch. Here’s a template you can build upon:
Hi [first name], my name is [name], and I work at [XYZ]. I’ve been a fan of your content on [website] for years now.
In fact, I recently found that your [something you found about them] and it is really inspiring. It helped me [solve a problem]. Kudos to you!
I had a story tip I thought you’d love and was hoping if we can discuss a bit more on [XYZ], which can help both of us [in this way].
If it’s okay with you, I’d love to schedule a call at one of the following time slots:
Hope to hear back from you soon. Thanks for your time.
If it seems like a lot of work, understand that there is no other as effective alternative. Real connections and relationships take real time and effort.
Be Relevant & Helpful
If you have done your research well, you are probably reaching out to the right people; influencers who have something to do with your industry.
But just building a relevant target list is not enough. Try to find out as much as you can about them so you can create an email message which speaks to their needs.
You need to know what type of stories interests them, and what angles have they already published in the past. Whatever your pitch in your digital outreach, it has to be valuable for them and their own audience.
In addition, find ways to help and benefit them. For example, if you are a startup looking for bloggers to review your product, offer them an exclusive free trial or sample that your regular customers don’t have access to.
Other ways to help include fixing an issue on their website, or promoting their latest product or content. It will significantly boost the success rate of your outreach campaigns.
Brief Intro/Proof of Credibility
When an outreach email seems to come from a random gmail account, with no social profiles, website links or any way of getting an idea about who the sender is, how much trust will it generate in the recipient?
So it's important to introduce yourself, with a brief demonstration of value. Mention who you are and why are you reaching out to them. Have a proper signature at the bottom.
If required, just humbly mention your references, sample work or anything else that establishes your credibility. For instance, when emailing potential clients, I always like to mention other clients I have worked with.
If it’s a guest posting outreach, I refer to previous guest posts published on other authority websites. For example, after you have introduced yourself and establish some commonality, you can say something like:
Here are a few sample posts I contributed elsewhere, so you can get a quick sense of my work.
1. [post title+link] + [publication] + [social shares]
2. [post title+link] + [publication] + [social shares]
Thanks for your time, and I look forward to our collaboration.
If you have been covered by other influencers in the same niche before, it makes you more trustworthy and likely to get more coverage.
However, while it’s important to give a brief description and context in your digital outreach, don’t talk too much about yourself. Keep the focus on them. Bonus points if you can find something common between you and them to build a deeper rapport.
Coloring Text In Email Content
I highly recommend that you start using colors in your email outreach campaign, in order to different one part of text from another.
This makes it even easier to quickly understand and find what a journalist may look for. Here’s a great example from a blog post by Shannon McGuirk.
Bob, I have a story that you might be interested in.
New Data Reveals 69% of XYZ are Obese
Here are the key points from the story:
- Point 1: Blah Blah
- Point 2: Blah Blah
- Point 3 Blah Blah
On getting this type of email, a journalist’s mind will already start to analyze how he can use this data to craft a story for his audience.
3-5 Bullet Points
As you can see in the above example, it’s best to capture 3-5 main ideas from your story as bullet points. Journalists are busy. Don’t make them hunt for important information.
Your key stats should be as easy to find as possible. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Write to the point.
Specific Call To Action
Imagine getting an email from someone and reading it till the end, but still not knowing what the sender wants from you?
Your email message should clearly state what you are asking from the recipient, and how it benefits both of you.
If you’re seeking to contribute a guest post on their blog, for example, highlight that they’ll be getting a high quality piece of content for free, or an example of how your previous guest posts on other websites have performed.
In fact, go even further and assure them that you’ll respond to comments and how you will help with promotion too once the content is published, like by spending a specific budget on advertising or linking back to it from your guest posts elsewhere.
Additional Info Near The End
Many times just a single link or key stats are not enough to provide more details and all the other material a journalist may need.
This can include your brand’s press kit, shared files and more. So you can include this content when signing off to show that the details are available if/when needed.
Adhere To Editor Guidelines
Guidelines and rules are there for a purpose: to make the digital outreach easy and efficient for both parties. Guidelines are also useful to gauge if the blogger you are reaching out to is a right fit for your content or brand promotion.
In fact, many publications also go as far as to give you specific details on when you should expect to hear back, how much you may need to wait and what to do when haven’t heard from them. Don’t miss out on this valuable information.
Don’t Make Them Work
Whatever the objective of your outreach campaign, it should be as easy for them as possible to take the action you want them to take.
For example, it’s not there job to tell you the topics they want to cover or publish. It’s up to you to suggest based on the research you did on their work. You can say something like:
I was wondering if you’re open to contributions. I’ve also studied your work and come up with a few suggestions for topics that have high chance of resonating with your audience.
If you’re submitting content as part of digital outreach, it should be ready to publish from your side with no rework: links should be in place, image sizes optimized for the web, author bio and press kit attached as required, and so on.
This point needs no elaboration. But I am including it anyway for the sake of completion.
I am sure you know the importance of accurate structure, spelling and grammar in your emails. Mistakes in language reflect poorly not just on your outreach, but also on the reputation of your name and your brand.
If you can be that careless about your pitch, it will make the email reader wonder about the quality of your work in other areas too.
Multitasking and deadlines are part and parcel of any work environment today. So depending on their schedule, it is possible that an influencer may forget to notice or respond to your digital outreach.
Inboxes get jammed up quickly and distractions are plenty. So it’s essential to follow up. As revealed by an outreach case study, following up is so important around 50% of responses that you get are a result of following up.
First and foremost, you should check a publication’s guidelines (if available) to check if there are any rules on when you should follow up. If there are none, the ideal time to wait it 4-5 days.
If you don’t get a response to your outreach campaign within this time frame, you must follow up. However, remember to be short and to the point. Don’t try to add more details into the mix if they don’t add any special value.
Also, it’s it’s okay to follow up once or twice, but don’t go beyond that or you’ll risk coming across as spammy or desperate.
Improve Your Workflow
As you can guess from all the above best practices, running an effective outreach campaign can be a time consuming process, if done entirely manually. So some level of automation can really make you more efficient and speed up the results.
There are a number of digital outreach tools available to suit your workflow. And the good news is that most of them have free trials with which you can test them out before buying a subscription.
An outreach tool can help you easily build your target list, find publications and contact information, send emails and follow ups, as well as track the performance of your marketing outreach.
So there are my digital outreach tactics that will help you supercharge your marketing outreach campaigns.
As you do more and more marketing and outreach, you’ll start getting a feel for what works best in terms of applying these outreach tactics.
In addition, you should also keep testing the various variables of your pitch so you have real data to get insights from.
It’s simple math. The more effort you put into making your digital outreach campaigns more personalized and effective, the better results and relationships you will get with bloggers.
Or you can just outsource everything to a blogger outreach services provider to take care of the entire process for you.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.