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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Balke

How To Write Cold Emails for PR

I'm not a PR person so whatever you read here does not come from a highly qualified source on paper. However, I work for a startup and I'm the Marketing Manager, which basically means that I deal with every aspect of Marketing from A to Z and PR is a big part of that.If you just want to see the damn template and don't want to hear why you should be writing it like that just scroll down you impatient beast of a marketer ;-)

For summer we're launching a cool new tie-dye sofa campaign. We like to do crazy stuff like that because... well, it's crazy and so are we. In the past I've seen campaigns at Apt2B that were worthy of a lot of exposure just die out with almost no one knowing. Why? Because the saying "build and they will come" is not only wrong for your business, but for your campaigns too. 

Alas, we needed to get the word out there so people could start noticing how awesome we are. Here's a step by step guide on how I went about this.

1. Do you research! Make a list of people you want to reach out to

This is one of the most important parts of this process. You want to spend hours googling which companies / blogs / news outlets could be interested in your story / product / pitch. Which ones fit your brand, city, industry, niche? Then you want to find the people within that company that are most likely to make the decision about your story being published or not. ONLY choose one person. Do not, I repeat, do not send your email to multiple PR people in the same company. That's basically just an insult that they're all the same. I personally like to choose the person I feel I have the most things in common or I would get along with the most. For some reason that always seems to work :-)Last, but not least you want to get a good understanding of how they write their stories and from which angle they cover them. You also want to find a story they covered in the past that in the best case scenario relates to you and your story so you can mention that as an opener during the email (see template below).

2. Think looooong and hard about why they should feature your story

At the end of the day companies are only going to feature your story, if they get something out of it. So what will they get out of it? Sit down and imagine you're the CEO of the company you want to reach out to. Now brainstorm five good reasons and positive impacts of publishing your story. Do this for every company you're reaching out to and personalize the reasons as much as possible. Don't be generic and really try to take the company's or rather their PR person's perspective.Truth is, there is a lot of content out there and if you can't come up with five absolutely mind blowing reasons why your story needs to be on their website there's no chance they will feature you.

3. Back, back, back it up... with some data, testimonials or names

I want to make a point here and I will use this video to illustrate it.

The first thing you see is a "crazy dude" dancing alone. He's totally into, feeling the music, letting loose and doesn't care about all the people looking at him.

First lesson: To become a leader you can't care about what other people think.

After a while a second dude joins. This could have thrown the guy off a little bit. Is he here to mock me? Is he actually supporting me? What's going on? But you know... What does the guy care? He doesn't give a damn about what those people think, he's confident in his dance moves so he just continues his mini rave (see first lesson above).Now, the second guy needs some guts to join the dance because he knows all these people are thinking: "What the fuck is up with that dude?" so he needs to have double the confidence of dude 1 because he already knows everyone thinks he's crazy. He also has to have the stamina to dance alone with dude 1 before dude 3 shows up.

Second lesson: To create a movement you need a first follower, not just a leader. People usually don't want to be the first follower because they fear failure and listen to the doubts of the rest of the group.

Eventually, dude 3 shows up. He dances along too and finally more and more people join in. Here's an overview of the movement growth:

Dude #1: Unsure of how long he's been dancing alone.

Dude #2: Shows up after 18 seconds.

Dude #3: Shows up after 38 more seconds.

Dudes #4 & 5: Show up after 59 seconds (so technically the growth went from 1 person per 38 seconds to 1 person per 29.5 seconds).

Dudes & Dudettes #6, 7, 8: Show up after 3 more seconds.And then shit just gets out of control.

Third lesson: Initial growth is slow, but eventually you'll reach exponential growth and it'll be hard to keep up by counting.

I'll stop here because if I don't you'll think I'm crazy and stop reading. Besides all the lessons above what I want to say is that very few people want to be the guinnea pig aka. the first follower, but a lot of people want to be 'one of the first'.

Do you see the difference here?

No one wants to bear the full risk of being the first follower, the one to try it right after it was released, but everyone still wants to be in the group of innovators, one of the first to try something novel. So while the first follower is a very unpopular position those of third and fourth follower are selling like hotcakes.

What does that mean for you? You need to back up your company, product or story with some sort of testimonial, data or household name showing that these people you're pitching to are not your first follower, but rather one of the first. They are the ones that missed out on this huge new thing that's already endorsed by [insert fancy human] if they don't jump on board now.

We had this issue with ParkUrbn the parking app I serve as a Growth Hacker and user acquisition specialist for. When we pitched the idea to cities they loved it, but none of the cities wanted to be the first one to implement it. They all wanted to see the app work for another city first and then they would be "all in". Once we accomplished to show that the app worked successfully with the first city, they really were running in our doors.

But what can you do, if no one has ever tried your product? Or if no household name has ever talked about you? What if there is no data to support your awesomeness? The only option is to hustle, hustle, hustle and start as small as you can working your way up from there. No matter how small the name, use it till it gets bigger. No matter who the testimonial comes from, use it until it gets more important.


Let's cut to the chase. Here's a template I created for a non-profit I was working with: Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Restaurant campaign. My comments and explanations in green.

Hey XYZ,

(Find out their name and use it! Also, try to mirror their language, if you can. It works just like mirroring body language and makes you seem more likable for the other person)

I’m writing because I think your readers would appreciate hearing about the new Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFR) program that just launched here in LA. (Mini Pitch. Always give the reader an overview of what's to come and why it's important to them. In this case because their readers will love it and it's something new that launched)

First of all, I love your ‘Hottest Restaurants in LA Right Now’ lists. And I just checked out Felix a few weeks ago… So deserved to be on that list! The bolognese pappardelle are INSANE! (This is where you hopefully did your research and found something that the company covered that you liked and that has some sort of connection with what you're pitching. You know, making compliments goes a long way especially, if you're directing this to a specific person talking about an article they wrote. Make a personal connection, build likability.)

My name is _______ and I volunteer for Surfrider, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection of the world's ocean and beaches. We have over 50,000 members across the whole world. Don’t mean to brag, but we’re kind of a big deal (at least we hope we are) ;-) (Tell them who you are and who your company is. What do you do that makes you so special? Add a little humor. No one ever denied a PR letter because they laughed too much)

We just launched our newest campaign here in LA called Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFR). In our Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFR) program we help restaurants in our community implement ocean friendly practices and policies that reduce disposable plastic waste and certify them as an OFR, if they meet all the standards! Hereby we hope to keep our beaches clean (or rather cleaner) and if you’ve ever been swimming in LA waters you know that we need it (hello floating plastic). We feel that during political times like these our efforts as a community are especially valuable and Eater LA is one of the most influential, if not the most influential eating guide in all of Los Angeles.

(Talk about the center of the pitch and why it's great. I'm alluding to the political climate here because I felt that was a good way to get them to feel responsible and obviously because no one likes Trump... Remember that thing about similarities and likability? That's where this comes into play again!)

Our newest addition to the Ocean Friendly Restaurant certified list is Milo + Olive in Santa Monica. I know you've covered their amazing woodfired pizzas and the garlic knot bread before. Now, they're tastier than ever and ocean friendly too! :) Upcoming restaurants we hope to certify are Gracias Madre_____ (“This is my data and testimonials part aka look at all these great restaurants that you have written about that are now part of our product and also look at these really hot in LA restaurants that are about to become part of our program”)

If you are interested in learning more about the program, the already certified restaurants or even launching a list of certified OFRs in LA on Eater I’d be happy to chat more with you.

As people thankfully are becoming more and more environmentally conscious I am sure your readers would love this. Getting you onboard would be an amazing milestone to cleaner, more beautiful and healthier LA beaches and ocean.

Thank you so much for your time.

(Emphasizing the opportunity for them and smearing some honey in their face. It always works!)



That's it. Thank you for reading and as you know I'm not a PR human so write me with your opinions, PR tips and tricks and possibly questions. It's always appreciated :)

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1 Comment

Annette Azan
Annette Azan
Nov 15, 2019

Love your articles! /so helpful and great video - that guy dancing is me :) always the first!

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