Journalists don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time reading email pitches for stories, so PR communicators shouldn’t be lengthy with their words. Sparse, detail-oriented messaging is essential. If the subject line is enough of an attention-grabber to get a reporter to open an email in the first place, then the body of the message is the last chance a communicator will have to encourage a response.
Michael Smart, principal of MichaelSMARTPR and speaker at PR News’ Writing Boot Camp in San Francisco on Feb. 4, indicates some of the essential elements that an email pitch must contain in order to lead to a response from the media.
- Content that impacts your audience. News comes in many forms, but the best way to be sure to get a response is to explain how your information makes life different for the people your journalist is trying to reach.
- Why you’re contacting them. Journalists are so sick of untargeted pitches that we have to declare right up front why we know the coming info is relevant to them.
- A time element. Pegging your information to a date or deadline increases the chances that it will go to the top of journalist’s to-do list instead of sitting perpetually on his/her back burner.
- A simple yes or no call to action that’s easy to accept. The single best way to increase responses to your pitch emails is to view them as the start of a conversation instead of the beginning, middle and end. Don’t close by asking for coverage, or even for an interview. Instead, ask if you can send more details or a supplementary asset like a report or photo. This also helps you achieve the next element . . .
- The most important thing a journalist can see in the body of your pitch email is the END. Short, brief, concise, even abrupt—that’s what we’re aiming for here. Pitches of 150 words and even sentence fragments are OK. No background or pleasantries. This dramatically increases the chances they’ll read the whole thing.
Join Michael as he leads a discussion with journalists about what they look for in an email pitch at the PR News’ Writing Boot Camp in San Francisco on Feb. 4.
Follow Michael Smart: @michaelsmartpr
Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell