Journalists probably receive more pitches each day than they do texts or calls from their friends and loved ones. How many emails have you read today? Before you begin moaning and groaning about the amount of unread messages in your inbox or how many you’ve simply skimmed and filed away, stop. Because no matter how much you think you know about email inundation, reporters have it worse off.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were two PR people for every reporter in the year 2000. PR professionals now outnumber journalists by about about five to one. And with publications’ ranks shrinking rapidly, simple math tells us that reporters are in a tough spot.
Prominent journalists can receive upwards of 100 pitches each day. Every. Single. Day. Imagine that.
Part of the problem is that PR pros need to do a better job of making sure that their pitches are aimed at the appropriate targets and that the topics are truly newsworthy. This is an easy fix. The other – more challenging – issue is that the media landscape has diminished to the point where the sheer volume of companies vying for journalists’ attention is becoming unmanageable.
So what can we do as PR professionals to stand out from the crowd? How can we avoid joining the stampede of pitches headed straight for reporters’ trash folders? What’s the best way to stand a chance at catching a journalist’s eye?
There’s no perfect answer to these questions. There are tons of considerations to make when crafting an email pitch. What type of greeting will be best received? Is it too long? Links or attachments for multimedia materials? Etc.
But none of it matters if your subject line doesn’t grab hold of the recipient’s brain and compel a double click from their index finger.
PR pros spend so much time monkeying with the content, structure and format of the pitch that the subject line can be an afterthought.
Advertising genius David Ogilvy once said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Think of the subject line of your email as the headline of your entire pitch. For the most part, a reporter’s decision to actually open a pitch, read it and then maybe respond, rests solely on the merits of the subject line. The subject line is ultimately the only boarder crossing standing between you and a dialogue with, coverage from and hopefully an ongoing relationship with a reporter.
Knowing this, think twice, three, or even ten times before being satisfied with a subject line. Make sure the “so what?” is apparent. Incorporate meaningful statistics. Leave them curious for more details. Ditch the jargon. Write down three options, tweak and fine-tune them, and then right down three more. Make it timely. Make it creative. Make them care.
The number of journalists out there doesn’t seem to be growing, and neither does their patience. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-thought-out subject line. Make it worth a double click.