Due to the sheer volume, most will be deleted before they are ever opened, and even if your email does get opened, it doesn’t mean the journalist will be interested or even have time to write back to you.
So how can we ensure that our pitches stand out in a cluttered inbox – and better yet, save ourselves and our clients from ending up in the dreaded “deleted” folder?
Start with an attention-grabbing subject line.
The subject line is the first thing a journalist will see, and it is the deciding factor in whether or not your pitch is opened. If it’s confusing or boring, the journalist will just delete it. Try to pull out the most newsworthy catch phrase from your pitch, but avoid using words that could trigger spam filters (either software-based or otherwise) like “innovative”. Treat the subject line like it’s your first impression – you only get one chance, so make it count!
Keep it brief.
Tell the journalist why they should care within the introduction to your pitch. Chances are they probably don’t have time to read much more than a paragraph, so the first two sentences are all the space you’ve got to make an impression. What’s more, make it clear why this story will be of interest to their readers, and highlight the key facts that make your client newsworthy. A pitch isn’t meant to include every key detail, just enough to ensure they ask for more information. As such, we must learn to say more with less.
Do your homework.
Before sending your pitch, it’s critical to know what topics the journalist covers. They appreciate when your pitch is related to their beat, and even if they aren’t interested in covering your client’s news at the moment, they’ll remember you in the future as a knowledgeable source. Spending a little extra time researching a reporter’s beat goes a long way in building your reputation and that of client.
Pick up the phone.
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to think email is the best way to reach reporters. Yet it’s proven that taking the time to speak with a reporter over the phone will give you an advantage. You’re able to answer their follow-up questions in real time, you’re able to get a sense of their mood and interest right away and you’re able to shift quickly if you see they are more interested in one aspect of your client over another. Perhaps most importantly, a phone conversation gives you insight into the reporter’s personality (and the opportunity to put on the charm as well!). Pitching journalists can be one of the most exciting, rewarding and daunting aspects of working in PR. It can also be a frustrating and confusing process. Ultimately however, it’s our job to put ourselves in reporters’ shoes and make our clients’ news relevant to them. And with a little extra homework, personalization and persistence, PR professionals can become much more successful at grabbing a reporter’s attention and making sure that their email avoids the trash.