Cover letters are all about packaging yourself. The goal of that packaging is to convince those hiring for jobs, contract assignments or services that you are the best fit. The one with the edge they need. And what they need has already been determined in their heads and hearts.
So, to get a yes answer, you bet, you have to get into their heads and hearts. You have to do that just the way the big-time marketers do at Pepsi-Cola and the NFL have been doing for decades.
Here's the marketing reality: Cover letters are not about presenting a laundry list of facts. How many two-liters of Diet Pepsi have been sold by detailing the background of that beverage? Instead, you need to create an aura. That will then be supported by the evidence you present such as your accomplishments in placing bylined articles for leaders of trade associations or think tanks.
Here are some packaging must-dos:
Use research and intuition to get a feel for what buyer really wants. Remember, you're pitching to very specific minds and hearts. If the organization identifies itself, scan the media about it. If it's based in Silicon Valley you already know plenty about what they need from you and how. If it's a call center in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, you get it that what's required is a reliable someone who will stick to the script. That's what you will highlight in your second sentence. The first sentence indicates your enthusiasm about finding this opportunity.
Create the right narrative. Briefly tell the story they want to hear about your track record. Provide the evidence in quantitative terms. You placed 48 articles in brandname financial media, ranging from Dow Jones to Bloomberg, in the past six months. Embellish the narrative with juicy details such as two opinion-editorials in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL generated 14 requests for bylined work from media outlets, ranging from THE NEW YORK TIMES to THE ATLANTIC.
Provide snapshot of what you can do for them. It's a fundamental of selling to sketch out a picture of how things could be better. Have the public relations anticipate dealing with more satisfied clients, less upset ones. Yes, you will be helping the agency operate from a position of strength, all the time.
Extend sampling opportunity. You can offer a complimentary half-hour consultation, working free for a few days, drawing up a mini marketing plan for turning around product or service X, and/or providing a presentation on how to create media pitches which will increase results at least 30 percent.
Packaging is an art, not a science. But just as we become better at interviewing with practice, we can come to excel at hunting for work. The trick is to remember we are not selling ourselves. We are selling the professional the buyer wants to purchase. That is, we are matching who we present in cover letters to what the hiring organization already has in mind. The better the fit, the better the odds of success.