I have a mantra for the media courses I teach. It’s this: It’s not about standing out in your field; it’s about standing out in an inbox. By that I mean that you can have the greatest invention, the best restaurant concept, the craziest business plan or the one idea that’s going to turn the world on its head, but none of that matters if no one reads your email pitch.
A recent survey of 500 journalists and editors indicated:
- They still get the majority of their story pitches through email
- 70 per cent of their emails are story pitches
So, no matter how you are different from the competition, the real place to differentiate yourself is in the pitch – the email subject line and content.
And in your pitch, you’re not only trying to stand out within your own field; you have to stand out across many disciplines. If you’re a retail outlet trying to promote the fact that you’re green, you’re competing with every other company promoting that they’re green. If you think you’ll make an impression because you manufacture and hire locally, you’re competing with every other company that does the same.
And so the start to any interaction with media is to know how to get them to notice and open your email, and then how to separate yourself from all the hundreds of other emails.
Here are five key tips to keep in mind when you’re making an email pitch:
1. Shorten Your Subject Line
Make the subject line short, direct and related to the media outlet’s interest or the writer’s beat. Few things infuriate an editor or producer more than having irrelevant emails clogging up their computer. The subject line is your six-word classified ad. It could take a few tries to get a good one.
2. Know Your Audience
Try to anticipate the needs of the media outlet and reflect it in your subject line. Does the TV show have a focus on health coming up for which you would be perfect ? Does the newspaper have a small-business section in which you would fit well?
Point out how great your story is in the subject line if you can, or at least at the very start of the email pitch.
3. Be Direct
In terms of content, keep it simple with short one- or two-sentence paragraphs. Pitch recipients have a matter of seconds to open and assess your pitch.
Outline your story angles at the beginning of the pitch and get straight to the point. Connect what is being pitched (your story) with what the media outlet may need.
4. Focus on Your Story
Focus on an interesting story idea, not just a description of who you are, what you do or what your product is. So many companies make the mistake of just describing themselves, rather than pulling a strong story angle out, like a trend or timely focus.
5. Have a Purpose
Be clear on what you’re asking for, if you can. Do you want to be interviewed as part of a bigger story? Do you want to be considered as an expert in your field for future interviews? If you are having an event, do you want coverage beforehand or afterward?