Do you write press releases for clients or customers?
It’s one way of getting paid to write, but you might be doing your clients a disservice. That’s according to Dmitry Dragilev, who founded JustReachOut back in 2014.
His PR software and coaching service helps ecommerce and small businesses build genuine relationships with journalists vs. spam hundreds of journalists at a time and as a result get featured in the press more frequently.
Before founding his current venture, Dragilev managed PR for the social polling company Polar, which grew to 40M pageviews by utilizing one simple PR tactic for 2 years and was acquired by Google.
Over five years ago, Dragilev realized that if he could figure out how to do PR on his own, most ecommerce entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups can do the same.
Over 5000 ecommerce and small businesses, as well as larger brands such as HubSpot and Pipedrive, have used his service JustReachOut to get featured in the press.
Dragilev’s approach to PR is very different from the traditional PR approach of making large lists and sending an email blast to everyone on the list. JustReachOut customers focus on sending just a handful of emails per day which are much higher quality then typical email blasts and more valuable to journalists.
In this interview, Dragilev explains why sending press releases isn’t a productive use of time or money for any entrepreneur, startup or small business, and what you should do instead.
Q. What’s wrong with sending press releases?
Who is going to pick up your press release and actually write a news story? Think about an answer to this question long and hard.
Have you seen one competitor of yours who distributes a press release and gets featured in the press by doing so?
If the answer is “no” — then you should probably forget sending press releases. If the answer is “yes” — ask yourself how many times they got featured in press form that press release.
Getting your releases actually read by journalists who call you for additional information and quotes is extremely rare for companies that are not the biggest in their sector.
Press releases are a useful exercise to put together your thoughts and really coherently explain what you do. However, distributing a press release to journalists is usually a useless tactic for most businesses.
There is a great study from 2014 which asked 500 editors at top sites like BuzzFeed, TIME, Lifehacker, Scientific American, TechCrunch, and more about what they want to see in a pitch.
Here are the main findings from the study:
- Although most writers publish one story per day, 44% of them get pitched a minimum of 20 times a day.
- Only 11% often write stories from pitches.
- 70% of publishers would rather collaborate on an asset or piece of content, rather than get a finished version
- 39% are looking for exclusive research to publish.
- 64% said a personal connection with the outreach specialist was moderately or more important
- 81% of journalists prefer being pitched over email
- 69% prefer to be pitched in the morning
Q. How can you capture a journalist’s attention?
Develop the email conversation, work on your back and forth before you ask them to cover you.
“You always want to lead with something that surprises them … you reference their article in Quora, maybe you tweeted it, maybe you commented on another piece with this article." says Dragilev.
It’s a pleasure for a journalist to see someone referencing their work, the journalist will respond and thank you.”
Q. How can an entrepreneur impress a journalist?
One of the most overlooked but most effective ways to give value up front and start a conversation with a journalist is by referencing their past article in Quora and then asking them for feedback or a comment on how you referenced it.
If you were standing next to the journalist at a conference what would you say to the face to face out loud? How would you start a conversation?
Usually, you’d start by:
“I read your article about X, really liked it, actually referencing it in my answer on Quora about Y. Curious did I do it justice when I answered that question? Do you have anything to add?”
This is a perfect way to add value to a journalist, impress them and start a conversation.
(Dragilev documents the entire step by step process with real examples of emails of how to use Quora to start a conversion with a journalists on his blog.)
Q. How can I get a journalist to consider my pitch?
Most small businesses (whether ecommerce or not) love to create media lists and start sending email pitches right away and their open rates are extremely low, perhaps 1 out of 10 get opens.
This is when JustReachOut software catches the poor open rate and notifies the customer success team which contacts the customer to do some triage on the email pitch and the media list.
Our team will have to interject and say:
“Hey, something is going wrong here … you have a poor open rate. How did you compile this media list? Is it Targeted? Did you use our tutorial on building a list journalists and value you can deliver to them?”
If they customer say “Yes it’s targeted and yes I used your tutorial, the next part is the subject line:
“Ok, we need to improve your subject line, did you test at least 4 of them?”
Most people forget the subject line is the door to your whole email. If it doesn’t grab the journalist they’ll delete the email or never open the email.
Think of the email subject line as the headline/title of the story you want to see published. Look at the last three stories the journalist published and now write the headline of the fourth article.
Q. What does a good pitch actually read like?
When you talk to him Dragilev goes on and on about building real and genuine relationships with journalists before ever pitching them what you do and asking them to cover you.
The trick of course is how can you be helpful to journalists without knowing much about them?
Dragilev says there are several parts to a perfect pitch:
- The subject line. This must read like the headline of the journalists’s next article, you need to use the last three articles they published as inspiration.
- The hyper personalized intro to the pitch.Dragilev likes to think of journalists as his customers and that he is doing “customer service” when he contacts them, he uses this “personal touch” example to set the stage for his pitch.
- The big value add for them (such an answer to their query on HARO) or something which impresses them (such as the Quora PR strategy)
Let’s look at an example:
Say an entrepreneur provides software that helps other entrepreneurs work remotely.
His or her sample email might read like this:
Subject: Promoted Your Working Remote article, question for you
Hey [Journalist’s First Name],
I loved your article on challenges entrepreneurs have working remotely and referenced a few data points from it when I answered this Quora question which was promoted by the website and recently received a number of commenters.
You can check it out here: <url>
Curious — did I do it justice? Did I forget to mention anything? Do you have more updated stats around <insert topic>?
I’m looking forward to another story from you.
What are you working on next?
Press releases are a great way of growing your audience… if you do it right.