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How I reached out to journalists and got my PR published by 8 companies

This the second part of a series of articles I'm writing about sending your PR to journalists. You can read the first one here.

I am the co-founder of a startup that teaches English words with movies and TV shows (Play Store, App Store).

So the first thing I did was to list all the websites I would send my PR to. These websites were general news companies, companies target women or focus on tech and education. The point was to get published by anyone relevant. I even sent the PR to some universities. The goal was to get downloads and backlinks and of course create brand awareness!

How to get a list of websites

Google is your friend. I googled our competitors (e.g. Drops or Duolingo) and Google gave me a long list of websites. Easy peasy. Then I placed the URLs in an Excel table.

How to get the information of journalists

Once I had an URL, I had to get my hands on the journalists' contact info. Some news portals display the name of the author by the article, some don’t. News companies usually have a page where they list the name of their journalists. If you know only the writer’s name, you can try to figure out their email address by looking at how other email addresses at that company look like. Be creative! In one case I couldn’t find the email address of a journalist, so I sent the email to firstname.lastname at company dot com. It bounced back. Then I tried with lastname.firstname at company dot com. It worked. In another case I didn’t even know who wrote the article, but I found the name of an editor. I googled her and on her Instagram page, I found her email address.

In a lot of cases, you will not know who the journalist is, but you can still send your PR to generic emails like news at newscompany dot com.

Add the journalist’s name, email address and/or phone number plus also any relevant generic email addresses you can find to your Excel table.

Personalization matters!

Now you know who to send your press release to, but you still have work to do. I know it sounds easy to get it done with one email and put all journalists in BCC, but it will not work. Journalists will know you sent them a bulk email and your email will land in the spam folder. If you want to get the news about your product out through media, you need to work hard. You need to personalize your email.

  • If you know the name of the journalist, address them by their name: Hi Peter! If you only have a generic address, just write Dear Sir/Madam or whatever is normal in your country. As a Hungarian, I wrote Dear Editorial Office!
  • Referring to the journalist’s or the website’s former article makes the journalist think you care about their work and they are not just one of the many who received the same email. Keep attention to phrasing your email formally and informally. In my language I can address journalists informally like (Dear Peter), but addressing companies sounds something like (Respected Editorial Office).
  • Categorize: I labelled every website with 1 of 4 categories: General, Women, Tech, Education. I made small personalizations accordingly. For tech sites, I emphasized the word “user” more. For all other sites, I mostly used “student”. I also wrote “In Skeebdo’s database there are more than 200,000 movies…”. For other sites I wrote “You can learn English words with Skeebdo with more than 200,000 movies…”. It really makes a difference!
  • Politics: I live in a country where there is a huge rift between the government and the opposition and the majority of the media is in the hands of the government. Our startup took part in a 3-month incubator program, and that company is financed by the government. So when I sent out the PR, I included this program only in those emails where I knew the news company had some government relationship. In all other emails, or when I was not sure, I removed this block from our PR.

Personalization requires a lot of work, and if you are sending out your PR one by one, there is a high chance you’ll make a mistake (like I did).

So now you have a table with these columns:

  • Form of address (Dear, Hi etc)
  • First name (e.g. Peter or Editorial Office)
  • Email address
  • Article link you are referring to
  • First line that will include your article link
  • Other addressees and their email addresses

When to send your press release

Journalists start their week with meetings when they discuss who will work on what topic. It’s a busy day for them. On Tuesday the real work begins which makes it a perfect day to send your press release. Wednesday is as good as Tuesday. Thursday is still okay, but by then journalists have all the topics to write about for the rest of the week. Never reach out to journalists on Friday as then they are already closing the articles they have not yet and will not have time for you. As for the time of day, send your PR before 2PM, but preferably before lunch.

Attachments

I did not attach any images to the email. Instead, I uploaded everything to Google Drive and shared the link. I don’t know which email client journalists are using or how much space they have in their inbox so I didn’t want to risk my email bouncing or making journalists frustrated by sending them a huge email.

Track your emails

It’s important to know who opened you email and clicked on a link in it. You can’t just send out your email and wait for the miracle. This is why it matters:

  • Knowing what % of journalists opened your email gives you a hint on how catchy your subject line was that made the journalists click on your email.
  • If they did not publish your PR, you can call them (if you have their number) and though you cannot tell them you are tracking them, it’s much better to call someone and ask what was wrong about your email, if you know they read it, right?
  • If they did not read your email, you can send the same PR to their colleagues!

We are usually using Sendgrid for sending out newsletters, but this time it did not work due to a technical glitch. So I decided to use Mailtrack, which is an extension to Gmail. Mailtrack told me when, and how many times an email I sent were opened and which links were clicked.

What’s next

In the next and last part of this series I will tell you how I structured my email and what the results were.

Let me know in the comments if you’re interested.

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