NOBODY likes to be ignored. There can be any number of reasons that an email to a journalist goes unanswered - and the story goes unpublished. But don’t take it personally. Just make sure you get the fundamentals right - there are so many that don’t. If you’ve done everything well, maybe it’s not meant to be this time round.
In the meantime, here are eight things that will act as an instant turn-off to bear in mind:
1. A spelling mistake in the subject line
First impressions are everything, so make sure that the subject of the email is spot on. Aside from getting the wording correct so that it warrants being opened in the first place, make sure there are no typos. There are many writers and editors that on principle won’t open an email where there’s a spelling mistake or even grammatical error in the subject header. While we’re on the subject of the subject, the words “press release” as the header are not helpful. And…….delete.
Take action: Get a colleague or even better, two colleagues to proof the email before it goes.
2. Dear [insert name here]
We all know there are databases with lists of journalists far and wide. But it’s still nice to be addressed individually. I can think of at least 10 other journalists who would hit the delete button on practically every email that begins ‘Dear name”.
Just as bad is “hello gorgeous” (yes, really) which is at the beginning of every email I get from a PR who I have never met or even spoken to on the phone.
Take action: Take the time (or figure out the technology) to address people by their correct, first name.
3. The pitch is too long
You probably have just a few seconds (or sentences) to grab the attention of a journalist and pique their interest before they lose patience and move onto the next one.
Take action: The key is to make it easy to see the story quickly - write a pitch in as few words as possible including the most important information, as in a news story. There are no prizes for wonderfully lengthy sentences - bullet points work fine. Once they’ve been reeled in, they will read the full release.
4. The email asks for “placement”
There’s a fairly common mix up between editorial and advertorial. If you want a piece to be placed, phone the advertising department and pay for an advertorial. Take action: If you want editorial coverage, it needs to be a good story.
5. There’s nothing new
Surveys that tell us what we already know are no good. If there’s nothing new to say, it’s not just going to make the cut. The more non-stories you send out, the less likely editors will be to pay attention to your emails in future when you’ve really got something really juicy to offer.
Take action: Whip up something new to say/suggest/campaign for. Put your newspaper writer hat on and find an angle. The more angles you can offer, the more likely you’ll find coverage.
6. Poor inbox management
Email, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…and there are plenty more feeds to check if you’re so inclined. There’s so much going on it’s hard to keep up - and frankly, many don’t!
The Times Consumer Affairs Correspondent (@andrewellson) tweeted “Today I passed an important inbox milestone. More than 200,000 unread email messages. I couldn’t have done it without the help of spammers and PRs.”
Take action: Pick up the phone to those you know are poor at replying to emails. Follow up with an email and hopefully the conversation will be fresh enough for them to recognise your name and open it. But there’s a fine line between persistence and being a nuisance.
7. A cut and paste job
I get lots of emails referring to “my team”. For example, “if this isn’t one for you please do send it on to anyone else on the team who might be interested”.
I also get “I thought this would make a nice online nib”. As a freelancer I don’t have a team or a website on which to upload stories.
Take action: Do your research on who you’re emailing. Simples.
8. Enormous attachments clog up inboxes
I must confess, I sometimes have to delete emails with large attachments as my gmail threatens to shut down on a frequent basis.
Take action: It’s handy to know that images of spokespeople company logos are available. But if you attach them, make them low res and offer high res on request.All News