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Hello stranger

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Recently, I received an email from a PR executive that I’d not encountered before. “Richard,” she began, “I loved your article for The Telegraph about accessible cottages”.

Very kind but puzzling, given I’ve not written anything but hotel reviews for the Telegraph in years. Presumably she meant my Times article about accessible cottages – a slip which, alas, rather undermined the approach as a whole.

She went on to ask if I was working on anything else at the moment, and could she assist? I get this double question a lot, and my (terribly grouchy) gut reaction is “Why not suggest some news, rather than just ask for help?” It feels lazy – but, in hindsight, I am probably being unkind. The proactivity should be admired.

Either way, there’s certainly a skill to cold-email approaches, and it’s an easy formula to execute.

Obviously, specifying the correct newspaper helps! And getting the journalist’s name right – another common fail sees me regularly called Ricardo (partly the fault of my absurd email address, but a mistake easily rectified by some token research), or, as previously mentioned, Rupert (but let’s not go there again).

Make a subtle nod to the prep you’ve done before getting in touch. I’m always suspicious when someone announces “I loved your article…” It feels like unnecessary flattery – better just to acknowledge you’ve seen my piece, and briefly (and without accusation) tell me if you have relevant clients that I’ve unwittingly overlooked.

Then you could attach or paste a client list – but far better is to include 3-5 news stories or an angle specifically for me.

While a few small mistakes risk betraying a lack of effort or personalisation, a few careful touches like this will go a long way to grabbing my attention.

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