Do This to Get a Journalist to Read Your Email

By Brad Groznik

Email Inbox

Last week, I wrote about how to identify journalists who will be interested in your business. This week I want to take it to the next step and talk about connecting with them.

These days, as it’s hard enough to get friends and family to reply to your emails, the idea of pitching a journalist who you’ve never met about your business may seem near impossible.

But a journalist friend of mine put it this way: “You are potentially offering them something they want/need – a good story.” So assuming you followed last week’s advice in finding a journalist who would be interested in what you have to say, think of it as a business transaction rather than a pitch. You’re trading your good story for coverage.

That said, understand that some journalists can receive hundreds of pitches a day (mostly irrelevant ones) so it’s important they see yours through the clutter. Here are some tips for getting their attention:

Don’t use a generic subject line

As a journalist, I could often tell from the subject line if I was interested in the story pitch. Subject lines that looked like an email blast to 500 recipients were the first to go. Why would I cover a story that everyone else just got in their inbox at the same time? (Obvious exclusions include, earth shaking news from the mayor or president)

Craft a subject line that speaks directly to the reporter and grabs their attention. Distill your story in six to eight words and try to make them as catchy as possible. And if they’ve never heard of your business, don’t put your business name in the subject line!

Follow their work and compliment them

When I was a journalist, I rarely received a compliment. Most emails from readers criticized what I wrote or what the topic was. Compliments were few but when I received one, it really caught my attention.

Once you’ve done your research and found the best media outlets to cover your stories, you’ll likely be pitching the same reporters every time you have news. So take the time to read what they write every once in a while and pass on a compliment before you pitch them. Journalists will be much more responsive to your pitch if they know you took the time to read up on their work. While it might feel deceptive to say something nice with the hopes of getting your story placed, keep in mind that you’re also helping them by giving them something to write about—and let’s face it, everyone appreciates a few sincere kind words.

Be brief

I heard that when Hollywood executives pitched the movie Aliens, all they had to say was “It’s Jaws in Space.”

No one reads emails longer than a dozen or so lines. Keep your pitch clear and to the point and those you reach out to will be more likely to read what you have to say and respond.

Have any more tips for getting journalists to read your emails? Share them in the comments!