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Getting Reporters To Open E-Mails

Here is a must read for communication staff on emails, email formats and email outreach to reporters. I have chopped it up and tweaked it a bit for environmental issues. Like our peers in corporate PR most of our emails are not opened nor read. We need to learn more about the developing practices so that our pitches continue to be professional. I highly recommend giving the full article a solid read.Getting Reporters To Open Your E-Mails -- J-Log Online

1. Avoid Spam Filters
This seems straight forward but the filters are becoming increasingly sensitive so make sure you understand what set them off.

To a spam filter, a pitch may appear to contain an array of trigger words and suspicious phrases... You can't prevent every instance of spam blocking, but you can take some steps to help lessen the chances of your e-mail ending up in a black hole. ..The most important step is learning how spam filters think, and creating e-mails that avoid the usual pitfalls. Fortunately, you'll find that -- once you can do this -- many spam triggers are easily avoided. Rather than taking up space here with all the how-to’s, allow me to simply direct you a terrific site on the subject.

2. Getting Your E-Mail Opened & Read
The content of the email and communicaiton is obviously the most important part of effective outreach. However, assuming you have a solid angle (big assumption) the most important thing you can do is format the message effectively.

The key to success is the subject line. No matter how on-the-money your pitch, a subpar subject line will kill any chance of getting the reporter’s attention. You’ve got one shot at getting your e-mail opened, make the most of it with a killer subject line.

1) Place the word News or Press Info or Story Idea at the beginning of your e-mail subject line, in brackets e.g.: [Story Idea]:

2) Try to incorporate the reporter's first name also at the beginning of the subject line.

3) If you know the name of the reporter's column, for instance Fishing with Linda, also try to incorporate that. If the reporter doesn't write a regular column, try to at least include their beat (e.g. Joe, re: your future pieces on the energy industry).

Here is a sample:

To: Linda
From: [email protected]
Subject: [Story Idea]: Linda, Here's a bit of Background on Cooling Towers and Water Quality Violations by Southern Company for Your "Something's Fishy Column"

That’s a heading that will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The Dos and Don'ts outlined in the artilce are also filled with good advise.

Make the information you place in the subject line short and to the point. Often, reporter's e-mail software cuts off the subject at only a few words.
Don’t get cute or be too vague in your subject line. For example Here’s a Great Story! is vague and sounds like spam;
Try to make your most newsworthy points at the top of your e-mail message - don't expect a reporter to scroll down to find the news.
Include your contact information, including cell phone, e-mail address, regular address, fax number & website URL at the beginning and end of the e-mail.
Include a link to your website if you have additional information such as: photos, press releases, bios, surveys, etc.

Include more than a short pitch letter or press release in the body of your e-mail.
Allow typos or grammatical errors.
Include an attachment with your e-mail. In this day and age of sinister viruses, reporters automatically delete e-mail with attachments.
Place the following words (by themselves) in the subject line: Hi, Hello - the media's spam filters will pounce and destroy.
Send an e-mail with a blank subject line.

July 23, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks | Permalink


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