As most PR people know, reporters don’t read every story pitch that lands in their inbox. A recent study found that 42% of journalists, writers and bloggers get 11 to 100 pitches daily, and 5% receive a whopping 100 or more email pitches every day. A public relations team’s challenge is to create a winning pitch that stands out. In addition to doing the proper research and targeting the right journalists, there are other ways to draft a pitch that will actually be read.
Make subject lines snappy
A subject line is your first impression. Earn reporters’ interest with an inviting subject line that’s concise, informative, and relevant. A good subject line will entice reporters to open your email. For example, your subject line could be:
EXCLUSIVE: Top AdTech Firm Raises $10M in Funding
FIRST LOOK: Secret Weapon vs Amazon?
DATA: SMBs in NYC are missing critical online information
Be concise, use active verbs, and if possible, offer an exclusive chat, first look, or data – all of which make a story more appealing to reporters. Making subject lines questions can also pique interest when appropriate.
Say more by saying less
Before you pitch, take the time to ask yourself, why is this pitch a fit for the specific publications/journalists targeted? Are you pitching a feature story or a comment? Why should journalists take the time to read it?
Once a journalist opens your email, retain interest by keeping pitches to the point. Avoid using too much jargon. Journalists realize jargon is often just a filler when there’s not enough information for a solid story. Shorter pitches are more likely to be read than longer ones, so edit your pitch to filter out filler words and unwieldy sentences.
Want to say even less in your pitch? A tactic some PR pros overlook is approaching journalists on Twitter. By having limited characters to get your pitch across, a Twitter DM can be an alternative way to catch a reporter’s attention – if you know the journalist in question. It’s considered bad form and even spam, however, to publicly @ journalists on Twitter when you have no prior relationship.
Personalize your pitch
There’s nothing worse than blind-pitching a journalist, so personalize pitches! Avoid “Hi there” when possible. If you have a relationship with a reporter, you may want to include a more casual note or make the overall tone of the pitch less formal. But avoid being overly familiar; it’s presumptuous.
It’s also helpful to reference a recent article or a social media post by the reporter if it’s relevant. Make the pitch’s relationship to the reporter’s beat or a previous story clear, without being duplicative with past coverage. Here are some examples:
Hi XX, For your Movers & Shakers column, thought you might be interested in a recent hire by Y
Hi XX, Saw your tweet about Y. My client Z would love to provide a comment, given her deep expertise and contrarian POV
Hi XX, Saw your latest piece on Y and thought Z would be a good fit for your column because of his recent move
Don’t forget the follow-up
Even with a well-researched and timely pitch, it’s always possible that your pitch wasn’t read. It’s easy to miss an email. That’s why follow-ups are important, but there are ways to follow-up without annoying journalists.
Depending on the news you’re pitching, you should send no more than three follow-up emails. 82 % of journalists prefer PR pros to follow-up one to seven days after the original pitch. To make sure your target hasn’t forgotten about your original note, try a follow-up email a day or two later. Don’t take it personally if a journalist is slow to respond; it may be that a busy news cycle is eating at their time.
Stumped on how to spice up your follow up? Consider including information that wasn’t in the original pitch, or images that can amplify it.
Even if you don’t get a positive response to the approach, most reporters notice and appreciate a strong pitch. Pitches are great opportunities for relationship-building. Reporters will remember you if your pitch stands out. They’ll pay attention to future emails or they may even come to you seeking input for stories. Keeping up relationships is the goal of good media relations, of course, and there is always another chance to get your story out.