I spend much of my day agonizing over pitches. I’ve actually dreamed (or perhaps had nightmares) about them.
Was that the right subject line? Was the intro a little too personal? Could the call to action be stronger next time? These are important questions, and we often revisit them when we pitch an editor the first time.
When you consider that 90 percent of journalists prefer to be pitched by email, it’s an understatement to say you’ll ask these key questions a lot. Whether you’re a freelance writer hoping to see your byline splashed across the front page of a publisher or a PR manager looking to share your client’s story, what you write before you click “send” makes a big difference.
How can you make sure your next pitch isn’t a shot in the dark? My team at Fractl recently analyzed 26,988 pitches to find out what in subject lines and introductions piques an editor’s interest.
Remember: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Here are six ways you can nail that initial interaction:
1. Prove to editors you have something new before they open your email.
We usually go online because we have a question. A great subject line reveals how your content will give an editor’s audience answers. “Know,” “changed,” “ideal,” and “showed” indicate that your content can explain something. Each of these words in subject lines generated more than a 17 percent response rate.
2. Your subject line should fit an editor’s beat.
In a survey of 500 publishers, more than 60 percent of journalists agreed that the perfect subject line connects to their beat. Read some of your target’s previous posts to get an understanding of what they cover. Terms like “content,” “marketing,” “house,” “travelers,” and “body” landed in the top 15 highest-performing subject-line words, showing how important referencing a vertical is if you want a response.
3. The word “exclusive” doesn’t guarantee success in a crowded inbox.
Journalists are privy to the fact that your so-called exclusive is probably sitting in more than one inbox: The word had the same success rate (11.9 percent) as subject lines without it (12 percent).
4. It’s OK to mention something an editor posted on social media.
Do you feel like a stage-five clinger when you shadow someone’s online profiles? Our data indicate that editors don’t mind a pitch introduction that proves you’ve taken a peek at their life and work. The word “Twitter” generated a 16.8 percent open rate when used in a pitch’s opening paragraph.
5. Your introduction should prove you’re human (a polite human).
The success of words like “weekend,” “wanted,” “hear,” and “week” in pitch intros proves that you should take a genuine interest in what a writer has going on in his or her life (e.g. “I hope you had a great weekend,” “It’s great to hear you’re feeling better,” etc.).
Positivity and politeness also go a long way: The words “happy” and “hope” were the most successful pitch-intro words. They remind us that beyond a placement, a secondary goal of any pitch is to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
6. Open with what you liked about a writer’s previous post.
We love a pat on the back. A journalist is no different. Mention one or two things you really liked about the journalist’s work in your introduction: “Article,” “list,” “tips,” and “piece” in the opening paragraph of a pitch generated high response rates.
And there you have it. Yes. your first email sets the tone for the relationship, but it doesn’t require endless hours of feverish guessing before you click “send.” All you need is a subject line tailored to an editor’s beat with an introduction that proves you’re capable more than copying and pasting.
Andrea Lehr is a brand relationship strategist at Fractl. Connect with her on LinkedIn for daily musings on great content; follow her on Twitter for the GIFs. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.