How to Write an Effective Email Pitch That People Will Actually Read

February 29, 2012 · 13 comments

Press releases are so 1990.

Whenever I get a press release that looks like it was sent out to a dozen or more people, I press delete. I might take five seconds to read the headline, but I almost never read the actual release.

Why?

Because I know it won’t be personalized for me. About 90 percent of the releases that arrive in my inbox have nothing to do with what I write about. They’re essentially spam, sent out by people who are hoping that if they bombard a huge email list with their release, someone will pick up the story. Unfortunately for the non-bombarding types, that means press releases have a strike against them even before I read a single word.

So I’d recommend not writing a press release at all. (Or if you do write one, at least supplement it with what we’re about to talk about.) Whether you want coverage for your business or book, whether you’re pitching a journalist or a blogger, here’s what you should create that will work far better than an old-school release:

A short, personalized email.

How to write an effective email pitch

Now, writing a short, personalized email to each journalist or blogger you’re hoping will pick up your story takes far more work than creating one press release and mass-emailing it to every email address you can find. But it’s also far more effective. You will get more responses, garner more coverage and form more relationships by writing a personalized email than by batch-mailing a press release. No question. (This also works, by the way, if you’re pitching a blogger you want to guest post for.)

I’m sharing this as someone who sees both sides of the pitch fence. As a journalist, I get a ton of pitches; now most of them are for Brazen Life, a blog for young professionals that I oversee and edit. But I also pitch bloggers and journalists from time to time, asking if I can write for their publication or whether they’d be interested in covering an event or topic relating to one of my clients. Because I appreciate short, personalized emails — and respond well to them — that’s also how I pitch others.

Here are the top four attributes of an email pitch that will turn heads:

1. Personalized. Write your email to a specific person — yes, that includes hunting down their email address — and address them by name. Then tell them why whatever you’re pitching will benefit them or their audience.

To do this well, you have to understand the writer and publication you’re pitching. At Brazen Life, for example, we write about GenY workplace trends, so adding any GenY component to your pitch makes it that much more relevant for me. (This may seem obvious, but somehow my email still gets clogged with pitches that have nothing to do with careers.)

2. Value. Tell me what’s in it for me. Don’t just tell me about your product or service or company; tell me why my readers might care.

Of course, an intro about you helps me understand where you’re coming from. But you have to go beyond that. Because unless I know you personally, I’m not going to write about you just because you’re you. I’m going to write about you because you’re relevant and useful for my audience. So tell me how you fit that bill!

3. Short. By short, I mean 3-6 sentences. Write in short, digestible paragraphs that are easy to read and understand. And put the news in the first two sentences.

If it takes you a long, six-sentence paragraph to tell me why I should care about what you have to offer, you’ve lost me. Length has the potential to be a deal-breaker; if you can’t tell me succinctly why your idea is fabulous, then, well, it probably won’t sound that fabulous to me.

4. Informal. No journalist or blogger wants to read corporate-speak or nitty-gritty details about your AAI (Annoyingly Acronymized Initiative). Show your value in layman’s terms. Explain it to me like you’d explain it to a friend over lunch. Keep it simple, and get to the point.

If you really can’t say goodbye to the press release, email your release and write a short, informal, personalized note on top. Then if the recipient wants more info after reading your note, they can scroll down to the release.

Capish?

And as a bonus: An even better way to get someone to actually read your email pitch is by connecting with them via social media first. To learn how, sign up for my Make Your Own Luck course, which starts Monday!

Share this article:

Join our newsletter to get more ideas and tips!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne-Sophie March 1, 2012 at 3:14 am

Yup, it’s all about being different, but clear. You have to stand out, but you also have to provide the right information. It’s not always easy to get it right and it takes a bit of practice, but the reward is always better than not having put any thought into pitching at all.

Reply

Kim March 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

Wow, great tips. As someone with an education in PR, I can tell you the press release importance is often shoved down our throats a little bit. I wouldn’t have even thought of doing a short email pitch rather than a full, format release. I think personalization is important in so many areas of life, so this advice could be applied to many situations. Job applications, for example – it’s really important to personalize each cover letter and explain what specifically you can offer that particular job or employer – if you send a “canned” generic letter, chances are it will just be thrown in the garbage.

Reply

Ruth A. Douthitt March 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Very good tips! I tend to get wordy in emails…I panic! Pitches are hard enough, it does help to get to know the person first.

Thanks!

Reply

Vishnu March 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I have to do some press releases for work. Thanks for explaining these concepts in such easy to understand terms! I usually call before sending off information to a reporter but like the social media contact idea too!

Reply

Marcia Degelman March 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm

This makes so much sense!

Reply

Janet Holloway February 25, 2013 at 9:21 am

Alexis,
These are great ideas! Thank you. I’m a little older than a boomer and certainly a Gen Y, but have just published a coming-of-age memoir, A Willful Child. Press releases really are stuffy and more like fodder than not. As I develop my so-called marketing platform, I’m often going back through your archives for ideas. You have one of the best blogs I’ve seen!
Janet

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 7 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: