Good Email: How to Write Pitches Journalists Will Actually Read
Remember when you were a little kid and you were convinced that there were monsters hiding under your bed? But as you grew older (and you used the heck out of that night light) you realized that you had hyped up these imaginary creatures so much in your mind that they seemed real. But that they were only as big and scary as your imagination allowed.
Well, in the PR world, it seems that so many people have made journalists into these scary gatekeepers that can make or break your PR strategy. And that misconception can psyche you out and creep into your pitch, so you’re more interested in “selling” to them than building a relationship with them and writing pitches that they will actually read.
But just like when you were a kid, they’re only as daunting as your imagination lets them be. Journalists are regular people, not intimidating gatekeepers who want to see you fail. They want to make an efficient use of their time, which often means sorting through tons of bad pitches. Your job is to make their job easier by writing an effective email pitch.
It’s all about the subject heading
When you think about how more than 100 billion emails are sent and received each day, writing a pitch that journalists will open, let alone answer, seems like an insurmountable task. But it’s more than possible. It all starts with the first thing people see–the subject line.
Think of the subject line as the opening act. It draws in the person reading it, keeping their interest for the rest of the email. A good subject line is brief, includes a call to action that summarizes the takeaway from the email and is written in the active voice. The goal is to write a heading that is irresistible to the recipient.
Bad- Product Launch/Review
Good- PITCH: Essie’s Fall Polish Line Launches in November, Samples Available for Review
The second heading works because it identifies what this email is about right away (“PITCH”). It incorporates brand recognition (“Essie’s”) and a call to action that summarizes the takeaway (“Samples Available for Review”). And the first part of the heading is written in the active voice.
Keep it short
E.B. White said that real writing is rewriting. The same goes for pitches. Oftentimes, it’s easy to get caught up in telling your entire story of your brand, from the first time the idea came to you up until five minutes ago. We get that you want to show how much you care, so they can understand how passionate you are about your company. But, if you want your pitch to be read, you need to keep your email brief.
Rewrite your pitch until the first few sentences are clear on what you want from the reporter. Aim for three to four paragraphs. And if you have supporting materials or want to provide more information, supply a link or make it clear that more information is available upon request.
Use clear language and keep the pitch relevant
Don’t let your fear of rejection fool you into thinking you need to dazzle them with fancy language. It’ll just come across as awkward and will cloud the real message you’re trying to get across. Using simple and clear language should do fine. Just focus on the information you need to relate.
In the introduction, try to answer the five W’s and one H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How). Give more details about the product and/or company in the body and then provide a short recap at the end that prompts them to action (write a story, review samples, etc).
Remember, the pitch should be relevant and timely for that specific reporter. You want to show them how what you’re offering benefits their audience right now. Sometimes it helps to connect your pitch to a previous story they’ve written. But if you’re trying to impress them with your use of five syllable words, you’ll lose the focus and relevance of the pitch.
Don’t email out of nowhere
In our last blog post about pitches, we emphasized the need to build relationships with journalists. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. In the PR business, you’re only as good as the relationships you maintain. Relationships with journalists are a two way street, made of give and take. Start treating them as people who are all for the taking and you’ll be getting a lot more rejections in the future.
So emailing journalists out of the blue is a big no. In fact, 71 per cent of surveyed adults became resentful after receiving unsolicited emails. But if you must email someone who you have no relationship with, don’t forget to introduce yourself. This simple gesture establishes who you are, so they don’t feel like they’re being spammed
When you think you’re done with the pitch, close your eyes and pretend that you’re the journalist. (By this time you should have done enough research where you can get into their head a little bit). Then open your eyes and try to see the pitch from the reporter’s point of view.
Ask yourself if the subject line makes you want to read the email. And if the first few sentences grab your attention. And so on... Going through the pitch line by line this way will help you weed out any unnecessary information, making your pitch that more effective and something journalists will actually read.