The Do’s and Don’ts of the PR Email

Ask any journalist how many PR emails they get a day and how many of these end up in the trash, the results are pretty staggering.

How do you make your emails one of the lucky few that find a permanent place in their inbox?

Sending an email is easy, but sending a successful email is an art.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that should help you day-to-day and improve your hit rate.

DO think about the subject heading

If your subject heading doesn’t capture the attention of the journalist, why should they keep reading? It should clearly communicate the story’s best hook or what opportunity you’re offering in no more than eight words. If it’s a press trip invite for example, make it bloody obvious. Spend a few minutes thinking about what you would think if the email landed in your inbox and refine it accordingly.

DO make use of media

If selling in is talking the talk, than a well-pitched email is walking the walk. If you’ve spent time pitching on the phone, charming the media, do yourself a favour and make sure you’re following the call up with more insight than you can give over the phone. Make use of relevant links, images and infographics to illustrate your pitch and offer the journalist that extra content – it’s far more engaging than reams of text and the likelihood is you’ll get a greater uptake on your story.

DO be concise

It’s well established that many journalists receive hundreds of emails from PRs everyday so you have to give them good reason to continue past the introduction. Simple formatting can work wonders. Bullet point the top of your press release with the key details of your pitch. If these are interesting, which they of course should be, you’ve got their attention. Notice that on online sites like MailOnline – their stories are summed up at the start with bullet points – it’s our responsibility to do the leg work.

DO show personality

I. Am. A. PR. Robot. No you’re not, you’re a real person with a sense of humour, hopes and dreams. Act like it because journalists are human too. When you’re stacked it’s easy to switch into auto-pilot but try and stay true to the personal approach, after all, that’s what PR is about, right? I like to use the odd on-point GIF in email exchanges, it can break down the barrier. I’m not saying email the Business Editor of The Sunday Times an Ace Ventura GIF out of the blue but, to your closer contacts or new ones who show warmth, it’s a nice touch.

DON’T cut corners

At risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, make sure you get the name of the journalist right. If you’re going to copy and paste or edit an existing email – do it with caution. Too many times I’ve read journalists bemoaning PRs for this. Most of us are guilty (me included). But what a monumental waste of time to fall at the first hurdle if you’ve spent time and effort on a top pitch. Stop it now.

DON’T forget to proof-read

We can all spell, and if you can’t, we’ve got spell checker. When time is of the essence and you’ve spent 15 minutes typing out the email, you can sometimes find your cursor hovering over the “send” button. It can become subconscious. Don’t let yourself down with typos – you’re talking to journalists, guardians of the English language, so do proof-read.

DON’T push it

I know the frustrating feeling when you’ve emailed a contact with a great story but had no response. You’re thinking, “this is a story for the Metro everyday of the week”, or Monday to Friday at least. Resist the urge to chase too hard, it’s bad practice. It’s fine to send a follow up email to check that they haven’t missed it because that’s very likely. But don’t keep pushing if you still receive no response. It’ll only end badly.

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