Report: Generic personalization harms your email pitching

Offering readers tailored content and personalizing your outreach can increase engagement; shoddy or careless efforts, though, will only do damage.

Tailoring email messages for the intended target is a tried-and-true tactic for PR pros.

Readers feel special when they read a message addressed to them, and they are more likely to open emails that speak directly to them. Technology has enabled marketers to get sophisticated with these messages, automating responses and filling in names and company identifiers.

What happens, though, when your automation goes wrong?

As reported on PR Daily:

Most PR pros with the responsibility of pitching reporters gladly welcome resources that can make their work more efficient and effective, including media lists, pitch templates and automated email tools.However, these handy resources should also come with a warning. Misuse can erode a potential relationship with reporter, instead of getting your organization’s news covered.

Can poor personalization erode brand trust?

A new study from BuzzStream suggests that “fake personalization” can do damage.

[RELATED: Learn social media secrets from TED, Microsoft, Starbucks and more.]

The study identifies three different kinds of personalization attempts.

1. Fake personalization

This is when an email attempts to create a connection with a reader by referencing general personal information, but doesn’t actually zero in on identifying details.

The report states:

A common example of this type of outreach is any email that begins with some variation of:“Hey FNAME, I just saw your article at XYZ.com. Great post! I’ve written something your audience would like…”

Unfortunately for those groups that utilize this process they’d be better served by not personalizing at all. Based on the data, fake personalization actually generates a -1.3% impact on reply rates compared to the base case of people only using templates with merge fields.

Take note, PR pros: Reaching out to a journalist with a generic appraisal of their work without diligently researching their beat and publication or website can doom your pitches. The data suggest that if you don’t have something nice and specific to say, don’t say anything at all.

2. Contextual relevance

In this level of personalization, the study says an email campaign “shows clearly that the person sending outreach has a good understanding of the author by specifically referencing not just their article or info, but tying it directly into the ask.”

This kind of personalization has a positive effect on open rates.

PR pros who take the time to research reporters and find the publication that is the right fit for their client are more likely to be rewarded.

3. Reference past submissions

This is the most detailed of the personalization types and requires an up-to-date media list and careful notetaking.

In this kind of personalization, PR pros reference other correspondence with their media contacts when reaching out. According to the study, this improved click rates by another 2.3 percent from pitches that used only contextual relevance.

Trends that define successful pros

The report identified some key behaviors for PR pros that consistently saw more response to their media pitches.

They included:

  • Being process-oriented. The study defined this trait as having “a well-defined process and sticking to it.” For these teams, reaching out to reporters or influencers wasn’t a game of chance but rather a series of experiments in which a script was refined and tweaked.

As a bonus, a defined process also helped teams to bring new members onboard quickly and effectively.

  • Diligently developing new contacts. Should you always be looking for new contacts and outlets? The study said the biggest differentiator for top performers was an unending quest to find new leads—and then vetting to make sure they were interested in a potential pitch.
  • Using customized email greetings. This trend relates closely to the time spent developing media contacts.

The study wrote:

The more time spent in the prospecting and segmentation phase, the easier it is to quickly personalize each message with relevant content.

  • Building on existing relationships. Though it’s important to develop new contacts, PR pros shouldn’t forget their reliable friends.

The study shared:

Groups that have an established outreach program and a well-maintained contact database regularly leverage their relationships for future progress in two ways. First, as previously discussed, they will reference their relationships in their outreach to boost replies. Second, they will use their database as a source to build their lists for subsequent similar campaigns, building on the success of their campaigns and making results more beneficial and predictable over time.

How much time do you spend developing your media list?

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