How Excel Can Boost Your Media Outreach


May 13, 2013

The roles and responsibilities of all marketers are expanding. Publicists are conducting keyword research. SEOs are guiding media outreach. These are wild times.

This article is designed for professionals who wish to streamline their media outreach by creating many semi-personalized pitch letters in Excel using the concatenation function. If you are new to pitching and are simply searching for a way to get a pesky product launch off your plate as soon as possible, please review the Golden Rule below before moving on to the screenshots.

Pitch Letter Golden Rule

As (part-time) publicists, we should never send a form “Dear Reporter” pitch letter to every reporter on our list, even if this blog post makes it really easy to do that. It is not successful, it cheapens the brand and PR people will hate us for doing a disservice to their field. Instead, take time to personalize each pitch, even if there is just one line that speaks to the writer or publication.

The tactics discussed in this article might bend the boundaries of the golden rule but, as the Dalai Lama said, “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” While I believe that is especially true with all writing, it is also a valid lesson in public relations. Liberties taken from a solid foundation create unique, engaging PR outreach. Liberties taken from ignorance are slop.

When Pitch Letter Concatenation Works

For most story pitches, publicists contact a short list of journalist who report on the particular topic and tailor each pitch to its recipient. A streamlining process like this one might not be necessary. Other times, we need a method for organizing letter writing and distribution.

An example might be an article that identifies the best in your industry. Since this is a SEO blog, our sample article title will be “Top 50 SEO Bloggers.” We will rank the bloggers by a series of quantitative and qualitative metrics, maybe open it up to voting to increase engagement. Once we have the finalists, it is time to contact each one to let them know they made the top 50. We have three options:

  • 50 personalized emails 
  • “Congratulations Blogger” form email
  • Semi-personalized letters in Excel

Creating Pitch Letters with Excel

Our semi-personalized email will have two elements: the subject line and the body. We don’t want to use a standard subject line like “Congratulations SEO Blogger” because open rate would suffer–I wouldn’t open it. Instead, let’s us each blogger’s first name.

Combining columns in Excel

The formula that you see in D2 (shown as “A2&B2&C2”) combines all of the previous cells in that row. You can extend that formula to the following rows by dragging it to the rest of the rows. Be sure to add spaces between the columns where needed to avoid “HeyJohn, you made the best SEO blogger list.”

Using Excel to create pitch letters

The letter body applies the same rules. The formulas in “Body 1” and “Body 5” pull names from “Subject 2” in our original subject line. “Body 2” is a comma after the first name, “Body 4” is a space and “Body 6” is the final period. Concatenate them and we get our letter.

John, just wanted you to be the first to know that you made LunaMetrics’ list of the top 50 SEO bloggers. The article will be published in three hours and we’d hate for you find out via Google Alert for your name—don’t worry, we all do it. Thanks so much for your contribution to the industry. Keep up the great work, John.

That’s it. We created a scalable semi-personalized email for the 50 bloggers on our list.

I am really eager to hear of other ways that this has worked or could work for you. Any ideas?