Maybe you want to set up an informational interview with someone from a company that you really admire. Perhaps you’re going to reach out to try to secure a corporate sponsorship for an event that you’re putting together. Or maybe you’re feeling extra courageous and are planning to cold email an employer to pitch yourself as their next great team member.
There’s only one problem you find yourself running into: You don’t even know who to email. You’ve scoured your network, and simply don’t have a contact at that company you can lean on.
Yes, needing to reach out to an organization when you don’t have a personal touchpoint can feel a little overwhelming. Will your message just sit untouched in that generic “firstname.lastname@example.org” inbox? How much context do you need to give when you don’t know who will be reading your message? How do you even start this email?
As a freelancer, I’ve done my fair share of cold emailing companies without a single connection—hey, it’s even how I started writing for The Everygirl. So, I like to think that I know a thing or two about how to successfully reach out to an organization when you don’t have a contact in your corner. Here’s what you need to know!
1. Find a contact.
“Wait, what?” you’re probably thinking right now, “If it was that easy to just find a contact, I wouldn’t have this problem to begin with!”
Chances are, you might not be able to dig up a personal email address that you can use to contact someone directly (although, if your above average detective skills mean you’re actually able to do so, great!).
But, here’s the thing: You need to be able to address your email to someone. Chances are, you’ll be using a general contact form or a company-wide generic email address. And if you’re thinking of relying on those cliché “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” openers, think again.
Make it your goal to at least find someone’s name that you can put at the top of your email—even if it’s being sent to a generic address. Not only will that help you make a better first impression, but it will also give your message a better chance of landing in the right hands when it arrives in a shared inbox.
Use the company website and LinkedIn to find a name of someone most relevant for you to email—whether it’s a specific department head, the media relations person, or even HR. Include his or her name at the top of your email and your message is instantly more personable—while also proving you did your research.
2. Explain who you are.
Since you don’t have a contact at the company, you can’t assume that they know anything about you. So you need to provide a little context about who you are.
Many people hear this advice and take things too far in the other direction, however. Remind yourself of the fact that this email just serves as your introduction. You’re trying to get your foot in the door for a continued relationship and conversation—which means there’s no need to cram your graduation date, goals, and a detailed summary of career history all in this one email.
Instead, simply introduce your name, what you do, and—if necessary—where you’re based.
What this looks like:
“My name is Kat, and I’m a Wisconsin-based freelance writer who specializes in career advice.”
3. Have a purpose.
There’s a specific reason you’re emailing this company, right? But what’s obvious to you might not be so obvious to the recipient—so you need to make it explicitly clear exactly why you’re reaching out.
I know, it seems painfully simple. But, chances are, you’ve been on the receiving end of messages that were missing calls to action entirely—meaning you had no clue what you were actually supposed to do with that information. You don’t want your email to fall into that same confusing camp.
Include a clear purpose in your initial email—put it on an entirely separate line if you need to. Whether you’re hoping to set up an informational interview or are eager to join their team, ensure that the person on the receiving end of your message knows exactly what you’d like them to do next.
What this looks like:
“I’m looking to get into the marketing field, and I really admire the work that Company XYZ is doing. I would love to set up a time to sit down and chat with someone on your marketing team to learn more about their career path and experience in the industry.”
4. Stay engaged.
Let’s face it—no matter how well crafted your message is, sometimes you only hear crickets in return. That’s frustrating, but it doesn’t need to mean the end of the road.
Instead, connect in other places to start building a relationship and to stay top of mind. Send a request to that department head on LinkedIn or interact with the company on Twitter.
You’ll begin to build some name recognition, and will also hopefully give yourself a more personalized way to follow up (rather than sending yet another “just checking in!” message to that generic inbox) when you need to.
Whether it’s a contact form on the website or a general “email@example.com” email address, there are still ways to get in touch with a company when you don’t have a personalized contact. However, doing so can be a little nerve-wracking.
Use these tips to write an effective message, and you’re sure to increase your chances of hearing something back in return!