Case Study: Building meaningful relationships is one of the most important aspects of Digital PR and it all starts with reaching out to the right person in the right way.

Personalize – as much as possible

Can you tell which one of these emails got opened?

“DO YOU HATE YOUR JOB? DISCOVER SEVEN SECRETS…”

or

“Hi John, I have a question about your article (the name of the article).”

You are right – the last one, because it includes two personalized elements – a person’s name and an article name, both of which show that you are genuinely interested in the topic and not just blind-emailing them.

On the other hand, titles loaded with benefits (like the first example), will be viewed as spam and deleted without even opening. Also, keep the subject lines in lower case letters, you don’t want to seem desperate, or screaming.

Lots of research has shown that people like hearing their name. Some even indicate that the word people like to hear the most is their own name, so don’t be afraid to drop a person’s name into your pitch several times. We like to use it in the subject line, the first sentence of the email, and again at the end.

Remember – mentioning a person’s name more than once isn’t spammy (2-3 is the best, however), it is flattering and sets you above the average Joe. Including their name more than once also proves to them that

  1. our email isn’t a mass email
  2. you’re a real person.

Human Touch

There is a reason why humans do outreach, instead of leaving it all up to computers. We have an element of creativity and the ability to think and reason that computers just don’t. That’s why it only makes sense to add some human touch to everything we do.

So, instead of coming off like a professional robot,we add some personality to every email we send out, because the cold text on the screen hides the fact that there was a real life human being behind it. But when we add some personality to our emails, hitting the delete button becomes that much more difficult.

Note that by “adding some personality” we don’t mean being humorous and too casual. Too casual can come across as “not serious”, especially in email correspondence with a stranger. Remember, it’s not like dealing face-to-face, where nuance, inflection, expression and gestures become important signifiers of meaning.

By “adding some personality” we mean mentioning at least one tiny personal detail. If we’re a regular reader of a site, this won’t be a problem. If  we have just started following the blog, we look for some tiny personal references around something that happened a few days ago. Starting our email pitches with something like this massively improves the possibility of a reply:

– Congrats on your recent blogging anniversary;
– Have a great time during your vacation;
– I’ve read about your health issues. I hope you feel better now!

Or drop in some familiar names if you have friends in common – social proof is unbelievably powerful in highly saturated web environment!

We don’t need to show how funny or laid-back we are in our first email, we build a rapport first by adding some true value to our prospect and see where the relationship takes us. Don’t run, before you can walk.

Have a compelling offering – and reveal it early

This is possibly the most important aspect in getting the recipient to act. The offer must be compelling. It really MUST be! No matter how good the pitch, if the offer doesn’t help the recipient in some meaningful way, then we’re unlikely to receive a response.

We outline the benefit to the recipient, and do so before they switch off. We make sure we reveal our great offering as early as possible (preferably in the subject line). People are wired to delete emails cold-heartedly and everything that doesn’t benefit them or looks like a spam mass-email, gets deleted without a second thought.

Before sending away an email, we always think what is it in for them (not us). On some occasions (especially, if we really want to seal the deal), we might have to do something significant for them first, give away our valuable time or a skill, in the hope the recipient will return the favour.

True long-lasting relationships work on the mechanism of ‘give and take’ (in that exact order), so we don’t ask anybody for favours, we are better than one of those give-us-your-time-and-effort-for-nothing-so-we-can-advance-our-cause type of guys.

Be short and to the point – people are not interested in you

There are nothing worse than long descriptive emails with many links and/or attachments (NB! We never send attachment with our initial pitches and we make sure we don’t overload them with links)

The best way to get your email deleted, is to reveal the what-is-there-for-them at the end, after long and detailed introduction of who we are and what we do. People care about their achievements, not ours, so we don’t waste their valuable time. If they like what we have for them, they might become interested in us in the future, but don’t rush it! We concentrate on them first!

Keeping your first email short and sweet is a great way to go. We constantly try new forms of outreach and always seem to end up reverting back to small quick emails. They grab attention at a glance and someone can see the point of your email right away. They’re also easier to construct on the fly, which allows you to send out several emails faster.

Here are some examples of emails that have worked well for us.

Example 1:

Hey John,

I recently came across TheWildWorldOfJohn.com and saw that you play a Fender CD-320AS guitar. I broke some of the strings on my Febder CF-60 a few days ago so I’ve been thinking of upgrading all of the strings to the ones used on the CD-320: what’s your take on this, will it make my CF-60 sound much better?

Also, I’ve been writing up music articles and would love the chance to write on your blog. I’d be happy to send over a new set of strings as a thanks!

Cheers, -Tony

After we get a response, we’ll give a full pitch. Since they’ve already committed to a conversation with us, they will read their email word for word instead of skimming through.

Example 2:

Hey John,

I was looking through your suggested links on MyResourceSite.com and noticed a few broken links. Let me know how to reach the webmaster and I can send a fixed list their way!

Also, if you’re open to suggestions, I think MyClientSite.com would be a great fit. They have a large variety of widgets that I’ve had trouble finding elsewhere.

All the Best, -Tony

Example 3:

Hello,

I’m trying to get in contact with the person in charge of the MyUniversity.com/housing/ page. If you could point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

All the Best, – Tony

We watch our language – some words have negative connotation

Bloggers and web masters are so often pitched with link requests that unless we pick up words carefully, we risk to triggering an immediate reaction:

  • as soon as a blogger sees a “familiar” phrase (“review this site“), he deletes the message;
  • as soon as a blogger sees a “familiar” word (“link back“), he wants to earn money (and thus you miss the free link opportunity).

We tend to use less widely used terms to express the generally understandable idea: to ask for a link. We prefer “I wanted to offer you a post topic idea for your blog” to “Please link to my site” for two reasons: a) you offer a favour rather than ask for it b) bloggers are in search for unique topic ideas.

It’s also better to ask someone to “share”, “include” or “cite” a page for an article, rather than “link to” it.

Other email outreach pitches that have worked for us

Guest Post example:

Hi Ron,

My name is Tanja. Your article (title of the article) intrigued me.

What grabbed my attention was the fact that Success and Failure signs were both pointing to opposite directions.

Anyhow, I know that you don’t currently accept guest posts, but maybe you’ll like my idea …

“In order to succeed you need to be willing to constantly fail and feel uncomfortable.”

I know you’re busy, so I can write everything up and send it to you in one document. I can also source the image for the post.

What do you think?

Really looking forward to hearing from you, and hopefully writing for you.

Many thanks, Tanja

Reclaiming an existing link, example:

Hi John,

Firstly, many thanks for mentioning (company name) here: (link to the article)

Unfortunately, you forgot to link back to them. So is it possible to link to (company’s website)?

It makes it easier for people navigate to them without the hassle of opening up a new window, doing a search etc.

And I know the (company name) team would really appreciate it.

Thanks for your help, Tanja

To conclude …

There is no universally perfect pitch, but we’re getting there.

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