Elements of the Email
The pitch angle is crucial, but what bothers most people is actually writing the email.
Below are examples as to how to craft winning emails, starting with the subject line.
Craft the Perfect Subject Line
Your story might have a great hook, but if journalists don’t even read the pitch, it won’t do you any good.
This is why you need to spend time crafting the perfect subject line. In fact, two-thirds of journalists decide whether to open an email or not based on the subject line alone.
Here’s how you can make your subject line stand out from a PR perspective:
- Tell journalists that your content is visual
Growth Hackers proved that journalists want to see the following in pitches:
The most in-demand content formats are visual in nature.
Lesson: stand out by telling journalists that your content is visual right in the subject line.
In fact, Fractl’s Kerry Jones mentions that visual content contains the two “magic words” that almost guarantee your email will be opened.
To work this into your content, you can:
- Condense the key takeaways from your content into a visual graphic, or
- Incorporate visual formats into your content
The content should include plenty of visuals, including an infographic, to give publications something to share with their readers.
What if you don’t have any visual content to share? Does that mean your pitch is destined to end up in the trash?
Hardly. While visual content is great to have, it’s not necessary for pitching the press.
There are other strategies you can try instead, such as the one shared below.
- Use the content’s title as the subject line
Unless you’re personalizing the pitch heavily (which is great, but not scalable), use your content’s title as your subject line.
This might come across as low-effort, but most journalists at large outlets actually prefer it. It tells them exactly what the pitch is about and leaves the guesswork out of coming up with a compelling headline.
Note that this works best when you’re cold pitching a story to a large news outlet.
It doesn’t work quite as well when emailing influencers, building relationships or approaching smaller outlets.
So use it when emailing WaPo, not TechCrunch.
A great subject line is powerful, but as I’ll show you next, personalization is even better.
- Personalize your subject lines for high-performing sites
It’s a good idea to segment your list of targets into different categories, such as:
- Tier-1: Writers, bloggers and influencers who either work for, or are themselves recognizable by their names. Think TechCrunch (tech), HubSpot (business), Derek Halpern (marketing), etc.
- Tier-2: Writers, bloggers and influencers who are respected, but don’t have the influence and reach of tier-1 folks. Think ReadWrite.com (tech), Close.io blog (business), etc.
- Tier-3: Everyone else.
Instead of looking at hard metrics (follower count, domain authority, etc.) to build these segments, ask yourself: what publications do you want to get featured on the most? The answer would make your ‘Tier-1’.
For all Tier-1 journalists on your list, personalize the subject line to something that is relevant to the journalist.
You can personalize based on:
- Something the journalist shared on Twitter recently.
- The journalist’s last few stories.
- The journalist’s location.
- Ego-bait based on the journalist’s work.
Write a Great Pitch
All great pitches have three characteristics.
Remember, great pitches are:
- Relevant to the journalist (even if they are not personalized).
- Under 200 words.
- Highly readable, i.e. they use short sentences, bullet points, subheadings, etc.
Send these types of emails anytime you want to develop a relationship with a journalist or influencer. Since the objective is to build a relationship, don’t include a salesy or strong CTA.
Relationship-building emails typically fall into two categories
- The “appreciation” email where you show your appreciation for the journalist’s work.
- The “helpful” email where you correct a typo, share relevant content or introduce the target to someone or something that might help them.
Appreciation emails work best on first touch when you just want to register yourself on the journalist’s radar.
Helpful emails work better as second or third touch points with high-value contacts.
What you ask for will depend on how much you give in the email.