Crafting the Perfect Email Pitch

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April 10, 2014

Getting your content in front of journalists and influencers is tough. Not only does it have to appeal to your target audience, be of a certain calibre and be ready at the right time, but it’s also got to be picked up by the right person.

I’ve spent endless hours pitching to journalists, bloggers and influencers over the past few years and have had some major learning curves along the way. The fact is that there isn’t a one-fits-all email template that will get you a guaranteed response. If it was that easy, we’d all be getting featured on The Guardian and the BBC.

Whilst I can’t give you a guaranteed way to get a response from your content pitches, I can share with you what I’ve learnt and what’s helped to get my content placed on sites like Forbes, Yahoo!, The Guardian, TechRadar and more.

The Perils of Pitching Your Content

Anyone that’s tried to get their content picked up by authority sources will know that it’s tough. Henley Wing of BuzzSumo recently published some feedback that he got from a load of top journalists and some of them mentioned that they received over 100 content pitches every day.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that it can be tough to catch their attention.

iAcquire and BuzzStream put together a fantastic study around content placement rates and pitching success based on a sample of over 300,000 emails sent. They found that the average industry placement rate is 4.8% for males and 4.5% for females.

Industry Average Placement Rate

Based on those stats, you should be getting one successful placement for every 21-22 pitches that you send. Those figures starting to sound familiar? Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that it doesn’t count if you just fire out the same old template to a list of 22 blogs – this isn’t how it works.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, it’s that getting your content placed on top sites is a long-game. There’s no quick win here. It takes time, dedication and a very personal approach.

Crafting the Perfect Pitch

I’ve had an article bookmarked from Paul Sawers (of TheNextWeb) for a few years now that outlined what he considered as the perfect pitch. Here’s what he gave as an example:

Hi [First Name],

I’m [full name], founder of a London-based startup called [name + link to website], and I think you may be interested in our new product. We’ve developed a GPS-powered app that helps drivers instantly see how much they’re spending on petrol with each journey they make, and whilst there are similar apps out there (e.g. xxx and xxx), this is the first time an app has been created that uses up-to-date, real-time data from local service stations around the world.

We are releasing the Android version next week, and we expect the iOS version to be approved shortly after. I’ve attached a few screenshots of what the app looks like, and here’s a link to a video that demos exactly how it works.

I thought I’d give you first refusal to review this app before contacting other publications. If you could let me know if you’re keen to learn more, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks a lot for your time.

Name
Position
Telephone number
Twitter Handle

This examples all of the key components of a pitch. It’s short, it gets to the point quickly, it clearly displays how it can be mutually beneficial to the recipient and there’s an emotional hook to encourage follow up.

As a general rule, all of the content pitches that I craft will adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. The body of the email mustn’t exceed 190 words.
  2. The email must addresses the recipient by their name.
  3. It must give a very brief intro into who I am and who my client is (if I’m pitching on their behalf).
  4. The pitch section should get straight to the point of what the content is and take up no more than two paragraphs.
  5. Never send over the content in the pitch email. Wait until you’ve had the go ahead from them.
  6. If the content is very complex, use bullet points to get the idea across in a short way.
  7. Give an emotional hook for the recipient to want more information.
  8. Every pitch should be unique and add a personal touch if possible.
  9. Explain how publishing the content will be mutually beneficial.
  10. I should have a good understanding of what the recipient publishes to ensure that the content is completely relevant to them.
  11. Email subject should be no longer than 55 characters and should encompass the content idea within it.
  12. Get straight to the point and don’t use buzzwords!

If one of these pointers can’t be ticked off then you need to rethink your approach.

On top of this, you need to be thinking about how you can improve the way you pitch over time. Make sure that you’re measuring what is working and what isn’t so that you can refine and improve your pitches in the future.

Another tip that I’d give is to try and reach out to people through social media first. I usually use Twitter for this and will just comment on something that they’ve written in the past to start building a rapport with them. This can then lead into a conversation where you ask if it’s ok if you email them – this will dramatically improve your email open rates.

On top of this, it’s important to realise that you’re not always going to get content placed on the first attempt. Plan well in advance and start reaching out to your targets a good time in advance of when you’re looking to achieve a placement. You may find that if your pitch is good but they don’t have a requirement right now that you can just keep that relationship ticking over and revisit it in the future. I like to use services like HARO and ResponseSource to open up relationships with top journalists and then come back to them at a later date.

TL;DR

  • Don’t approach your content pitches with a cookie cutter model.
  • Craft unique and personalised pitches that include a clear emotional hook.
  • Get straight to the point and stick within 190 words maximum.
  • Don’t overload your emails with buzzwords.
  • Measure, refine and improve.
Crafting the Perfect Email Pitch 5.00/5 (100.00%) 1 vote

About Matthew Barby

Matt is a digital marketing consultant from the UK. He is the Digital Strategist at Wyatt International and has a passion for all things digital. He also runs a number of blogs, including his travel blog and pescetarian food blog. You can get in touch with Matt on Twitter or through Google+.

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  • http://www.mirincon.co/ Daniel Afanador

    Hi, Matt. Great post!

    For a long time, as a Blogger I’ve received mails that after the first line you know they are being sent to a data base, instead of a person. They start like: “Hi, blog admin”….Then I think: didn’t you even try to find out my name? Why I would be interested in your history if you didn’t read my blog.

    If you learn from those first mails I think each Blogger have received once, and then compare them to more prepared e-mails and even to the models you mention, I think there are real chances to get into that 4.5% of success rate.

    • http://www.matthewbarby.com/ Matthew Barby

      Hey Daniel,

      I completely agree – I get so many emails just starting with “Hi There” and they immediately go into my spam bin. I even get the occasional “Hi [firstname]” sent through… sigh. It doesn’t take long to check out someone’s name and it’s definitely going to get you a better response!

  • victorpan

    Pretty much all reporters are on Twitter. Friend them, retweet their stories, interact with them – build a relationship. Know what they cover and their beats.

    A lot of them check headlines on their phone. Keep that in mind.

    Don’t forget to follow-up – sometimes people just miss things.

    • http://www.matthewbarby.com/ Matthew Barby

      Good advice, Vic. One thing I’ve found to work well is actually pulling a quote from their article when you tweet them – shows that you’ve actually read their stuff and aren’t just pressing retweet.

      • victorpan

        Include them in a list with an inspirational title ;)

  • Papagayo_Fish

    Great pointers but what I don’t like in the example letter is the negativity – I would only keep it positive if you are selling yourself or product. “thought I’d give you first refusal to review this app before contacting other publications…”

    • http://www.matthewbarby.com/ Matthew Barby

      I don’t necessarily think it’s negative – I see your point but I think that it actually refrains from being presumptuous and is a little less intrusive that way.

  • Paul Clarke

    I’m interested by this idea of 5% conversion rate. It’s perhaps a bit low in my experience, but I think it’s banded as the conversion rate for many SEO/PR type activities, and incidently ecommerce conversion rates.

    Anyway, if somebody was going to fire off 50 emails, on your stats, they could expect maybe 2 editorial links/mentions.

    As you probably know, this is time prohibitive.

    Out of interest, do you use any blackhat email distribution services or mail merge in Outlook etc? i.e. semi-automation.

    • http://www.matthewbarby.com/ Matthew Barby

      Hi Paul,

      When it comes to the actual sending of the emails, I use BuzzStream. This helps to speed up the process and also for me to keep track of the conversion rate of my emails. The key point behind this approach is to have bespoke email messages tailored completely to each recipient. If you’re staff are sending 50 emails each week and getting 2 placements on top tier websites then that’s not bad at all – I’d take 2 placements on industry leading publications over 100 links from low quality blogs any day.

      • Paul Clarke

        Yes I think with all the data scraping and what not then it’s essential to use a bulk email solution – simply cos of the amount of contacts we can gather.

        I read a lot of white hat blogs. I think everyone says 5% conversion rate, so to get anywhere you need to really be applying semi-automation. I find this often goes unsaid.

        I’d like to try BuzzStream. At the mo I use a desktop program where I upload the emails via CSV. Think it cost me $40. Seems to do the trick.

        Would love to see an indepth article on the different options in applying outreach (i.e. actually sending the emails as opposed the content of the emails) in a scalable way that works within the realities of the 5% conversion rate.

        • http://www.matthewbarby.com/ Matthew Barby

          Hey Paul,

          I think you’re missing the point of what I outlined above. This approach looks less at mass outreach and more at targeted smaller numbers. Each email should be tailored to the individual – this couldn’t be done with a fully templated email that is just mail merged.

          This approach is all about being able to increase your placement conversion rate from top tier publications, as opposed to firing as many emails as you can at a group of targets and hoping that one sticks.

          The extra time spent is worth it and that’s what makes it scalable.

          • Paul Clarke

            I just find that it’s fairly time consuming to send 22 emails to get 1 link…

            I suppose it depends on the size of your staff.

            And I think you can semi-automate it with tagging. You can insert stuff like their location, latest blog article etc. It can be done. I use something called MaxProg.

            I delete any domain as a target that has a PR < 3 (most of the time I don't even both with PR 3 domains as I find them to be low quality sites not worth the time!), so I only target good stuff and semi-automation (it's automation but with personal info in it) really works.

            I apply this through all stages of content creation and normal link building with no content tied to it.

            But I suppose if you've got the clients paying for a big team to run their campaigns, it may not be something that you've flagged like I have.

  • http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Amir-Sibboni/-2122356426 Amir Sibboni

    So I detected some negativity. This was mentioned in another comment and you did say that while it wasn’t exactly negative, that it help to undercut any sense of presumption on the pitcher’s part. I have a question. Is that important in a pitch? To show some humility in this way?