4 tactics for successful pitching

Relevance and personalization are crucial to your email’s efficacy, but without a striking subject line—and maybe some social media schmoozing—it’s bound for the trash bin.

You’ve slaved over your computer screen for hours. You’re drowning in news searches when you finally stumble across the perfect writer on the 14th page.

After crafting what seems to be the Mona Lisa of pitches, a brief, yet extremely witty subject line comes to mind. As your email is sent into the PR abyss, you eagerly hope for a quick response, if you get one at all.

More often than not, your pitches are declined, go unread or are simply moved to the trash bin.

For PR professionals, landing top-tier links and press mentions is our ultimate goal, but it’s easy to get discouraged by publishers’ lack of response. You start to wonder what you’re doing wrong and begin to question your entire pitch strategy.

Before you doubt your approach, remember that you’re not the only one vying for a writer’s attention. Nearly one in five top-tier publishers receives from 11 to 25 emails daily. Given that so many pitches are flooding their inboxes, you plan ahead and stand out among the rest.

Here are four tips for ensuring your emails are opened (and answered):

  1. Research the writer.

If you’re working with a career site that focuses on job advice, would you pitch a relationship publication? “Of course not” might seem like an obvious answer, but you’d be surprised at how many people do it anyway.

Familiarizing yourself with the person you’re reaching out to is crucial. According to our survey of 500 writers, 44% of journalists decline an unpersonalized pitch.

Look over resources like the writer’s Twitter biography, author profile and personal website. Many journalists tend to change jobs or verticals entirely. Minor yet significant errors like mentioning the wrong publication could make or break your response rate. What has this journalist covered recently? What’s their specific niche? Does your pitch align with their beat?

One successful tactic is keeping an eye out for hometown or alumni connections. Most people are extremely proud of their native city and alma mater, which can make for a great conversation starter. Showing that you made an effort to craft a personalized pitch will increase the likelihood of not only your email getting opened, but also your receiving a response.

  1. Use social media.

Engaging with a journalist on social media before sending your pitch is a great way to initiate conversation and amplify your content’s reach. A simple “like,” retweet or reply on Twitter can open the door for new publisher relationships and put a face to the name in their inbox.

When looking for specific interests, you can also use hashtags to your advantage. Try #journorequest to find writers who align with your upcoming pitches, or use it in tweets to increase engagement.

Make your profiles outreach-ready! Decide whether your personal social media accounts are suitable for professional use. When in doubt, create new profiles solely for business use, and update details such as your headshot and biography.

Effective social media outreach relies on the credibility and trustworthiness of your page. Look at your profile and ask: Is this a person or brand you’d collaborate with? If the answer is no, it might be time for a makeover.

  1. Spice up your subject line.

Many journalists form an opinion before they even click on your pitch. No matter how personalized and well-thought-out your strategy is, it could all be thrown out the door without an effective subject line.

The framework surrounding your pitch is just as important as the pitch itself; 76% of journalists say a good subject line might prompt them to open an email from an unfamiliar sender.

Try testing out different variations to see what works with certain publishers and what doesn’t.

Often, applying different methods can pay off. Statistic-based subject lines typically garner the most success, but other options can work as well. It all depends on the content, which is why it’s important to test.

When brainstorming, think about your subject line as a potential headline. Could you picture this on the front page of a major publication? If your email reads like spam or seems misleading, a writer will probably scroll past it (or immediately move your message to the trash).

Journalists can receive hundreds of emails daily. To catch their attention, personalize yours in a brief yet informative way.

  1. Prove your content’s value.

Now that you’ve caught their eye, offer your contact a compelling story they just can’t help but cover. Journalists are looking for credible and timely content that best fits their coverage, and it’s our job to deliver. The core and foundation of your pitch should provide as much insight to the journalist as possible.

Assuming the writer covers a specific niche, they often write stories in the same vertical, and providing them with exclusive, relevant research will persuade them to move forward with publication.

Many publishers also take deep pride in their work and would prefer a collaborative approach rather than a generic press release. Highlighting current news stories and upcoming events that align with your content will show publishers why the information is relevant to their audience.

Skyler Acevedo is a media relations specialist at Fractl.

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