The Perfect Pitch: Must-Haves and Thou-Shalt-Nots for PR Emails

Taken from the bowels of my Formspring page, where you really can ask me anything. [tweetmeme source=”jolieodell” only_single=false]

Question: Are there specific things that make a pitch easier & more efficient for a journalist to read/scan? Do you prefer a specific organization (e.g. bullet points) or type of content (screenshots? intro on why you specifically would care? type of contact info?)

Answer: YES! This is so important.

Journalists grew up with the Inverted Pyramid format (if the phrase is unfamiliar, click the link and read away). It’s a very straightforward, just-the-facts information layout that presents the most important data in descending order down the page. We’ve been reading and writing in that format for EONS. Literally decades in some cases. And we have learned to scan like machines for “just the facts,” especially when it comes to pitches and press releases.

The point of a pitch email is, then, to give a journo the facts and then get out of the way.

So putting in clever paragraphs about how an app relates to us is pointless. If it’s relevant, we’ll see that immediately.

If you can put your pitch into an inverted pyramid, top it off with a great lede, include a few salient bullet points, and throw in a screenshot or two, it’s a winner.

As far as contact info, having your email address is sufficient if you check it every 5 minutes religiously. If you don’t, I recommend including your phone number — journos have tight deadlines in the digital age, and we often need very quick responses.

Your pitch email should not include:

  • Quotes from your CEO (that you wrote yourself, you sly devil)
  • Your entire press release, which should instead be a link or attachment (not a PDF, ever)
  • An embargo more than a couple days away (unless it’s super-big news with a phone or in-person briefing involved)
  • The phrases “I think you’ll be interested in,” “I see you wrote about our competitor,” or any common jargon/buzzwords
  • A subject line with a whole bunch of irrelevant crap about your company, any partnerships, etc.

Stick with the Inverted Pyramid, and you’ll do just fine.

Hope this helps! If you need or want more info, have a gander at my Word to My P.R. Homies series. I have a big heart for those who must pitch for a living. =)

photo credit: Steve Hall

Go ahead. Ask me anything.

4 thoughts on “The Perfect Pitch: Must-Haves and Thou-Shalt-Nots for PR Emails

  1. PDF is a standard format. How do you attach a press release without it being a PDF? Why? Not every Mac owner uses Word? Why is PDF such a no-no?

    • Attach it as a Google Doc, Word Doc, text file, etc.

      Here’s the thing: Most of the time, we’re looking though your press release for quotations, bullet points, and facts. Occasionally, we copy and paste text, then edit it afterwards to fit into our story. PDFs are larger, harder to grab text from, contain all kinds of hinky formatting, and scream “I’m anal retentive!”

      • Personal PR pet peeve # 622: Press releases as attachments

        I’d rather have an entire press release in plain text in an email then have to open any kind of attachment. Preferably bury it at the bottom of an email down below the sig line so if for some reason I want to read it I can. Of course, I probably won’t, and by putting it there I can easily ignore it without having to open an attachment on the off chance I do need it.

        Just my $0.02


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