As we wrote a few weeks back, Voxus recently started using Propel PRM to manage media relationships and pitch campaigns, monitor and track coverage, and measure the ROI of earned media for clients. I appreciate the platform’s ability to share, in real-time, which reporters have opened or responded to a pitch, provide insights into the best time to reach out based on historical response rates, and help visualize how the coverage we secure is impacting a client’s business outcomes.

When the Q1 2023 Media Barometer landed in my inbox last week, I was eager to read what trends are emerging around topics like journalist engagement and pitch timing and how we might apply this to our work. Here are six interesting takeaways that I think will be of interest to PR professionals along with suggestions on how to apply them to our work:

    1. Reporters are opening 40% of the pitches they receive. I’m frankly amazed journalists read this many pitches when we know they receive hundreds of pitches each day. With newsrooms shrinking and beats consolidating, reporters and editors are stretched thin to cover the most impactful news and trends. While email pitch response rates are, not surprisingly, much lower, I’ve recently found that picking up the phone and calling journalists to pitch a story idea is making a comeback (and working!) after three years in COVID isolation. This might be a smart approach to consider if you’re not getting a response to your pitches.
    1. Most pitches are opened within an hour or two. If a journalist plans to respond, they’ll do so that same day. Given the demands for their attention, I’m surprised that a quarter (24%) open a pitch within a minute of receiving it, more than a third (37%) read it within 10 minutes, and almost half (48) do so within 30 minutes of receipt. What’s more, over half (55%) are opened within an hour and two-thirds (68%) are read within four hours. Not surprisingly, as the hours pass your pitch is likely to get buried in their inbox, so keep this in mind when reaching out (e.g., early morning vs. late afternoon). Just 10% of pitches are opened after the first two days of sending, and important consideration when planning your follow-up strategy. Pitch timing can also increase your chances of success, which leads us to…. 
    1. Most pitches are sent on Monday or Wednesday. Journalists respond to the most pitches on Tuesday. Reporters open 27% of the pitches they receive on a Tuesday, while PR pros send out over half of their pitches on a Monday (26%) or Wednesday (also 26%). Knowing that most pitches are read within an hour or two, you might want to rethink your outreach schedule. In fact, Tuesday and Friday were the only two days of the week that reporters responded to more pitches than they received. I’ve become a fan of pitching story ideas, trend topics and embargoed news on Fridays and Propel’s data validates the recent success I’ve experienced.
    1. A majority of successful pitches result in coverage within 3 days. But over 10% take more than a month to publish. This is fascinating. Given the volume of pitches sent under embargo a week or more in advance, I’d expect coverage to take longer. More than a third (36%) of pitches turned into coverage within a day and over half (56%) within three days. Over two-thirds (69%) of successful pitches will land coverage within a week and over three-quarters (78%) after two weeks. Still, 11% of successful pitches can take up to a month to publish. This could be due to PR pros securing contributed articles for clients with writing and review cycles that add several weeks to the process. If you have a timely news story and it hasn’t been covered after a few days, it may be time to find alternate targets or consider a new angle.
    1. Some topics and keywords garner higher open and response rates. With a steady stream of security hacks and data breaches, it’s no surprise that cybersecurity has been an incredibly popular pitching subject. It also resonates with journalists, resulting in a 6% response rate, while ransomware topics had a 5% response rate. That’s double the response rate across all pitch topics sent. On the other hand, inflation was a hook in more than 6,700 pitches and just 1% received a response. It’s also worth noting that over 1,200 pitches were sent on ChatGPT (likely entirely in December) and resulted in a more than 6% response rate. Given the spate of ChatGPT news announcements already this year, it will be interesting to see if reporters lose interest with so many companies announcing their generative AI solutions. It pays to get out in front of the pack early if you’re pitching a trending topic.
    1. There’s such a thing as the “perfect pitch” framework, and it’s based on half a million pitches sent last quarter. Propel analyzed open and response rates from journalists to help PR pros understand the DNA of a perfect pitch. Keep your subject lines short – one to five words max – though pitch length is longer than I’d expected. The most successful pitches had intros that averaged 51 to 80 words and bodies ranging between 51-150 words. My takeaway here: keep the intro succinct, and don’t be afraid to bold key points or use bullets to highlight supporting information or explain why your news matters to readers.

Most industries today use data to drive business decisions and measure success. While PR has made great strides on the latter in recent years, there’s still a long way to go on the former. But pitch intelligence insights are one way we can make better-informed decisions in our practice. Just remember, at the end of the day PR is about personal relationships. The journalists we work with to secure coverage and inform readers are real people, not algorithms. We still need to rely on experience – supported by data – to ensure success for our clients.