The big day has arrived. Your product is ready to launch, you know exactly which bloggers you need to target, and all you have to do now is well, convince them to write about your product with only a few lines of email. Very few.
In both of my companies I managed the marketing of products which were anything but “sexy” – not usual blogger material and still – we received coverage. I also guest posted for TechCrunch, LifeHacker, The Next Web and others without much (or any) writing references. Here are the emails which led me there and what stands behind them.
It’s not about your users, it’s about the blog’s readers
The biggest leap I made to get more press coverage was by changing the main question I asked myself when writing the email. At first, like most people, I simply tried to explain why our product benefits users. Having lots of engaged users is obviously my goal but bloggers have a different one. They’re not interested in your users but rather in their own users = readers. Bloggers want to get as many people to read their posts, and if you can help them meet that goal – you’re in. So I started asking myself “How will writing about my product drive more traffic to blog X?”. That changed everything. Emails were suddenly getting answered and my product started appearing in blogs. When focusing on the bloggers’ goals you might not get to list all your features or discuss the innovative technology in detail, but – you’ll get in.
Following are different techniques for achieving this goal. Important : don’t use more than one or two at a time. The email should be as short as possible, I try not to exceed 5-6 lines.
One of the most basic tips when it comes to blogger outreach is to personalize your email. Not only is there a better chance you’ll hit what they’re looking for but you’re also communicating that you’re interested in their blog and not sending the same email to 50 different bloggers. Some use custom templates and personalize parts of it, like this :
Hello _______ (fill in blogger name)
I really liked your last article about ________ (fill in the topic of the last article) and I’ve been following the way you cover ________ (select according to blog) for a long time.
Please don’t do this. This is not personalization. If you have the most interesting/ buzzy product ever, and bloggers will write about you no matter what – go ahead. Since you probably don’t – it’s a template and it looks like one. The key to convincing bloggers that writing about you will drive traffic to them is understanding the core values of their blog. TechCrunch is about the startup scene, the faces behind it and news, LifeHacker is about improving your life with small tricks and tips, GigaOm is more about technology and how the tech industry evolves. Once you fit your story into their world you’re halfway there. Personalization is about finding the right angle and knowing which parts of your product and story to highlight.
OK, let’s go into my inbox -
Hugs and Kisses
It’s OK to flatter bloggers, people like that, and usually if you’re reaching out to a certain blogger it does mean you like their writing and opinions. There’s nothing wrong with mentioning something you liked about their last post or following up on a recent tweet. But you can go further and try to create a more personal connection. The more personal you get, the better. I try to understand a bloggers’ opinions and passions and write something about them. Even if it’s very technical – if they’re writing about it they must find it important and exciting.
Align yourself to other successful posts
A great way to imply that writing about you will drive some good traffic without actually saying so is to align your story to other successful posts. How can you make sure that you compare yourself to topics that, in fact, brought in great traffic? Some blogs (such as LifeHacker and Business Insider) display the number of views right on the page, with others you can use the number of tweets and likes as an indicator. Some blogs publish the most popular posts of the same week.
Bloggers are not analysts. They’re storytellers. Tell a good story.
I can’t change my product but I can definitely change the way I describe it. If the product isn’t interesting enough, create a story worth reading. I try to create content for a post which will be worth reading by itself, even if the reader is not interested in your product.
People are always more interesting than products
While not all products apply to a wide audience, a personal story usually does. Even large companies with super interesting products work at the personal level to get more PR, aligning products like Facebook, Apple or Google with the people behind them. It’s fascinating to see how the PR of Yahoo! started flying through the roof once Marissa Mayer joined the company. Interesting people make an interesting read. Cinderella stories are always great material for a post. Here’s one example of how I used my personal story to get coverage for our 1M downloads benchmark.
Use names, locations, examples
One of the best ways to make your product more interesting is to create a vivid image of how people use it. As I mentioned before, as much as I love the products I managed, none of them were really interesting by nature. ‘A B2B CAD application with a cutting edge technology’? Not for my blog, thanks. But how about ‘Miners in Brazil now use their iPads when building new tunnels 100m below ground’, ‘ Flight technicians use their private mobile device to fix planes instead of carrying piles of papers around’‘ or ‘A children’s hospital in Texas uses an app to monitor the current location of medical equipment ’. Sounds better, doesn’t it?
OK, you’ve managed to convince the blogger that writing about you will generate more traffic for them and the anticipated “yes, we’d love to cover your company’ email has finally landed in your inbox. You excitedly check out their blog the next day, and the day after, and the next week and – you’re still not there. What went wrong? You’re probably in the queue with dozens of other items which are not ‘news’. If you’re launching a new product or version the timing issue is obvious. The real challenge is creating the same level of urgency even when you don’t have big news.
Tell stories as news
I usually try to generate some news even when we’re not launching a new version or product. It can be a milestone (like 1M users), a customer story or some other interesting information.
Pictures and videos
Great pictures and videos are a great asset for driving more traffic to bloggers. Sometimes a good video is all you need in order to be featured. My test here is similar to the storytelling – will someone who’s not interested in my product enjoy watching the video or images? The answer should be yes. I like to link to fun images which can stand by themselves and not to screenshots. Links work much better than attaching the images but sometimes I use both.
Now, cut it by half
This is an interesting exercise I started doing lately. We all know that bloggers are super busy and like short emails but we product guys also have lots to say. When I’m done writing the blogger outreach email I try to cut it by half. It forces me to focus on the important parts. I usually end up bringing back some of the sentences I deleted, but it helps me reduce the text at least by 20%.
Use your signature
I always consider my signature as bonus space. You struggle to keep the email as short as possible but no one counts your signature as text. If your recipient is super busy he/ she will just skip it without even noticing it, but if your recipients have time or are interested in what you wrote this is the perfect place to lead them to anything that can make them even more engaged – your blog, twitter, minisite, anything. I like to elaborate a bit more about the links, there’s a better chance people will click if they know what you blog or tweet about.
Say thanks – in context
Got covered? The best way to be polite and keep the conversation going for future posts is by saying thanks in a way which highlights why the blog’s readers found the post useful. Yes, once again it’s about them, not you.
Other great resources on best practices for emailing bloggers along with some email samples -
Leo Widrich – How To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup (with a great sample of an email to Mashable)
Tim Ferriss - Hacking Kickstarter (go to the ‘email templates’ link – there’s a folder with lots of great templates they used)
James Deer – The Emails That Got My Unsexy Start-Up Covered By TechCrunch