How To Write A Pitch For Digital PR In 2021: A Complete Guide




Pitches can make or break a PR campaign. It’s as simple as that. You could have a contact list brimming with journalists, and a potentially-viral campaign, but if you hit send on a flat pitch don’t be surprised if you fail to get opens or coverage.

As a magazine journalist, I received up to 300 emails per day. To get an estimate of how many releases they receive daily, I reached out to two journalists that I previously worked with at OK! Online. 

Their responses? Rishma Dosani, Senior Entertainment Reporter at Metro.co.uk, simply said, “F*cking millions” followed by an estimated figure of 150, while Rachel Ellen Pugh, Money-Saving and Shopping Editor at Manchester Evening News, says she receives between 100 to 300 daily. 

Journalists typically spend seconds glancing at each subject line in their inbox, and even if your pitch passes the subject line stage, a strong introduction and story is crucial.

Cutting through the noise is far from easy, so we’ll be sharing straightforward and actionable ways that you can optimise your outreach to see your stories being picked up time and time again. 

As PRs, we can all be guilty of overthinking the process, getting sucked into industry studies and statistics and worrying about what others are doing that we may not be. However, putting yourself in the journalist’s shoes can immediately give you some clarity as to how you should approach it. 

As a journalist with over eight years of experience, I’ll aim to give you the insight and thought processes we go through upon receiving a pitch.

Getting Pitch Perfect

Like most successful press releases, this guide intends to be a clear and concise guide to showing you exactly how to craft a pitch.

There are several essentials that form the fibres of a good press release, which I will be running you through. 

If you thought the subject line was your starting point, think again! I often jot down a basic subject line (sometimes, even ‘subject line here’) because BuzzStream requires you to save your template with one and no one wants to lose a draft pitch. However, I’ll explain exactly why this is in point 9.

Instead, begin with this vital tip:

1. Address your prospective journalist correctly

This may seem like the most straightforward and pointless thing to mention, but even the most experienced PRs get this wrong. 

From my experience, and that of my former colleagues’, receiving ‘Hi all’, ‘Hi [First name]’ or even no introduction at all, is an instant way to find your pitch in the trash without a second glance. During our conversation, Rishma added, “I literally don’t open the ‘hi there’ ones”. So, while your press release may clearly be one for the masses, it’s critical to include your recipient’s name to be polite. 

Journalists are savvy enough to know they may not be the only ones you are reaching out to, but a ‘Hi all/there’ indicates you have not done your research and are using a thoughtless ‘spray and pray’ approach to outreach. 

Another absolute key part of your email is spelling the recipient’s name correctly. There is no excuse for getting a journalist’s name wrong and taking a few extra minutes to double-check it, against their email address, author bio, LinkedIn or Twitter profile, is essential.  

Having previously used BuzzStream for all of my outreach, fortunately name mess-ups rarely happened due to the organised nature of the ‘People’ and name fields of the tool when prospecting. To access it when conducting outreach:

  1. Go to Projects on the left panel
  2. Click on the dropdown on People and click All People
  3. You’ll be taken to this page, where you can easily see each of your contacts’ full names, email addresses and publications

Additionally before bulk-sending pitches, the process takes you through a name-checking stage, which has been absolutely critical for myself and my teams in terms of checking name formatting issues or typos. You’ll be surprised how easily you can miss an error!

You can access this by:

  1.  Selecting the contacts you plan on outreaching to
  2. Clicking  Outreach and selecting Bulk Send
  3. Select the template you are outreaching by clicking the text next to ‘Template:’ and read through it to make sure you’re happy with everything. Thankfully, BuzzStream lets you make edits in this section itself, in case you spot anything last-minute or want to alter it for the selected contacts without amending the entire template.
  4. Click Next:Review in the bottom right corner when you’re ready to proceed (make sure you’re tracking Opens and have follow-up reminders turned on).
  5. This is the crucial stage where you can look through every single template to ensure you have the recipient’s name right. Click on the name to edit it and Done when you’ve finished with that field.

Once you’re happy with all of the names, click Next:Confirm and you’re good to go!

2. Prove you understand the sector and topic

Once you’ve nailed their name, a long-winded opener is unnecessary, but charging straight in with a line such as, ‘Here are some new products from [brand name], please find the imagery and prices attached’, can also be seen as rude or unprofessional. 

It can also appear as though you haven’t taken the time to filter down your media list and have put in minimal effort into your outreach.

Even adding something as simple as, “I thought this could be a great fit for your annual Christmas gift guide/weekly homeware round-up”, after your introductory line can help to show you’ve gone the extra mile to ensure you have the correct journalist and section. 

You must also outline the purpose behind your campaign and why it is relevant/newsworthy. This can be as simple as “with new speeding laws and traffic fines being announced last month [brand name] conducted a study to discover X”, but it still gives them a reason as to why their Editors should allow it to be written up, and why readers may be interested in reading it. 

Get creative: a recent study from the past six to 12 months could make your study or campaign relevant – the more recent, the better. For example, I worked on a campaign about running habits, which had a mental health angle. While the stats we had were slightly weak from the survey that had been conducted, it did not mean the piece was unviable or unreachable. So, instead of going to journalists with dull data, strengthen your piece with additional relevant statistics from a study. I used one featured on Harvard Health Publishing

Dig for a substantial stat or study that will back up what you are getting across from your angle e.g. that running is beneficial for mental health and one in four Brits run for mental health reasons. Try searching for topic + nationality + ‘study’, ‘research’ or ‘revealed’ to do the same and get you started (see below).

Always ensure you use a reputable source that is as unbiased as possible. For example, sourcing quotes or statistics on how environmentally-friendly a country is, in terms of carbon emissions, from an electric car manufacturer based in that country is likely to be biased.

Yet, if you take statistics from a study by the government, scientists or climate specialists, or one by an international body like the International Energy Agency (IEA), your source is far more credible.

If you’re struggling to find the direction to go in, strip your campaign down to basics. Go right back to square one and think of why you conceived the piece or what thought process sparked it. If it was conceived by a colleague, take 10 minutes to speak to them and discover exactly what they wanted to achieve from it. For example, with a campaign I previously conceived, I predominantly wanted to find out what the most popular interior design style was e.g. Bohemian, Contemporary, Farmhouse etc. 

It’s easy for your idea to be diluted as we often need a piece to have multiple outreachable angles. However, keep going back to the initial aim of the campaign both in order to give yourself some direction when understanding what type of expert you should approach to comment on it, and also for forming exactly what questions you should be asking them to strengthen the pitch.

While the additional angles such as popular colours to paint walls and popular homeware accessories were added to the piece from my research, I knew my main purpose was to provide people with guidance on style and theme trends to follow when redecorating. 

I also knew that I needed to make this advice actionable as that is what many publications in the sector aim to do, so I needed to emulate this article style with my pitch. I did this by asking the expert to explain how people could easily and affordably implement the most popular styles in their own homes. 

To do the same, see how journalists have covered previous stories in the sector surrounding your topic. Question the way they are formatted and written. Consider whether they give actionable advice, the sort of statistics they use and are the pieces picture-heavy. These are all things to take into account when formulating your pitch.

Another clear give-away to poor prospecting is using the phrase, ‘Is this suitable for you and your team?’. This is not a question that needs to be asked if your targeting is spot-on and should ideally be avoided. Remember, journalists are extremely time-poor on their shifts, so it is unfair to expect them to sift through misguided press releases or pass them on to the correct newsdesk. 

See a completely made up example pitch below to understand how I often advise starting pitches.

I start with a brief polite introduction, I then get straight into the study itself and what its key finding is i.e. the piece(s) of information that will form their headline.

Following that, I’ll go into some background about the piece and why we have chosen to conduct this research or create this campaign. Within the second paragraph, I’ll also introduce who the client is and a stripped back methodology to show how we conducted the research and prove that our techniques are viable.

3. Cut the fluff

One of the most important things to keep in mind when pitching, is that journalists are extremely time-poor. I cannot stress this enough. 

During my time as an Online Showbiz Reporter, there was barely time to eat lunch. We were required to produce a minimum of eight stories per seven-hour shift, but that wasn’t all as we also needed to:

  • Source five images for the article (from our internal gallery or Instagram/Twitter/picture agencies)
  • Photoshop and crop holding images for the website and social media
  • Keep an eye out for breaking stories
  • Get source quotes 
  • Schedule teasers for our stories for Facebook, Twitter and sometimes Instagram
  • Get weekly exclusives (find a celebrity, conduct the interview etc.)

Sian Elvin highlighted how busy her typical day as an Assistant News Editor at Metro.co.uk looks in her BrightonSEO 2020 talk, below, too.

You get the gist. So when writing your pitches, avoid including too much fluff or making them dig for the main story.

Waffley pitches get binned very quickly; this includes giving a lengthy introduction to the brand (a line will suffice), giving quotes that are too brand-centric and irrelevant, or an all-round lack of a story. 

A common mistake many PRs make when starting out in the industry is starting emails with, “Hi [name], I love the article you wrote recently about X so I thought I’d send you this study we went on X.”

This can be an issue for two reasons. Firstly, journalists can see through the flattery and want you to get to the point or, as Sian Elvin said in a JBH webinar earlier this year, “We’re getting pitches in with expert comments about a topic I’ve already written about, they’re not going to be used. The story and news cycle has moved on by then.” While relevance is important, sending a whole pitch full of additional stats on a specific topic they have just published (within the past month) is unlikely to lead to a follow-up story with just your campaign information.

You must also ensure that the key stat or angle of my campaign is conveyed within the first two lines of a pitch. This should be followed by some brief but clear background e.g. “The study of 2,000 American adults, conducted by the luxury home furnishings brand [client name here], looked into their decor preferences, how many bedrooms they had, their average salary bracket” etc. 

Initially, when writing pitches, I was also guilty of waffling for several lines rather than explaining everything in one concise line and letting the data speak for itself. This is something that takes practise, but one of the ways to stop this from happening is by always asking your colleagues to look over your emails before you send them out. 

Poor pitches look a little like this and will often put journalists off within seconds:

The subject line does not include the campaign keywords until the end. This is dangerous as the journalist may lose interest by then or it may get cut off in their inbox, which gives them even less of a reason to click into your email.

As my first point said, poor pitches do not address the journalist by their name. A journalist also does not have time for small talk, regardless of how friendly you may be with them. Stick to something as simple as, “I hope you’re well” and get to the point.

There is a lack of information about what the study entailed. While too much information isn’t necessary, a brief summary of what was looked into in terms of stand-out points is essential.

You also never need that much background on a client unless it’s a release on the brand itself. In which case, point out interesting information about them, something that’ll make a reader want to share the information with friends. 

Abbreviations are often referred to without including the full name of the organisation initially. In the first use of an abbreviation in your pitch, write out the full organisation followed by the abbreviation in brackets e.g. International Energy Agency (IEA). You can then use IEA for the rest of the pitch.

My rectified version shows simple ways to tighten this pitch up with minimal effort. I’ve merely rephrased some points, cut out fluff, improved formatting and included more information.

4. Give journalists exactly what they need

When receiving your pitch, a journalist should not have to chase you for several things such as data breakdowns, quotes, imagery, pricing, dates and times etc. 

Sian also summed this up in the JBH webinar saying, “Give us everything we need to use your piece. If you’re not sending pictures through or all of the data and information isn’t ready to go, you’re wasting a journalist’s time.”

Cover this by including a line highlighting what they are receiving in your email body copy:

Reassure journalists that everything they should need for this story is enclosed. Of course, sometimes there will be further follow-ups from the journalist for raw data or tailored quotes.

If you’ve got data in your pitch, make sure it’s laid out in a clear format – whether that’s tables or bullet points – regardless of if you have an image attached of the table/graph. 

Journalists often need to be able to copy and paste this quickly for their story. Having tables, rather than paragraphs of copy explaining the data, also allows journalists to easily digest the key stats and patterns without digging through it. 

Rather than using fluffy headers for sections of data or information in my pitches, I simply list exactly what they are going to find, along with a simple line or two summarising the findings.

5. Include expert commentary and case studies

From my experience as a journalist, and while I was working at Verve Search, I quickly realised that writers need everything to be spoon fed as much as possible.

I was recognised for changing our team’s outreach strategy as I spotted this and now always encourage Digital PRs to acquire expert or client commentary for each campaign – and sometimes down to the individual angles – as this is a massive help to journalists. 

At OK! Online, my stories were 12 lines long. This is time consuming, while doing all of the aforementioned tasks. Quotes helped my stories massively as they would often fill two to four lines of my piece. Other publications are able to use larger chunks as they have larger stories.

We, as journalists, have to secure stories for the majority of stories and pitches sent in, regardless – as well as additional stats and case studies. So why not make their jobs easier and provide expert commentary within your pitch by sourcing one yourself.

It’s super-easy to do, but the results have led to links on NYPost, Express, Stylist and more. Simply utilise #JournoRequest on Twitter, prefixing your tweet with the type of expert you’re looking for and the premise of your campaign. Many PRs who represent experts, or experts themselves, will get in touch. 

All you’ll need is a Twitter account and an idea of the type of expert you’re looking for. Then, write your tweet – feel free to use my go-to as a template, which is: ‘I’m looking for an expert to comment on [topic here] and [purpose of campaign], for a campaign that we’re working on. If you can help, or know someone who can, please get in touch asap #prrequest #journorequest.’

As you can see from my example, there are often plenty of experts that get in touch and people are often happy to retweet it to help out. I had multiple therapists and psychologists that reached out from that tweet alone, and usually get great quotes. 

Most importantly, I tend to have quotes turned around within 24 to 72 hours, so be sure to clarify your deadline when you make initial contact with your expert. If it’s a specific quote you’re sourcing for a journalist who’s asked for it, take no longer than 12 hours, ideally, but aim for one to two hours. Journalists are on extremely tight deadlines and will have to scrap your story if you can’t turn the quote around quickly.

When you’ve found your expert, let them know that you’ll be aiming for coverage on mid- or top-tier publications and will ensure that you do all you can to have them credited within the published piece, and 90% of the time they are happy to help for free. It is mutually beneficial as they often get coverage and a link to their website, and as does your client. 

If you’re going in-house to your client, be firm and clear that their quote should not be commercial and brand-centric, or you won’t be able to use it to get coverage and it will be a waste of time for both of you. They need to tell the journalist something that is helpful and isn’t obvious, along with information that makes it clear about why the campaign was conducted and shows a passion for the subject.

6. Adapt to your target sector/publication’s tone of voice

This is not the be all and end all of a pitch, but it can help journalists to cut time when putting a story together and show that you truly understand – and are passionate about – the target sector.

While you do not have to write your subject lines or body copy in the style of each target publication – let’s be real, we often send pitches to multiple titles in a sector – try to echo the tone they use. That can be through language, where including enticing words like “shocking”, “revealed” etc. for lifestyle sectors, tabloid publications and less-serious news. Such as the example below from E! News.

Whereas, for general news and more serious topics, spelling everything out in a concise and clear manner is more helpful. The New York Times article example below highlights the simplicity and clarity of its writing style.

Try and read through the target sectors and publications and work on emulating the language they use, within their articles, in your pitch. If this is done correctly, you can often see your email body copy being used in the published articles about your story. 

Like these examples from my ex-colleague and I:

It can take practise, but it’s a skill that can be invaluable to PRs and one that I was fortunate to be able to do easily, thanks to my experience writing for a range of publications about a variety of topics.

7. Avoid attachments

As I previously mentioned, journalists are keen to have everything in one place. The less attachments the better. Obviously a low-resolution picture or two is OK, but in terms of press releases? Keep it in the body copy. If you must attach additional information, make sure it’s a word document that journalists can copy and paste from rather than a PDF, which we cannot copy text from without formatting being ruined.

When it comes to imagery or video content, never attach the high-resolution pictures or the video itself with the email, it will bounce or clog up a journalist’s inbox. Instead, use tools like Dropbox or Google Photos to link to these files within your email. WeTransfer is another option, but it is quite limiting in terms of the files expiring after 30 days, which was a major frustration for me as a magazine journalist.

Pictures and videos are very helpful to include, where possible and relevant, for several reasons. As I mentioned, we often have to source multiple pictures for our stories, so even including one or two with your pitch, will save the journalist precious time and boost the chances of you getting coverage. 

Video is also a key way for publications to monetise content, in terms of ads and relicensing original content to other publications. So, when you provide a short video (it can even be 10 seconds long) highlighting some facts of your campaign, that could also potentially enhance your chances of having your story published.

8. Keep formatting clean and simple

When emailing a journalist it can be tempting to cram your emails full of emboldened and italicised text, colourful headers, images and GIFs. This can be overload for a journalist who has 30 seconds or so to judge whether your story is viable. 

Keep font sizes uniform unless it’s a heading and you want to make it a point or two larger. If you’re going to use colour, stick to one other colour, ideally relating to the subject matter (such as green for environmental campaigns and red for entertainment) or client house style colour, and try to use it sparingly i.e. only for headings. 

If your campaign is predominantly imagery, try to collate the pictures into a single montage close to the top of the email, and if you want to add more, stick to one or two of the strongest images.

As long as tables are split with headers, include as many as you need to (within reason) as these are particularly helpful for journalists. If you have raw data from a survey that you want to share, give them a link to the Google Sheet or attach the Excel spreadsheet.

9. Write a solid subject line

I have plenty to say about subject lines and could easily dedicate an entire article to them. You’re probably wondering why this is the penultimate tip, and I don’t blame you because I initially thought I had to start with my subject line.

I soon found that this was counterproductive and very premature. Why? Though you often know the purpose of your pitch and the angle you’re going to take from it, it isn’t until you have wrapped it up that you’ll feel you’ve understood the direction fully.

I’d previously force a subject line that I thought encapsulated everything from the pitch, but I now know that I need to grasp what is and isn’t important from actually putting the pitch together. For example, sometimes there are graphs or tables that don’t make the cut as, though they are interesting, they aren’t the key element of the story or something that is as likely to appeal to the target sector. 

The angle, as a whole, can change once you’ve finished writing your pitch, so give yourself some creative freedom until you’ve fully comprehended the direction your pitch needs to take.

The most crucial thing to remember about writing a subject line is that it can make or break a campaign. Why? Journalists are time-poor, if yours doesn’t stand out when they’re scrolling through it’ll be binned with the other 50 releases that missed the mark.

That may sound scary, but it isn’t as hard as you’d think to get it right. A lot of my advice about pitching also applies to subject lines.

Get to the point and avoid fluff or trying to be too clever. If a study reveals that ‘1 in 4 Brits exercise for mental health reasons’, write that as your subject line rather than a pun-filled cliché.

Don’t keep them guessing. Yes, many publications have clickbait headlines that leave readers dying to know more, but journalists need to know exactly what they are getting from your release. By this, I mean don’t write a subject line like ‘Study reveals America’s favourite dog breed’. Tell them what exactly the breed is, “Study reveals Samoyeds are America’s favourite dog breed”. I made that previous study up, by the way, and it may be slightly biased. 

Let journalists know what to expect from your pitch, too. For example if you’re sending data, a study, illustrations, a video or expert commentary, say this in your subject line or in brackets e.g. ‘(Data) Study reveals X…’, ‘5 incredible illustrations show…’, ‘Expert explains 10 reasons why…’. 

And another point that I’ve said many times before, but can’t emphasise enough is: can you see your subject line as a headline? As in, if you were scrolling through Twitter, Facebook or a news site and see your pitch subject line as the headline for your campaign would you:

  • Click it?
  • Understand the crux of the story trying to be conveyed?
  • Tag friends and share it?

These are all things we, as journalists, have to keep in mind with every single article in order to hit our story view targets. So, you ideally need to have the same thought process when pitching. Is it eye-catching? Will it get thousands of clicks that the writer needs? Will it convey the purpose of our campaign? 

Rework your subject lines as many times as you need to before pushing your press release out. If your manager is on your back and rushing you to get it out the door, tell them you need time. I was always advised to write out 20 different subject lines for a pitch before picking one. It forces you to get creative and can open up possibilities you would never have considered had you rushed it.

Again, send it to one to three colleagues once you’ve chosen your subject line and get them to give you feedback. You may have missed something that may be obvious to you, because you’re so close to the campaign, but not to anyone else reading the pitch or story for the first time.

10. Maintain accuracy

It takes just one spelling mistake or incorrect statistic for a journalist or, in particularly bad cases, an entire publication to lose faith in you and your client. 

That’s why I often stress to PRs that rereading pitches by sending it to your own inbox, something that’s easily done by selecting ‘Send Preview’ on BuzzStream, was important. 

To do this, head to the first contact in your list and select your template. In the bottom right corner, you’ll see three dots. Click that and select ‘Send Preview’ and it’ll be sent to your linked email address.

You can also print your pitch out and mark it with a pen as you read through and spot errors – trust me, there’s often at least one. 

Double-check every single statistic and spelling. Sit with a colleague or your data team, if needs be, just to ensure everything looks ok. I’ve had multiple occasions where data teams have missed something tiny that then causes a domino effect with table rankings. This can even lead your entire email body copy and subject line to change at times.

This is time consuming and can be a drag, but it’s better to avoid these mistakes at an early stage rather than when a journalist has taken an hour out of their shift to write up your story and spots discrepancies. While journalists may have typos in their stories from time to time, remember, they’re writing story after story with almost no respite between. As PRs it’s better to take a bit longer to launch a campaign or an outreach angle than to get it totally wrong and have to go back to your prospects with your tail between your legs.

The key things to check other than spellings and data are:

  • Dates. From January to March, in particular, when we’re all used to writing the previous year rather than the current year
  • Ensure your campaign link is hyperlinked 
  • Make sure your images are low-resolution, you can do this by sending the image to yourself and checking the file size
  • Remove any filler copy e.g. ‘HEADING HERE’ or ‘NAME HERE’. It looks incredibly unprofessional as it is so simple to spot. Highlight the text in red while writing your pitch, if needs be, to remind you to fill it.

You’re almost good to go, but there’s a little more work to do before firing off your release.

Test Your Pitch

To avoid burning through contacts and publications, testing your release is essential. Once a team member or two has told you they like your pitch, it’s up to you to convince journalists, themselves. 

BuzzStream allows you to see your open rates. Try not to be as obsessive as I was and check this a healthy amount of time following your outreach, rather than refreshing it frantically seconds after pushing out a release! 

To see Opens, head to the Templates section again (under Sequences on the Dashboard).

If you want to go a step further and see how many times a journalist has opened your email, you can either do this on the People section (under Outreach List) where you can add the ‘Email Opens’ and ‘Last Viewed’ columns by clicking ‘Configure Columns’.

Alternatively, head to the Mailboxes and Tasks section in the left panel (under Dashboard) and click Sent. 

Here you’ll see all the emails you’ve sent, but more excitingly, you can see the number of opens and the times journalists opened your emails to gauge just how interested they are in your story. The more the better, generally. However, I’ve had a journalist from The New York Times open a pitch 21 times, and tell me she was interested in writing the piece up. That was in 2018 and it still isn’t up to this day, heartbreakingly. So take it with a pinch of salt until the story is actually live.

For that exact reason, this is why I personally believe BuzzStream excels for outreach and is an essential for all PR teams. The number of times a journalist opens your email is helpful, but the general overall Open Rate for a template that has been outreached to multiple prospects is more important.

For smaller Digital PR teams that I consult and train, who are just dipping their toes into the outreach world, I initially advise them to use Streak. 

This is a free Gmail add-on that is easily installed in minutes and allows you to see whether someone has opened your email, and how many times they have looked at it.

While I can see the emails that have been opened in my sent box, this is not amalgamated with Streak and therefore, does not easily give me an indication of the success of my overall pitch template. Especially if I’m sending the release out over the space of a few weeks, when other emails will appear between the pitches.

Therefore, Open Rate is one of my favourite features of the tool as it allows you to see just how ‘good’ your releases are in black and white. Of course, other factors apply such as big breaking stories or events happening around that time, but it still gives a helpful indication of the success of a pitch.

How? Stephen Panico, BuzzStream’s Chief Growth Officer, explains, “If emails aren’t getting opened, no further action can be expected on the part of the recipient. The most critical metrics, in order, are opens, replies, and placements. While we don’t track placements specifically, we do track opens and replies so you know specifically whether your outreach is working.”

To utilise this correctly, try creating two templates in BuzzStream with two different subject lines and introductions, and try repositioning any imagery higher or lower in both. 

Make sure they’re both as strong as they can be and have a similar angle, but send each to a handful of prospects at similar publications. Then, head back to the ‘Template’ section a few hours later to see the open rate percentage of each template.

If you’re wondering what makes a ‘good’ open rate, this differs between individuals, agencies and an industry-wide study conducted by BuzzStream, which looked at 12,000 campaigns – a pretty solid indicator.

Stephen says, “From our study we established that a “good” open rate, measured as the average we see for the upper 25th percentile of our customers, is in the 20% and above range.”

I also conducted a small poll on Twitter and, of the 31 PR participants, the open rate most commonly-deemed successful was 30% to 40%, which 38.7% of respondents chose. Just 3.2% expected an open rate of 70% or more, but over a quarter (25.8%) wanted to see open rates in the realm of 50% to 60%. 

In terms of reply rates, which the tool also shares, the study shows that the top 5% of groups conducting outreach often received 40% or higher reply rates across their campaigns. 

Personally, as a journalist I would focus more on the Open Rate as this shows an interest in the subject area, which can be tweaked and worked on in the follow-up or a future angle if you don’t see success initially. The reason I tend to focus less on reply rates is because, as the inbox numbers mentioned initially in this guide show, it would be impossible for a journalist to reply to every single email in their inbox from a PR – good or bad. 

I would often use stories from releases without corresponding with the PR and, as a PR I’d mostly see my stories used without any response from the journalist. 

While it is frustrating, particularly if – back to that obsessive stalking – you see several opens on your email from the journalist, respect how busy they are and know that if a pitch is well-targeted and well-written, you have a good chance of success. 

You can also take it to mean that you’ve given the journalist everything they need down to a tee, so they don’t even need to chase you for additional information or assets.

Conclusion

I’ve worked on campaigns about everything from electric cars and Artificial Intelligence to health myths and TV shows. Have I loved every single campaign I’ve worked on? No. But in order to successfully convince a journalist, you need to be convinced yourself.

Get to know every element of your campaign or product before beginning your pitch and go from there. Follow the advice above and it should all gradually come together. 

Also, remember journalists are human, too. 

They have bad days, hellish Editors that they work under, breaking news stories that they need to get out before their competitors, and they also know that your stories can be a huge benefit to them in the form of filling up a news agenda or slow news day on a weekend. 

If you’re consciously working towards putting together a pitch that can help them and benefit the publication, plus its audience, you’ll sail through. 

But remember, practice makes perfect. I watched multiple webinars this year about PR and outreach, I read and wrote many blog posts, and I am learning every single day. Continue to take advice from articles like this one, along with both junior and senior colleagues and one day, you’ll look back to see how much you’ve grown and developed.

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