The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Truer words could not be spoken about media relations. Few industries have transformed more in recent years than the media industry, driven by changes in the social media landscape, the growing popularity of podcasts and the emergence of other non-traditional and on-demand platforms that have reinvented what it means for a consumer to “read the news.”
While these changes may require nuanced adjustments to the way we capture a journalist’s attention, the importance of a well-researched media pitch tailored for the recipient remains key to success.
This was clear in Muck Rack’s latest report, which shared key learnings from an analysis of more than 5.2 million “pitches” or emails sent from a PR pro to a journalist. Mostly, the report validated what we already knew to be true, but there were a few surprising discoveries.
Here’s a look at the insights we found most interesting and how you can apply these to level up your media pitching efforts.
Monday and Sunday pitches were more successful.
It makes sense that most PR pros send their pitches on a weekday – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the most popular days to pitch. What surprised us was feedback from more than half of the journalists surveyed (57%) who said they prefer receiving pitches on Mondays.
While far fewer pitches are sent on the weekends, this report showed pitches sent on Sundays were more likely to be opened and had higher clickthrough rates than pitches sent on any other day. This may be the case among journalists who want to get an early start on organizing their inboxes. PR pros who want to stand out from the pack should consider scheduling pitches for distribution at this time.
Seasonality also matters. More pitches are sent from mid-November through February, resulting in lower open and clickthrough rates. Consider pitching stories more aggressively at a time when competition is less fierce, like late spring, summer or early fall.
Time is also of the essence when it comes to the subject of your pitch. For example, journalists do not want to hear about tax tips after April 15.
The best performing pitches had longer subject lines.
We have always been taught to keep the email subject lines of our pitches to no more than about eight words, ensuring the entire subject could be viewed at a quick glance without opening the email. Apparently, we’ve been doing it all wrong!
Along with a subject line that was straightforward and clear, pitches with an average subject line of 10 words or 64 characters were more successful demonstrated by an open rate of 90% or higher. Of note, the most common word among these top-performing subject lines was “new.”
Pitch length didn’t matter.
Although journalists have said in previous studies that they prefer pitches of 200 words or less, the length of successful pitches reviewed in this study varied so widely that researchers couldn’t derive any relevant takeaways.
However, they did notice a few best practices:
- Placing key links near the top of your pitch;
- Including links to assets, such as images, social media videos, b-roll or media kits; and,
- Localizing your pitch with key information for journalists in the target market or region.
Pitches with the highest open and clickthrough rates also had a friendly and conversational tone, indicating that the sender was familiar with the journalist. This doesn’t come as a surprise. The importance of pre-existing media relationships cannot be underestimated – it makes perfect sense that journalists would be more likely to open an email from someone they know.
The New York Times was the most-pitched outlet.
OK, this one doesn’t really come as a surprise, either, but it does raise a question about how many pitches to The New York Times were truly a good fit. Along with The New York Times, you would likely recognize all (or almost all) 50 of the most-pitched outlets tracked in this report. While there is no doubt that outlets like CNBC, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal are ideal targets almost anyone would love to work with, consider just how competitive it is to capture the attention of their journalists versus journalists at emerging digital outlets or in non-traditional media.
Before you start off by pitching heavy hitters, work on generating credibility for your spokespeople with other outlets and opportunities, building them a solid foundation worthy of attention, even among the most targeted media.
We hope you find these takeaways as helpful as we did. Happy pitching!