The Do’s When Emailing a Journalist

24.04.2018 |

Episode #6 of the course How to get press for your business by Lucy Werner



Welcome to Lesson 6!

Out with the old and in with the new. You now know common traps to avoid when emailing a journalist, but today, we are going to look at a few things that will really help your email cut through.

Remember: Subject line is key. Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day. Help cut through the clutter by tailoring your subject line. Even if they don’t read and respond to it in that instant, they may then be able to directly file it away.

For example, if you are responding to a #journorequest on Twitter about case studies of cyber security, you might want to think about a subject line like, “Case study for Journo Request: Victim of cyber security fraud.” This means that the journalist automatically knows how and what you are looking for.

If they write a specific column, then it is worth making sure you mention that—e.g., “Pitch for City Diary: Senior level CEO appointment news.” The more specific you can be in the subject line, the better.

Cut to the chase. Get straight in there with why you are contacting that specific journalist— for example, “I have seen that you cover money saving tips, and I wanted to let you know about XX.”

Offer an alternative opinion. Completely disagree with an article or feature you have seen? Brilliant. National newspapers have comment and opinion articles that need to be filled every day, or you could draft a letter in response. Remember, you don’t want to pitch to the journalist who wrote the piece, per se; look at the relevant commentary opportunities in your paper, and there will be a generic email address to contact them.

Give them the whole story. In case I have not stressed this enough, journalists are ridiculously busy and often working to really tight deadlines. The easier you can make their job, the better chance you have of being included.

Don’t just tease them with one line about your business/idea/story and ask them to reply for more information. Start with one paragraph summarizing why your story is relevant to their column or readers. You then might want to include key bullets, stats, or soundbites if you are pitching for a particular feature or specific column.

After that, you could sign off (making sure to include your contact name, number, and email, in case your email is forwarded) and cut and paste your press release below.

Include press release and images. The press release is there to inform how you’re written about. Make it easy and include it within your email or as a Word document if you must attach it (we’ll talk about press releases in more detail tomorrow). A PDF might look beautiful but is really hard to extract the information you need from it.

Consider embedding a low-res image into an email and including a download link for hi-res images. Either way, always keep your email file size small. You don’t want to be the person responsible for clogging up a journalist’s inbox. I’ve been asked before if journalists prefer WeTransfer, Dropbox, or Google Drive, but I think it comes down to personal taste. Any kind of easy download link for them to access images is all that’s needed.

Name your images. Make sure you save file names on your images so they know whom/what it is they’re looking at. It sounds like a simple thing but makes things much easier. Where possible, keep a mixture of portrait and landscape.

If appropriate, write the column for them. Okay, I am not saying you need to do the journalist’s job for them, but if you write your copy in a way that’s easy for them to edit, it’s a big bonus. Whatever they write about, take the same format and try to present the copy in this style to help them out.

Lastly, pick a good time. It’s not good emailing late at night or on a weekend. You need to be fresh in their inbox at a time that works good for them. Think early in the morning at the beginning of the week, rather than last thing on a Friday. Most email programs also provide a scheduling tool, so you can make sure your email is issued at an appropriate time.

Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought on how to shape your email to the journalist. Tomorrow, we’ll start talking about writing press releases.


Recommended book

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande


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