Authentic and in-touch: Getting your pitch just right

May 3, 2012

To become reliable sources, PR practitioners must present journalists with timely, relevant story opportunities. Letter-length pitches and random facts do not connect with most busy media representatives. Communication must be succinct and authentic, or it will be dismissed as just another email blast.

You’ve heard these guidelines before, but have you properly applied them, given your own time constraints?

The following recommendations for fine-tuning media emails assume that you have your researched topic in hand and seek to improve response using readily available tools.

Touch and go

Information overload makes it increasingly difficult to have someone read your message, especially as audiences are increasingly mobile.

A study by email certification company Return Path shows email reading on mobile devices increased 34 percent from April to September in 2011 compared with the previous six months, while iPad email viewing jumped 73 percent. Messages often must survive a vetting process where readers tag them on the go for later viewing at their desk or in an app, or simply delete them altogether.

To improve email response, use subject lines that spark interest and indicate that each email is tailored to its recipient. Limit your message to two or three sentences when possible. It’s tempting to add a lot of color or detail in hope of catching an editor’s eye, but this is a shotgun approach. Your goal is to pique their interest and compel them to click a link or make a call so that you have ample time to share more details.

Front-load your message with a call to action, typically noting a spokesperson’s expertise and how it complements a journalist’s coverage. Add urgency by connecting your story to a news trend or noting your spokesperson’s limited availability when applicable.

Analyze for added appeal

Consider how to increase the lifespan of your email once baseline elements are in place.

Embed a link to your newsroom, Pinterest photos or YouTube video. Using optional links also maintains brevity.

Many email campaign services offer click-through analytics showing how much time readers spend with an email, whether they forward it to colleagues and which embedded links are visited. Marketers commonly use this functionality and PR practitioners can too, with a time advantage being that we have more targeted and manageable lists — sometimes just an audience of one. Click-through details gauge a recipient’s interest, qualify them for follow-up and can reveal how to sharpen your message.

An email service can also test which days recipients are more likely to open your email. Send a similar industry pitch to a few target publications on different days to see if a particular day produces better response. You can likewise test times of day as well. Analytics also monitor what subject lines have better open rates, and if photos or videos improve response.

And don’t forget about keywords. Include ideal keywords in your subject line and message for relevance, and so that your message will pop up when an editor searches their inbox. Attention to detail and some simple planning can put you in the right place at the right time.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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