Pitching to journalists is a crucial part of daily life as a PR professional. But whether over the phone or via email, most journalists are inundated with content from PR pros throughout the day. So how can you make your content stand out in their overflowing inbox? To help with this sometimes-daunting task, we’ve compiled our top tips on how become ‘pitch perfect’.
Get them interested early
The subject line of an email is often the last thing you think about. It’s pretty likely you’ve had to be reminded by Outlook to include one in the past. However, when it comes to pitching, the subject line is the first thing the recipient sees. Five or six words can often decide the fate of your content — they have to be perfect.
A simple title or summary won’t suffice — if a journalist is bored by the subject line then it’s unlikely that they’ll read on. To captivate them from the outset, ask yourself a few key questions. What are you offering? Why do they want to read it? What makes you and your content different? Provide an answer to all three in one snappy, engaging line.
Something generic like, ‘Latest research from x indicates that job fears over automation could be unfounded’ is non-specific, tedious and unlikely to interest any overworked journalist. Rather, you could include the raw statistics, such as ‘Robots to create 1 billion jobs by 2030’ — this is certainly going to entice the recipient as they will read on to find out the specifics behind this surprising stat.
Highlighting a gap that your information can fill or asking a question that your content can answer often plays well, especially if you have stats to back you. Think about what will interest the person you’re writing to; better to be bolder in your phrasing too. Make the email intriguing, and the chances of it being read are so much higher.
Keep them reading on
The body of your email requires careful care and attention. Brevity is the key to success here too — your initial email should be no longer than 100 words. Only include the most eye-opening facts and statistics to demonstrate why your content is newsworthy now and suitable for that specific publication. Does it follow up on a recent article written by the journalist, or maybe it’s particularly interesting in light of a trending news story?
Bullet pointing the key points of your content can highlight any particularly compelling sub-headings or top findings. This can be crucial in maintaining the journalist’s interest as it saves them time searching for information: the facts they are looking for are right in front of them.
Mix professionalism and personality
We spoke to Tom Allen recently, who said that “it’s always been a symbiotic relationship, and a good PR is a journalist’s best friend”, and so it is important to remember that it’s a human that’s going to read your email. “The important thing is to take time to talk to and get to know each other as people, not just another email address”. A journalist is unlikely to publish anything if they feel like they’ve been part of a blanket email to several publications — show them that they’re the one that you want.
Almost all emails to journalists are too formal and, contrary to what PRs may think, this does not encourage a response: there’s a difference between formality and politeness. Always remember you’re talking with a fellow human being and that personality goes a long way in the world of PR. Make sure you do your research. Show that you know your stuff and you’ll be in with a chance of making a genuine connection with your target journalist.
An email pitch can seem like a simple task, especially in comparison to keeping someone’s attention over the phone. And it’s tempting to think that, when strike rates are so typically low, tailoring a quality email doesn’t really matter. Thinking like this will only get you to one place — the junk folder.