Keep Your Email Pitches Short—Then Make Them Even Shorter

Katie Durkin
Katie Durkin

PR professionals send out countless emails to journalists in the hope of garnering interest in their brand's story, often to hear nothing in return. Newsrooms are understaffed, media outlets are increasingly particular about the types of stories they run and reporters have hectic schedules. Generating attention for a story under these conditions requires an email pitch that leaps out of the pile and calls for action.

At PR News’ recent Writing Boot Camp in Chicago, Katie Durkin, senior VP, lead media at Weber Shandwick, spoke about how to craft an email pitch that rises above the hundreds of messages that journalists receive.

It all starts—and often ends—with the subject line. It needs to have a hook that grabs attention, and it must be free of fluff. Items that will keep a reporter from hitting the delete button straight away include mentioning an event, an interview with a major stakeholder or opinion leader, new data or the promise of exclusive information.

The body of the email must begin with a lead sentence that has its own hook. "If a reporter isn’t intrigued by the end of the first sentence, you’ve lost them," Durkin told attendees at the boot camp. Make them care enough to read the rest of the message, but don’t give all the details up front. Make them curious enough to respond to you directly to learn more.

"You should make the pitch as short as you possibly can," Durkin said. "Then, make it even shorter." The email pitch should focus on the story, not the brand. Avoid using all capital letters, and don’t send attachments or large files.

It’s also important to remember that email pitches are only part of an overall pitching strategy. Reach out via social media and traditional means; try to establish a conversation with a journalist that can develop into a working relationship. Then garnering attention for your stories will get a little easier.

To learn more about pitching media, join us for the Dec. 6 PR News webinar Press Release Writing 101: How to Write Relevant, Share-Worthy Releases.

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell