In our first installment, my Film Presence partner did a broad overview of basic outreach strategy. For our second blog post, I’m going to focus on how to make your outreach to potential partners as targeted and personal as possible, starting in the research phase.
When you’re researching, cluster the organizations you find by type in your database (i.e. student athletes, basketball rec leagues, foundations, etc.). By contacting them in group order, it will help keep your “message” relevant to them. This tailored message will need to be consistently conveyed in your phone and email pitches to them, so start mentally drafting it as you research.
Next, be clear with yourself what you’re asking partners for. Your “asks” (explained here) will determine who your contact at each organization should be. Do you just need them to tweet about it? Look for Communications or Marketing. Do you want them to be engaged physically at the theater? Try Programming or Events. There’s no staff list published or you’re just not 100% sure? Call their office and ask who you should send an email to.
Got it? Let me say it again.
Call any organizations you aren’t 100% sure about.
Every email you send that goes to the wrong person at an organization will take twice as long to get a response back, if any. And never settle for firstname.lastname@example.org unless it’s the only address you are given on the phone. It’s the email equivalent of a black hole.
If you have the time, it always good to call and verify contacts you’ve been given or found in your own research. Many organizations are understaffed, especially in the current economy. Even if they see your email and are interested, it’s hard to find the time to read the whole thing or respond to you. Because you are essentially approaching them to help you, you must be patient and grateful. When you call, let them know upfront in a sentence or two what your film is about and why you’re contacting them.
This is where determining your “message” for each type of organization is very important. When Film Presence worked on outreach for Lucy Walker’s WASTE LAND last year, we were hitting up very different types of groups that each required a different language and approach. The Brazilian cultural groups didn’t need to know about how waste management was discussed in the film, and environmental organizations didn’t need to hear about how “art as a vehicle for change” was portrayed.
Gauge responses to your message on these phone calls. If it’s working, it will form the basis of your language to other organizations that fall under the same type.
If someone is too busy to talk or isn’t sold yet, offer to send an email with information and link to the trailer in it, so they can read it on their own time. And don’t be discouraged! Remember that by having them on the phone at all, it’s much more likely they will consider partnering with you because you’ve made a personal connection. Instead of being a random email from a random stranger, you’re now that person that called yesterday about that film!
Do your best to perfect this “first contact” moment, be it through email or on the phone. A good first contact will really pay off in the weeks and months to come. It may feel like a lot of work, but think of it as investing in your long game. If you take shortcuts now, you’ll be doubling your work when a low response rate necessitates going back to every organization you reached out to the first time.
By getting potential partners on the hook early with targeted, personalized outreach, your relationships with them will have time to grow and evolve into something truly mutually beneficial!