You’ve crafted your content, you’ve whittled down your target audience… all that’s left is to reach out to them.

But getting your outreach emails noticed by a journalist can feel impossible. After all, your pitch is just one of the hundreds – if not thousands – in their inbox at any one time. Why should they care about yours?

Ready to stand out from the PR crowd? Then follow these four stages of writing the ultimate content outreach email and watch your response rate soar.

The Subject Line

You might be surprised to learn that’s there’s zero correlation between subject line length and open rate, according to MailChimp. You’d think a shorter subject would entice more readers to open the email, and a long-winded line would send readers to sleep, right? Nope. The folks at MailChimp discovered that there were way more important factors for email open rate success – most notably personalisation.

Having the recipient’s name in the subject line can be the difference between an opened-and-responded-to outreach email and one that is relegated to a junk email folder, never to see the light of day. Be careful to get their name right, though – we once got an email whose subject read ‘For your attention Chris Clark Chris Clark’ – needless to say, it wasn’t read!

For optimum open rate success, questions and puns are your new BFFs. Overuse capital letters or exclamation marks at your peril, however, because a study from the Radicati Group revealed that more than 85% of people prefer an all-lowercase subject line to one in capitals.

When it comes to the content of your subject line, try and tailor it to the outlet you’re targeting. That doesn’t necessarily mean mentioning it by name, but instead using a subject that could double as a headline on that website. For example, we pitched a sleep-themed infographic to BuzzFeed with an email entitled ‘The 10 Sleep Relaxation Tips You NEED To Try’, and the content was promptly featured in a resulting round-up.

The Greeting and First Paragraph

Success! You’ve managed to get the recipient to open your email – now you’ve just got to keep their attention for another couple of minutes.

If you don’t know the name of the person you’re emailing, then don’t bother emailing them at all. Personalisation isn’t just key in the subject line but throughout the email, so beginning with a bland “Hi” isn’t winning you any friends.

Your first paragraph should be your elevator pitch: the reason why the journalist should use your content, summed up in a thirty-second soundbite. Here, fit in the five Ws and the How of a standard press release; answer these questions about your subject and you’re golden.

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • When?
  • How?

Dangling the Carrot

It’s time to whet the journalist’s creative appetite. If you’re promoting a survey, include some of the juiciest findings here; if it’s an infographic or another visual asset, add an image or two.

Now is also a good time to mention some of the journalist’s previous work on this subject, and how your content might work as a follow-up piece.

Crunch Time

Now it’s time to ask the journalist if the content is for them. Ask them outright if they would be interested in using the content.

Be crystal clear – explicitly include your contact email and number at the bottom of the email, since some press release distribution systems remove your normal signature.

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