I get around three to four pitches a day from PR firms and they all suck. Some of them suck so badly I want to re-post them on my blog and make fun of them, but that’s not what I do here. Yet.
You don’t want to make their mistakes. Maybe you want your old boss to give you advice on your current job situation, or need a restaurant recommendation, or you want a blogger to write about reality TV star suicides. Whatever it is, here are four rules that apply:
1. Be personal.
Mass emails are interruptive advertising. They are the commercials I skip, the billboards I glaze over and the fliers that line the trash. If you have someone’s email, you should have their name. Use it.
But a name isn’t personal enough anymore. You know what’s personal? Showing that you respect me enough to know something about me. Anything. Talk about your mutual friend, your fellow obsession with brussels sprouts, or how you respect their blog/company/daughter and why.
Extreme targeting through the cultivation of conversations and relationships is the future of advertising. Big companies will do this by creating spaces where consumers will come to them and receive personalized value in return. You can do this by making it fun, easy and enjoyable to enter into a conversation with you and by showing the value you provide. You’re human. Act like it.
2. Be persistent.
There is no such thing as a perfect pitch. One, because it has to be customized for each person, and two because you can’t possibly know what each person will respond to unless you’ve worked with them before. Even then, people are fickle.
Everyone makes the first call. Everyone leaves one message. And everyone is also counting on you to give up. Maybe not the first time, but certainly the second or third. Don’t be a wuss. If your request is important, keep trying. People are busy, or maybe you didn’t pitch well enough the first time, or maybe they just want to see if you have the gumption to keep playing.
During college I was the top fundraiser for my university foundation. Here’s why. We had to make five asks in a phone call. Ninety percent of my co-workers would stop after one ask or get uncomfortable after the second. I made all five. Don’t give up.
3. Be specific.
People can’t read minds. Trust me, I’ve tested every boyfriend I’ve had. Nothing.
Most people don’t have specific requests. They send information or they send praise, but no call to action. Tell me what you want. It’s great that you’re writing an e-book on careers or it sucks that you’re having problems at work. And I’m glad that you love my blog, but is there something I can do for you? Then tell me. Follow through. Close the deal. It’s easy to do this by ending a conversation with a specific request:
“Can I count on you to give $100?”
“Does a 1:00 pm call on Thursday work?”
“Will you attend my restaurant opening?”
4. Say thank you. For the love of God.
My last job was all about keeping young professionals in the city. So when a candidate said she had been rejected by a local organization for a job, I asked her who the contact was. When it turned out to be someone I knew well, I offered to call my contact and ask that person to take a second look at the candidate. My contact agreed, the candidate was interviewed and was subsequently hired for a position.
And I never heard a thank you. Ever. That sort of thing happened all the time and what irks me even more is that it still does. Constantly. You have to show appreciation.
People don’t help you out of the goodness of their hearts. People help for two reasons: 1) they want to feel good when their advice or assistance pays off, and 2) they think by helping you, they can help themselves.
When I got my current position, I called the friend who got me in the door immediately to thank her. And then I sent her flowers. Oftentimes, when you ask for something, there’s not much you’re able to give back in return. A simple thank you goes a long way.
What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Share your practical and creative tips below.