The Goal of Cold Email OutreachBroadly, cold email outreach covers anything that involves emailing someone you’ve never met with the hope of getting something from them in return. In this article, we’re going to focus on cold emailing journalists with one of two goals:
- Earning a backlink to your site’s content
- Landing a guest blogger spot
Tactic #1 – Research, Research, ResearchIt absolutely pays to invest a little time upfront and get familiar with a publication and its journalists’ work before you start asking them for things. So few people do this right that I’m going to count it as a tactic all on its own. You’ll want to make sure that a publication has an engaged audience, so start by getting an idea of how much traffic they get every month. You can use tools like Alexa or SimilarWeb to get these numbers. You’ll probably already have an idea of which are the biggest industry publications, but you can always ask your existing customers and audience what other blogs or sites they read. You can also try Googling different industry keywords paired with terms like:
- [keyword] + blog
- [keyword] + publication
- [keyword] + resources
- [keyword] + news
If neither of these work, you can always turn to Google and search for specifics. Type in:
“site: example.com [author’s name]”Get a feel for what topics they write about and then look for their personal blog and social media feeds to learn more about them as a person. You don’t have to go full stalker here! Just find out enough so that you can approach them confidently with specific ideas because you know their interests and priorities. This is often the most time-consuming part of email outreach (even more than writing the actual message!), but it’s well worth doing properly. Failing to personalize a pitch is a surefire way to land in the trash bin.
Tactic #2 – The Pre-Pitch MovesIf you’re exhausted by tactic #1, you’ll love the brevity of this tactic! Once you’ve done your basic research, you need to do some pre-pitch engagement. That means following them on Twitter and LinkedIn, commenting on and/or sharing their blog posts, and interacting with them online in any way that makes sense. The purpose of this strategy is to warm them up before your pitch. If they’ve seen your name a few times before you ask them for anything, it will feel more natural and less intrusive.
Tactic #3 – The “Name Drop” EmailSome people think that name dropping is impolite, but at the right time and place, it can be exactly what you need to quickly establish credibility. By mentioning a mutual connection, you’re no longer a random person. Our memory relies heavily on networks and association, so by connecting your name with someone they know and trust, it will make easier for them to say yes. Here’s an example of this:
I’m reaching out because [connection’s name] shared an article you wrote about [topic] and we were discussing how it was really big news for my company, XYZ.
The impact that [topic] will have on the industry is pretty exciting and we’re primed to take advantage of it. If you’d like, I’d be happy to write an article about how the two different technologies will work together to transform the industry.
I’m sure your readers will find the use case interesting. Let me know if you want me to put something together.
Thank you, EricOne important rule: if you plan on dropping someone’s name, especially for business, it’s polite to ask the person first.
Tactic #4 – The “Connector” EmailIf you don’t have any immediate value to offer the journalist, you can try connecting them to someone who does. There are 7.6 billion people in the world, but that number is useless if you can’t get in touch with the right people. That’s why connecting two other individuals can be a great service to both of them. Journalists are constantly trying to network with reliable experts and sources. If you know someone whom a journalist would want to talk to, shoot them an email to introduce them.
I’m a big fan of your writing and have been following your series on [topic] lately. Then I realized that if you want to learn even more about [topic], I have someone you need to meet.
I’ve cc’d [name of connection] here. She’s the most knowledgeable person I know on [topic] and works for XYZ as their ABC. If you ever have any questions, she’s the woman to ask!
Thanks for all your hard work, and keep putting out quality articles!
Best, EricIf you do this right, you’ll earn karma points with both people and the journalist will be more receptive to your future emails and pitches.
Tactic #5 – The “We’ve Met Before” EmailAttending conferences and meetups can be a great way to meet people, including journalists who often attend these events to provide coverage, meet new sources, and keep tabs on the industry. But let’s be honest, it can be hard to make a lasting relationship in just a few (busy!) days. That’s why you usually won’t have too much success pitching people right away. You’ll likely come off as somewhat impersonal and salesy. Instead, when you meet a reporter or writer at a conference, you should focus on engaging conversation and relationship building. But don’t forget to ask them for their best email address. They may tell you that they have a personal inbox that they read more carefully. Once the conversation is over, jot down a few notes about the highlight of your conversation. Then after the conference, email them to follow up. Tell them it was a pleasure meeting them and reference the conversation you had in order to build credibility. Only then should you go for the ask. Even if they don’t remember you, chances are they will respond (no one likes to admit they don’t remember someone they met in person who clearly remembers them, and favorably, too).
Tactic #6 – Offer to HelpIf you have industry expertise, a great way to score points with journalists is by helping them out. Offer without any strings attached and you’ll be rewarded in the long run. The simplest way to do this is by sharing your industry knowledge with them. Send them good leads on relevant industry news or present yourself as a source for one of their pieces. You can share their content with your audience and link to it on your site as well. If your company makes or does something the journalist can use, give them some free samples that they can do what they please with.
Tactic #7 – Give Away Your Best StuffThis is an extremely effective strategy for guest posts. If you have a killer content idea, pitch it to a major publication. They are constantly looking for unique angles and case studies that can’t be copied by their competitors. But it has to be good! The bigger the publication, the higher their standards will be. You’ll have to bring something unique and valuable to the table. Send them an outline and article summary, explaining why you think the piece would interest their readers. If they agree, they’ll probably gift you with a spot on their blog. Within the body of the post, you can link back to your site once or twice and maybe even promote your brand a little. Be careful not to be overly promotional though, or your final draft might not get published. If you need help writing a great guest post, check out this guide by Brian Dean at Backlinko.
Tactic #8 – The “Follow-Up” EmailRemember, silence is not the same as no. Far too many people take “no” as rejection. But the truth is, journalist are busy people with deadlines, family responsibilities, and lives outside their job. Emails get lost or temporarily ignored. If you haven’t heard back in a few days to a week, it’s perfectly fine to send a short follow-up email along the lines of this one:
I just wanted to follow up and see if you got a chance to read this yet. Do you think your readers would benefit from [topic] I sent you the other day?
Should I put something together for you next week?
Thanks! EricAs a general rule of thumb, you can probably follow up two or three times before assuming that you’re being ignored on purpose (or have the wrong address). At that point, you should probably move on.