How to Apply to a Journalist

Journalists and bloggers who pretend to be journalists receive many emails. I have about 20 a day, so I hit the archive button quite hard. But if you’re trying to promote what you’ve worked on and you’re not a professional publicist, you actually have an edge. Last month, game developer Andrew Miller asked me for advice on how to submit his work for lighting. That’s what I told him.

Hi Nick!

Thank you for letting us take your brain ! I would like to find ideas on how to communicate with journalists without being a bad person.

I am a board RPG developer. I have a few online friends with journalists who love what I do, but whenever I think about contacting other journalists, I am worried about spamming or wasting their time. What method would you recommend to those who want to behave like a decent person, treat journalists like people and at the same time spread information about my things?



Hi Andrew!

The good news is, if you are worried about being spammed, that means you probably won’t be spamming!

Here’s one way to get the right lighting and make everyone happy:

  • First, find written articles about other game developers — the kind of articles you want someone to write about you or your job.
  • Then sort them by how much you would like to be in those parts. Maybe you would like to be on the New York Times because it reaches a wide, mainstream audience. Maybe you want this writer from the little-read trading blog to cover you because their article perfectly conveys the game developer’s mission. You can love different things for different reasons. But it will help you understand what is most important to you.
  • Now start at the top of your list and reach out to the author of the article. Tell us why you liked it. Feel free to tell them what you like about their other work. Be specific so they know you are not cheating on them. And of course, be positive; now is not the time to discuss or criticize their work. It seems obvious, but I have presentations that began with the words “This is what you got wrong in your last piece …”
  • Tell them why your work feels worth writing about. Be confident and don’t neglect yourself. You, Andrew, probably don’t run the risk of sounding like a bully.

Some tactical stuff:

  • You can start with a letter that you send to each journalist. But customize it as much as possible. It’s also great to write a letter from scratch for every journalist. First, send a short email in which you briefly describe what to write about your work (more specifically), and ask if you can send additional information. You are not a public relations professional – use this to your advantage. You don’t need to use their nasty corporate speech or offer to “call quickly”.
  • Always be grateful and polite, even if you are not.
  • It’s better to write one great article than several good ones. Because a great article usually applies to all other blogs dedicated to the topic.
  • Write down which blogs picked up the story, and then find a new angle to reach those blogs. They’ve written about you before, so there’s a good chance that if you have something new to give them, they’ll write about you again. (But there’s also a good chance they ended up after this episode. Okay.)

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!


Another note for pros and hobbyists alike: Send extra emails very sparingly and never send more than one repeat email to the same person. Former Lifehacker writer Patrick Austin once received 13 follow-up emails in a single thread that was not answered. One person sent an email to Lifehacker’s Two Cents writer Alicia Adamchik to her work email address, her personal email address, LinkedIn and Twitter. Whatever you do, try to be the opposite of this man.


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