This is Day 14 of our new series: 30 days to a better online reputation. Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a single important lesson!

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde

repped-day14As someone who has been blogging for over 10 years, I’m still shocked by the number of horrible press pitches I receive each and every day from supposedly public relations professionals. They often start out like this:

“Dear Blogger,

We know you write about the widget industry and thought you might be interested in the latest announcement from John Doe, CEO of Acme Widgets. He has just announced…

I use the fictional “John Doe” name because most press pitches are practically dead on arrival in my email inbox. No personal salutation, no attempt to show they actually read my blog, and who the heck is this CEO anyway? Why should I care what he just announced?

When you consider just how important a news article or blog post can be to your online reputation, you’d think PR pros would do a better job of their initial outreach. Well, you’re going to learn how to build buzz for your reputation. You’re going to learn a better way to conduct your blogger and journalist outreach.

Blogger outreachBuild a press list

On day 6, you took steps to identify influential bloggers and journalists covering your industry. If you’ve not already done so, build a list of those who you think might eventually have an interest in you and what you have to tell them. Use your social media monitoring tools to track articles and blog posts that specifically mention your competitors or your industry in general. While it’s tempting to build out a list using journalists who appear to have the largest audience, focusing on The Wall Street Journal caliber writers is not always the best approach. They’re often too busy and too focused on Fortune 1000 size companies to write about what you or your organization is working on.

Instead, pay attention to the niche bloggers and trade journalists who seem to cover your industry or have written about one of your competitors in the past. You should even Google the name of one of the companies they’ve written about previously and see if their article shows up on the first page of search results. That’s a publication that can help you most with your reputation efforts!

Follow them

The next step is to follow them via any social media channel they appear to be the most active. Even if their centers of influence are not perfectly aligned with yours—they are popular on Twitter, but that’s not your main focus—follow them anyway. You’ll learn a lot about the stories they like to cover, the angles that appear to get their attention, or the type of pitches they most complain about.

After a few weeks of getting to know these people, start sharing what they publish. Tweet their latest article. Share their blog post on one of your social networks. You’ll accomplish two things. First, you’ll get on their radar in the best way possible—you’re helping them to share what they’ve written—and second, you’re sharing interesting and valuable content that your own network will appreciate. A double-rainbow of reputation winning!

Your first contact

Contacting journalistsScience fiction novels are littered with instances of the human race’s first contact with an alien species leading to the annihilation of our planet because of some communication faux pas. How you first reach out to a journalist or blogger will set the tone for the entire relationship. If your first email or tweet to them is all about you then it will likely end in disaster. Congratulations, you just caused the destruction of earth!

Instead, make your first contact all about them. Send them a developing story that you spotted on Reddit or Hacker News. Praise them for their latest article and describe how much it has helped you and your business. Don’t fake the praise. Be sincere. If you can’t honestly find something nice to say about what they have written, then they probably shouldn’t be on your outreach list from the outset.

When you contact them without any pretense or press pitch, it disarms them. A popular journalist might receive a dozen generic press pitches a day. Your email asking only that they keep up the great writing will likely stand out and make their day.

A better way to pitch

When you do finally make your first pitch to them, try the following approach:

  1. Use a succinct subject line. Make the subject of your email as amazing as any other content you create.
  2. Use their first name. We all love to hear and read our own name. Use theirs in your salutation.
  3. Make a connection. Either connect your email to one you sent previously, or suggest that you have something that may be of interest to them, based on something they previously wrote.
  4. Make it brief. Use your Twittervator training to explain what it is you would like to share with them and why they might find it worth writing about.
  5. Offer something exclusive. If you can, offer them the exclusive for your news. If that’s not possible, then try to offer them something that will be in part exclusive to them—a product demo, for example.
  6. Ask if they are interested or not. End the email suggesting that you will be in touch the next day to see if the story is of interest to them or if you should share it with someone else. That way they know that you’d like to hear back from them either way.

All of this should be shared in an email of less than 2-3 short paragraphs. Now is not the time to include an attachment with the draft press release. You’re trying to gauge their initial interest, not bog down their inbox. That said, keep in mind that the above outline is a starting point. It’s a template you can use if you’ve never approached a journalist before, or have but were guilty of the John Doe approach I outlined at the beginning. You absolutely need to follow and learn about a journalist, before you contact them. If they happen to mention that they only look at press pitches if the press release is attached to the email, then by all means adapt your outreach accordingly.

Done correctly, you’ll gain their attention and before you can say, “We come in peace,” they’ve written about your news and helped boost your online reputation.

It’s all about building goodwill

As you can see, even your blogger and journalist outreach doesn’t happen without first building up some goodwill. The common theme is to look for ways to be of help to those who can have a positive influence on your online reputation.

The next step is to delight your customers so that they too can’t help writing about you. Check back tomorrow for Day 15!

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