(Step 1: Include a relevant photo.)
1. Get the name right (and gender). I’m not Mr. Dilworth. I’m not Jennifer. And if you can’t be *bother to type in my name, definitely don’t start your email with just, “Hi.” (This draws more attention to the fact that you couldn’t be bothered to type in my name.) *A test to see if you’re paying attention.
2. Fix your email subject lines. This is your headline, make it short, to the point and not any of the following:
- Can I send you this??
- Can I call you about this??? (Pop quiz: Do journalists want to be cold-called? NEVER EVER)
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- Serving notice. Legal SEO Division launched by Digital+ (I just got sent this one, what the hell does this mean?)
Remember: this is a headline that has to exist out of context. We may not know your company, your location, who you are—just tell it straight and it better be NEWS.
3. THIS ISN’T NEWS. I only care about what’s new. Even if it’s something under-reported, tell me why do readers need to know about this now? What has happened to warrant this email to be sent to my inbox today? Again, it better be news and you better LEAD WITH IT.
4. Know where I live. In a general sense! You should know which city I am based in, not my apartment number. It’s a waste of time to invite me to events in Toronto, New York or France unless you’re paying my airfare.
5. Know where my readership lives. All publications have a readership, take the time to find out where that readership is located. Normally the publication will tip you off. Western Living is West Coast. Vancouver 24 hours newspaper covers Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. The Province covers the great province of B.C.
I write only about Western Canadian home design, travel and food, so don’t send me a release about some American author who has a new American book that’s launching at some American-only book store. You’ll get angry eyes and a DELETE.
6. Keep it short. This goes for the headline and the body copy. I want things I can scan quickly and unless it’s a newsletter, you’re likely only be telling me about one news event. So write a concise and newsy headline, put event specifics and the like in bullet points and include a relevant photo if it merits a photo.
7. One follow-up is good enough thank you. Just like in dating, reaching out multiple times without a reply looks desperate. Journalists get sent so many releases and emails on a daily basis, so it’s possible they didn’t see your email. It’s possible they didn’t see the second one either. But it’s also possible they saw each one and didn’t have time to tell you all the reasons it’s not a fit. And now you’re henceforth labelled SPAM.
8. You should have photos ready. So you hooked me, I responded, I’m going to write about this—wait, what do you mean you don’t have photos? No art to illustrate it at all? Am I expected to draw something to go with the online article? Commission a photographer to go back in time and take photos from your past event to use for this preview piece? Please have photos, have photos ALWAYS for everything you’re telling me about, as an article doesn’t exist without art!
9. I don’t write about this. And if you knew anything about my publication, or my beat, or me, you would know that I don’t cover Paris fashion shows and am not interested in hearing more or getting sent hi-res images. This could probably be number one. Because even if you screw up my name and you write a lame headline, at least if it’s a topic I write about you could get your release read. I get sent 1,000 emails by five different contacts from this one spammy PR company, and I actually just read and responded to one of their releases because they sent me something on home design that I actually could almost write about. It was American, but still, they were getting closer.
*Editor’s note: You know when you write a sassy letter and never send it? Looks like I published this one! PR is a hard job, and I work with so many people who do it really well.