It reminded me a bit of when I was first getting the Yelp community established here in Calgary. Part of the job was reaching out to local media about the events I was planning and cool local businesses I was finding.
Media and PR was not my background when I first started. During my newbie training, the PR team asked us to write a sample pitch. I thought a great story idea would be what one of Calgary’s local food critics thought about crowd-sourced review websites like Yelp and how they thought it was changing our local scene. Turns out, that’s not exactly what the PR team meant by a media pitch!
Once I learned about short and sweet pitching with specific details about what I was doing, I went to town getting the word out. I emailed EVERYONE I could find that I thought might sort of be interested in what I was doing.
Sometimes this approach worked, most of the time it didn’t. Though it’s a place to start when you aren’t really sure what you’re doing, I wouldn’t recommend it.
What did work was remembering that the people on the other side of my emails were real people. They literally had anywhere from dozens to hundreds of people emailing them the same way I did every single day.
I thought about how my eyes glazed over every time someone I didn’t know sent me something really random without ever having reached out to me before–and began to change my approach. Instead of cold emailing anyone I could find, I took a genuine interest in the stories and content people were putting out to the world. It took some extra work (and learning to love spreadsheets) on my part to help me keep track of everyone, but in the end, I learned that relationships make the world go round in terms of media too–and that genuine pitches to people I had spent the time following and getting to know became a win/win situation for both of us rather than just another email in the pile that would continue to go unread.
Whether you’re trying to get your word out through traditional media, local bloggers, online influencers or any other person in your network, doing your homework and building a connection with specific people will take you so much farther than random email and messages blasts–and it’s not as time-consuming as you might think. You don’t need to be their best friend, in fact, they’re likely to be suspicious if you do. But showing that you’ve read through their interests, seen some of their recent articles, followed a few of their recent tweets, etc. goes a long way in showing that what you’ve got to say could genuinely be of use to them.
So go on now and be a real person… Your networks will thank you for it!