Blind leading the blind….
We’re going back a bit here, but Richard ‘I-still-haven’t-bothered-defending-myself-even-though-I’ve-taken-a-right-slating’ Millington and Sally ‘I’m-still-flogging 101” Flood nee Whittle had a lovely-though-slightly-pointless conversation about the best way of personalising a generic ‘send to all’ news release.
After a long 47 weeks and 4 days career, Richard’s insightful advice was:
I thought I would share a quick outlook trick i've found useful.
Step 1) Goto tools > Spelling > always check before sending (this should be on anyway).
Step 2) Write the brief introduction to the press release which references the magazine and/or why this is relevant to them
Step 3) Copy/paste your press release into the body of the e-mail at the bottom.
Step 4) Remove the contact name and put something like "D$%^S" then remove all references to any individual publication and put "Anss342".
Step 5) Now copy the whole body of the e-mail.You can now click/enter the e-mail of any contact, paste the copy into the e-mail and hit send. Then the spellchecker will prompt you to enter both the name of the contact at the top to replace D$%^S and then the publication name of "Anss342".
Not one to miss an opportunity to plug 101, Sally told Richard (who she described as “quite a smart fellow,” so you can draw your own conclusions) that he was talking bollocks and suggested the following:
1. Paste your press release into the email (try not to attach it, if possible).
2. At the top of the email address the writer by name.
3. Next, tell me what the story is. Not the heading of the press release, the story.
4. Then, tell me why this is a story for me. (how would this paper use this story)
5. Finally, tell me why I should include your client in this story
This should only take a couple of minutes if you know your markets. But the key thing to note is that your spiel would be vastly different if you're pitching to the Guardian's small business supplement versus, say, the enterprise IT manager who reads Computing. Or the public sector guy reading The Doctor. Or the science geek reading New Scientist.
Now, it is useful to remember at this point that this is a conversation between two people that don’t do PR (Sally is a journalist and Richard, with his 47 weeks of experience, to be brutally honest, does coverage boards).
So, to Richard’s point: Use mail merge, dopey. It’ll piss all over your personal best of 60+ contacts in less than thirty minutes.
To Sally’s point: Don’t confuse “news release” with “email pitch” otherwise you’ll be in a land of madness with opening paragraphs such as:
“Hi Bob, Here’s a news release about Microsoft buying SAP, I thought it might be useful for the news section in [insert IT trade mag].”
So, to clear up any confusion, here are TWL’s top tips for personalising the distribution of a news release:
1. Hire an sensible person who acknowledges the importance of walking before running
2. Teach them how to use the software on their computer
3. Get them to send it out
4. While you write sarcastic blog posts, anonymously