by Sabina Hitchen | Featured Contributor
One of the most common frustrations that entrepreneurs and small business owners share wit me when it comes to their self-guided PR campaigns is some form of, “I am not getting any/many responses to my emails and outreach.” I get it – it’s the worst! You put time and effort into crafting the perfect pitch, you send it to one – or several – members of the press, and then…crickets. When you have that experience more than once, self doubt and “PR ROI doubt” can creep in, putting you at risk of giving up on publicity success that could be right around the corner. Believe me, it doesn’t have to feel this way. The truth is, you’ll be able to increase your email response rate and grow more genuine and strategically powerful media relationships if you follow a few strategic and simple action steps before sending out your next pitch.
Start a Social Media “Tennis Match”
Relationships are everything in the public relations world, and one of the best parts of about this increasingly digital world is that you can grow them from anywhere. By engaging in authentic, strategic and regular engagement with your media targets on social media (namely Instagram and/or Facebook) you’ll become more familiar to them, and in many cases you’ll actually begin to develop a relationship with them. All of this will help increase your chances of getting an answer the next time you email your target media contacts. After all, if you’re pinging each other back and forth in the Twitter stream about everything from industry-trends to The Bachelor, you’re more likely to get noticed when you let them know you’ll be shooting them a quick email and that they should be on the look-out for it! Here are a few more steps that you can begin taking today!
- Follow and Engage with Media Targets in Varied Ways: Comment on posts, reply or retweet when you feel moved, “heart” or “like” posts that resonate with you, and as your relationship grows and you see something (an article, an image, some news) that they would most certainly be interested knowing about, don’t hesitate to bring it to their attention socially!
- Remember that Regular Contact is Key: I’m not saying reach out to them every day with a comment or reply, but do try to stay on their radar. Let your responses flow naturally but regularly. To make this easier you may want to create a list via Google Doc or a notepad on hand that includes accounts and members of the press you want to keep on your radar and connect to online.
Send a Praise Email or Tweet
Guess what members of the press get all day long? Requests. Asks. Demands. Questions. Guess what they don’t get all day long – if at all during the entire week? Praise for the work that they do and create. That’s where you come in, and where you begin growing an authentic and powerful relationship with your media targets who will then be more likely to return your emails. I call these types of email messages, which can also be done as tweets, Praise Emails (or Praise Tweets). Here’s how it works: The next time you enjoy or are moved by an article, post, TV segment or story that a member of the press posts or creates, tell them! In a world where we’re quick to complain we’re also slow to compliment, when you buck that system you stand out. Here’s how you can do that easily:
- First rule of Praise Club: Always keep it authentic and genuine. Don’t sing the praises of an article you barely skimmed over. Don’t tweet your love of a post you actually couldn’t care less about. Insincerity never works in the long run! Instead, get engaged and follow the work that your media targets create, and let them know from time to time when you enjoy it.
- All Praise No Pitch: When I give someone some PR Praise, I like to keep the topic of my email or tweet strictly to praise, and I don’t throw in an “ask”. That immediately negates the sincerity of the compliment, and turns it into an email about you once again asking them for something. Sure, email them an ask in the not-so-distant future, but for this specific type of outreach, keep it to the topic at hand: what you liked, loved, or learned from their recent work.
- Feel Free to Vary Your Praise Vessel: The method of my PR Praise delivery varies, and yours can and should to. Here are some ideas: Write a good, old-fashioned email to them, tweet your praise and include a link to their article if possible, share it in your Instagram feed or perhaps via InstaStory (and tag them in it).
Become a Scholar of Your Media Target’s Work
Now that I’ve told you that I want you to compliment and engage with your media targets about their work you’re probably thinking, “How will I know what they’re covering in the first place?” My friend, that is where a little bit of research comes in! The more you know about the work and content being produced by the media you dream of connecting with – I’m talking their style, columns, delivery, topics covered most often – the more you’ll be able to craft an email that is targeted and clearly a good fit for them.
Not sure how to tap into their work without wasting hours or days of your time? Here are some quick ways to make that happen:
- Follow the Facebook Feeds of Your Target Media Outlets: This will cut out the time you’d have to spend searching for articles. Just glance at their Facebook feed and look at who is writing about businesses and stories similar to yours.
- Get Reacquainted with Magazines You Want to Appear In: Buy them, read them at your local library (Remember those? They have loads of magazines there you can read for free), or get them delivered to your iPad. The sooner you can figure out how they’re laid out, and who is writing what, the sooner you can start following those editors and writers on social media and praising their work!
- Schedule Time Every Week for Media Research: Just like you make appointments for other business tasks, you must make time for media research. Make this a pleasurable experience: Get cozy, get tucked into a pile of magazines or into some target websites, and let the ideas and inspiration flow!
If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs waiting by the phone (or keyboard) for a response to your emails, let me leave you with two, final pieces of good news: You’ve already done the first, hardest step! You’ve taken action and started your PR outreach. High fives to you! The second reminder? By following the three action steps below, you’ll not only be increasing your chances for future follow up, but you’ll be building relationships with the press that can bring you more, repeated publicity success for years to come!
Sabina Hitchen is a small business public relations teacher and the founder of SabinaKnows.com and the Press for Success PR Education Program.
If entrepreneurship was a drug, Sabina would be its pusher. A former high school teacher and curriculum designer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, upon moving to New York City, she began a career in public relations agency which saw her co-found an agency that specialized in public relations for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and experts. She now teaches business owners of all kinds how to do their own public relations strategically and confidently. Sabina also serves as a media expert and speaker, covering the worlds of entrepreneurship and empowerment.