Media relations lessons learned from over five million pitches

Looking behind someone sitting at a computer working with a cup of coffee on the side

One of the things I love about working at Hodges is the opportunity we have for ongoing professional development. In pre-COVID times, this meant attending conferences and various in-person trainings, but like many other things, a lot of our professional development has taken a virtual turn in the last year and a half.

Earlier this year with the support of Hodges, I joined media relations and writing coach Michael Smart’s Inner Circle, and I’ve found great value in the sessions and training that are provided through the program.

As a part of the Inner Circle, I recently tuned into a webinar presented by Michael Smart and Muck Rack breaking down lessons learned from analyzing over 5 million pitches sent between August 2020 and July 2021. Was the pitch opened? Did the journalist respond? What worked and what didn’t?

I’m sharing a few takeaways here from the webinar on media relations lessons learned – when to pitch, how many people to pitch, pitch format, subject lines and the art of following up.

When to send a media pitch?

  • Pitch on Mondays, as this is when journalists typically get fewer pitches.
  • Consider testing sending on Sunday afternoon or evenings, even if you schedule the send.

How many people should you pitch?

  • Open rates drop as you add more recipients to your email.
  • Once you send to more than 50 recipients, there’s really no difference if you go to 250.
  • Open rates start to drop as soon as you send to more than one person on the “To” line!
  • Many people take advantage of the BCC line to send a mass email, which can be okay in certain circumstances but it’s typically still best to individualize when you can.

Writing a good subject line for a media pitch

  • Straightforward subject lines are best – journalists don’t like clickbait subject lines that might work in email marketing.
  • Put the locale that you are pitching in subject line so journalists know right way it’s relevant to them.
  • Consider sharing data in subject line – it’s not a requirement but if you have it, flaunt it. Keep in mind that spam filters can block things like dollar signs.
  • There’s a formula for subject lines. Set subject into two words then follow with 8-10 simple words. For example, “New app: Designed to assist parents find childcare.”
  • Longer subject lines perform just as well as shorter ones.

The best format for your media pitch

  • A good pitch is a good pitch, regardless of length! That said, use bullets and avoid big blocks of text. You want the information you are presenting to be as digestible as possible.
  • Add links to assets if available since embedded images don’t always show up.
  • Avoid using “hope you are well” in start of email, especially with a new contact or a blast pitch. This is the number one thing journalists complain about in getting pitches. It is okay to use with someone you are *actually* friendly with!

When to follow-up on a media pitch?

  • When following up, add some additional value – whether you are offering new photos or new information – make your follow-up worthwhile.
  • Mass follow-ups, poorly targeted pitches and poorly timed pitches were the among the pitches that were most likely to not be opened at all.

A big shout out to Michael Smart and Muck Rack for the helpful session! What other media relations lessons learned would you add?

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Megan Irvin

Megan spends her days doing media relations, community relations, content creation and events for clients like Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Federal Realty and Mercy Chefs. Her favorite part of her job is working with clients and providing strategic counsel — and garnering media attention for clients in outlets like TODAY, Esquire, USA Today and Bon Appetit.

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