Yes, Virginia, Your E-Mail Pitches Do Still Make a Difference

Global MarketI’ve written before about my belief that the near constant bashing of media relations has to stop, and how yes, despite how much I love social media and how much I believe in the true good of what it is doing in the PR and marketing business, there still is a time, place and relevancy to traditional PR tactics, such as developing strong relationships. Today, I’m going to give kudos to another one those of traditional tactics that the “gurus” love to bash, but if done right, can still have a major impact in our business: the e-mail pitch.

Like it or love it, it’s still common practice within public relations for PR folks to send out what they think are highly targeted, well-written and witty pitches to reporters—via e-mail—that immediately grab their attention and have them sit up and say, “YES! I have to write this story!” OK, so it may not exactly go this way all the time, but hey, this PR pro can always have a little hope, can’t he?

But the sad fact is that some of these pitches are terribly written – way off base in terms of what the reporter/blogger writes about and/or that publication’s readership and are just haphazardly written by either lazy or overburdened PR pros. That’s not bashing our profession; it’s just a fact based on numerous anecdotal evidence.

Despite all of the recent bashing about pitching, I was pleasantly surprised over the weekend when I turned to the back page of the Jan. 23-24 edition of the Wall Street Journal “Weekend Journal” section to find a piece entitled “Vexed Messaging” by Terry Teachout about cell phone use during plays and operas (great read, by the way. Definitely worth the time, so check it out HERE) that directly mentioned an e-mail from a publicist working for a company that has developed a text-messaging service called “Turn Your Cell Phone On!” that was mentioned in the article.

Seeing your company’s/client’s product and/or experts mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article is kudos enough to the hard work you have put in as a PR pro, but to have the author of the article mention your e-mail directly that caught his or her attention, and knowing the fact that your subject line is what grabbed your attention? Oh man, talk about a great day at the office!

So what can we learn from this one shining example? Well, for starters, as the headline of this post implies, yes, e-mail pitches do still have their place. Just not the bland, crappy ones that are hawking XYZ product that nobody gives a damn about, or are over-hyping something we all know not to be true. It all goes back to the good old basics: Give reporters angles and ideas to develop compelling and dynamic stories that people want to read, hear or see. And don’t be afraid to take a few risks in your pitches. Have a punchy subject line. Go right out there with all the facts, (Let’s stop this crap of “I can only tell you this much until you agree to write the piece. That’s nonsense in today’s economy.), and above all else, don’t waste people’s time and please, be nice.

People like stories. We’re born to hear great stories. Give those reporters/bloggers an inner look at what could develop into a great story, and your e-mail pitch may very well be on its way to getting your company/client into a terrific piece. Hell, your e-mail may even make in there as well. Now, that would be a sweet day at the office! And don’t forget that statistical evidence backs up the fact that e-mail pitches do still work: According to a 2009 PRWeek/PR Newswire media survey, 80 percent of journalists prefer to receive pitches by e-mail.

So, what has been your best WOW! moment with your media outreach? What were your secrets to getting beyond just the initial response of, “Hey, this looks cool, but not right now,” but instead, a placement that really made a difference? Share below!

Good Read: Shel Holtz has a fantastic post HERE from April 2009 in an open letter to Robert Scoble (himself, an ardent basher of e-mail pitching) about the fact that e-mail pitches are still the preferred method of outreach by reporters, bloggers, etc.

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