So, you'd like a journalist to notice your work and give it his or her valuable time and consideration, then produce something that brings you value.
Quick background: besides being a marketing professional, I've also been a journalist. I know for a fact that journalists are people too. Therefore, it is very likely that they, too, want their work to be noticed and for people to give their writing valuable time and consideration. And, ideally, to get something of value themselves.
Let’s begin here. One, you know your audience is another person with similar wants. Two, you already know what your first step should be if you really want your product to get reviewed: invest some time in getting to know the person you will approach.
5 Simple Steps to Start a Conversation with a Journalist
1. Open the website you want to contact (and ask for a review, connection, meeting, etc.) and try to get an idea of which topics it covers. Your goal is to recognize the publication’s priorities, which will inform how you can best approach them.
2. Find reviews or coverage similar to what you hope to achieve and learn something about the authors. Often, it might be the same person covering your topic—that's your guy (or gal).
3. Read what your guy/gal has written, and be sure to give the journalist’s content the same respect you expect to receive. One thing journalists get a lot, and have learned to discern, is people pretending they read their work to gain their favor—they don't care for that. Read until you find something you want to comment on and perhaps even add valuable input.
4. Google the author(s) until you find an email, Twitter handle or any reliable contact information.
5. Write them an insightful, kind email, tweet or article comment (yes, they read those) that doesn't mention anything about your product or reviews—unless it is really relevant.
What an Outreach Email Shouldn't Look Like
Here’s an example of what not to do:
I want to present our new [object of devotion]. We have just released the [cat's whiskers] and we're trying to reach the [people whose trust you've probably earned with years of work and personal integrity] community. We wanted to know if [my fantastic new thing] will be suitable for an article or review on the [where you likely earn your livelihood] website?
You can find press kit information attached, including [things you never asked for as well as some shiny stuff you didn't ask for].
Thanks in advance and looking forward to your response!
That Thing I Did That's Awesome
Available on the App Store
There are no grammar mistakes in this email and the tone is appropriate, so what's wrong with it?
* It is obviously a template that has been mass sent to many more sites, showing no personal investment. What's more, this can be considered disrespectful. So instead of writing to maximize your chances of getting a response in the rare occasion they do read your email, you are knowingly risking this opportunity to earn their attention by also possibly offending them.
* It talks only about things that are important to the sender (and not the journalist).
* It doesn't try in any way to relate to the actual, real person it is addressed to
* It makes a big ask: the time to read it, the time to get familiar with your product, the time to evaluate how amazing your product really is and possibly the time to respond.
* At the same time, it doesn't offer anything of obvious value (they still don't know if your product is worth their time).
* It doesn't make it clear at all why your product is interesting in any way.
* If there is a pitch of your product in the email, make it compelling. If you are too lazy to make a strong case for the best features of your products and specify how your products bring value to customers, why would the journalist be more motivated than you to do so?
What an Outreach Email with a Strong Chance for Success Looks Like
The previous email was grammatically sound, but missed the mark in several instances when it came to actually encouraging a response from the recipient. So how can you address these deficiencies?
* Never use a template with zero personalization. Ever. For anything. This doesn't work for motivational letters, it doesn't work for love letters and it will likely not work for letters asking a favor of a complete stranger. Even if you reuse parts of the email, always start with something very personal that’s targeted at the specific recipient.
* Introduce yourself in a way that will increase your credibility and authority to them—for example, by demonstrating you're an expert in an area they are interested in ("Hi, I work in mobile gaming and my recent research into creating a polished UI led me to several of your articles").
* Start the email with something your research showed is important to the author—for example, a thoughtful, useful comment about something he or she wrote or a topic you see the writer frequently cover. A measured compliment may not be entirely out of place, e.g. "After reading your review of Platform X, I definitely started looking at it with new eyes. Still, I think your comparison with Platform Y was not entirely fair because [something], and I think Platform Z is actually a much better analogy because [something that makes sense]."
* Your only ask in this first email is for them to respond to your thoughtful feedback. That is the open door you're waiting for to (eventually) gracefully pitch your product.
* Besides providing an insightful comment, consider offering your expertise. Good journalists often maintain a network of professionals they can consult when they are writing something a little more in-depth.
Let’s apply the tips above to craft a better email:
This is in response to your excellent article on [Excellent Article’s Headline].
In it, you give a complete overview of the possible ways to [do something].
I'd like to add to your list of solutions [Solution X}, which is already used in a number of online services. One interesting Solution X case study is in...
[More meaningful information as needed]
My team and I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Moreover, we would be happy to contribute our team's expert knowledge into any future article you may be working on regarding [our area of expertise].
And still, many people will not respond. All you need is one positive response, though, and things will become much easier the second time around. You'll have your base.
So once a person responds, consider this your window of opportunity: reply within a day to them, addressing what they wrote back to you first, then make a very short and impressive intro to your product by pointing out the most amazing things about it. Keep it simple—no more than three key features. Then, ask if respondents would be interested in learning more about your product or service.
A Last Note on Logistics
Sending the email to the default firstname.lastname@example.org has an extremely small chance of success. The life of a journalist is hard, and that of an editor is even harder. They get an insane number of informational emails and pitches. Unless you are giving them breaking news, why should they single you out? Your best bet is writing directly to the specific author you think would be interested in your product.