You wrote the press release, added the links, video clips and sidebars with great quotes, and you’ve culled your list of hundreds of media contacts with your key search words. Now to copy-and-paste it into an email, add a tantalizing headline like, “BIG NEWS FOR COMPANY YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF,” and reporters will be knocking down your door, right?
Wrong! Sending an impersonal, slapdash PR pitch to hundreds of swamped reporters will “remove you from my gene pool,” as one editor so eloquently expressed it.
While there are no guarantees your email will ever see the light of the journalist’s day here’s a few tips to get you closer to the sunlight…
Make a Standout First Impression
Picture a journalist’s inbox. It is stacked top to bottom with all-caps headlines, screaming without much to say. When journalists scan their emails, they see three things: the sender, the subject line, and the first sentence. If just one of the three raises a red flag—the sender sprays their news across the widest swath of media; the subject line is confusing, dull or irrelevant; or the first sentence is obviously canned—they won’t hesitate to delete, delete, delete.
When it comes to the subject line, you know there’s a fine line between a tease and a gimmick. Avoid confusing ploys, and give the reporter the most relevant and intriguing information. In other words, clearly state the story, not just a string of facts. And show that you are familiar with the reporter’s work by tailoring the headline to their interests and expertise. You want them to be hooked by the subject line and think, “A possible story and it’s in my wheelhouse.”
Get Straight to the Point
Once the reporter has taken the bait and opened your email, waste no time reeling them in. Make it immediately clear why this particular story, out 672 others, is worth their precious time. Within the first sentence or two, extend a hand–or hook–they can grasp on to. This is the newsworthy angle of your pitch, be it a startling statistic, hot trending topic, or local slant. And if there are any big, recognizable people or brands involved, name-drop quickly. Most of all, answer the question, “Why Should I Care?” before anyone has time to ask.
Tell a Story
In two to three short paragraphs, you communicate all the elements of a strong story: character, conflict, plot, setting, and perspective. This doesn’t mean you tell the whole story; you know this is a pitch, not the story itself. Also, stories are not products and they’re not sanitized marketing messages that a reporter echoes back to readers. As one Fortune reporter put it, “If failure isn’t part of the story, I’m not that interested.” With that in mind, give the reporter a blueprint for a story rich and compelling they want to make it their own. By fully developing a story yourself, you show you care about this news enough to work for it. You are honoring the reporter’s craft, while making their job easier.
Call to Action
You sign off with a sincere thank you, and your full name. You make it a snap for the reporter to reply by including all pertinent contact details at the bottom. You also give them some first leads for further research – and not just your company executives. You leave the door open as you make a graceful exit.
Now, do all this in 50 – 75 words! At least it’s longer than a tweet!
Congratulations, you’ve just thrown your perfect email pitch. Now get out there and do it again.