Writing a great press release about your story is only half the battle. Getting it published is just as difficult, if not more so. Knowing how to pitch journalists (which means sending them an email about your press release) correctly is crucial to getting your news spread by the media.
Here are the most common questions you should answer when sending a press release email to journalists.
- How should your press release look to attract attention?
- Who to send your press release to?
- When to send your press release?
- What should your press release email contain? (w/ press release email examples)
- How to follow up on your press release email?
Let’s start from scratch.
How should your press release look?
It’s no use trying to find the best way to email journalists your press release if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way it’s written.
Pay attention to the press release structure
Make sure your press release follows the proper structure. Why is this important?
By following a standard press release format, you’re ensuring that a journalist knows how to find what they’re looking for in your release, and allow them to quickly determine if they want to cover your announcement. It also shows them that you’re a seasoned PR pro who knows the ins and outs of a press release, and signals that you’re likely easy to work with. – Cassie Scher, Nahigian Strategies
Here’s what to include in your press release:
- Headline: a taster of what you can expect
- Lead: a brief overview of the story, including answers to the questions: Who? What? When? Why? With what effect?
- Body: an explanation of the information provided earlier in the lead, starting from the most newsworthy info to other less important, background info
- Dateline: to confirm that you’re providing the most up-to-date information
- Company info: a short paragraph about your company to help journalists understand the nature of the business and make writing about it easier
- Media contact information: author or company’s/agency’s contact information
Make sure the topic is actually newsworthy
This is something that’s often overlooked. If you have some company news that you’re excited about, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else will be too—or at least to the same extent.
If you want to get a journalist to cover your story, it’s worth asking yourself these two questions:
- Is my news actually newsworthy?
- Is it presented in an exciting way that people will get people interested?
If it’s not, it might be worth waiting until you have something that actually is newsworthy, or you could make a bad first impression with the media contacts you send your press release to.
Additionally, support your story with rich media such as photos and videos to make your news more attractive and eye-grabbing.
Note that if you’re using a “wire” type of press release distribution service, adding images may cost extra.
Avoid grammatical errors and typos
Even if your press release contains everything it should, a typo—or even worse—a major grammatical mistake, can seriously damage the trustworthiness of you and your news.
Double-check your press release with a grammar-checker like Grammarly, or ask someone from your team that you trust to have a second look.
Need more help? Read the guide to press release writing →
Who to send your press release to?
Theoretically, this is obvious, but in practice, you get the impression that some PR companies send notes randomly without any plan or consideration.
The fact that a journalist is on your media contact list does not mean that you have to send everything to him or her.
Only industry-related information should be sent to editorial offices covering particular industry-related topics, while the ones related to a city or region should be sent to local editorial offices.
In the media, individual journalists have their own specializations (referred to as a “beat”). Instead of sending your press release to the general email address of a news outlet, it is best to address it to the person most interested in whatever subject you’re writing about.
What if your list of relevant media contacts that that could be actually interested in your story is lacking—or even worse—empty?
With Prowly, you can access a Media Database with over a million contacts, and use smart recommendations based on the contents of your press releases. This way, you’ll always pitch relevant journalists that are likely to be interested in your story.
When to send your press release?
If you’re writing a press release about an event or a product launch, remember to submit your press release to the media early enough so you have time to get coverage before your event or product launch. Keep things in mind such as when your ticket sales end and time your release accordingly.
It’s also important when journalists receive your press release email. The best day to send a press release is on Thursday when the average open rate jumps to over 26%! The worst days are Wednesdays and Fridays when even 85% of your emails get lost in the journos’ inboxes.
Which hours are best for sending a press release, then? Research shows that early mornings are less effective: open rates drop to 20.5% between 6 and 10 am. If you do decide on the early morning, however, wait at least until around 8 am or 9 am.
What should your press release email contain?
There are various approaches to constructing a PR pitch. No matter which method you choose for yourself, a press release email should always provide just enough information to engage the recipient.
Here are the most popular methods of writing a press release email:
1. The short & concise method
Probably the easiest one, but often the most time-consuming—to make your email look authentic, it should never be based on the copied & pasted parts of your press release.
You should write your email from scratch, include all the key information (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?), and throw in 1-2 quotes used in the press release (if possible).
Such an email is basically a condensed press release, allowing editors to start working on the piece of news right after reading the email body. Take a look at the press release email example below.
2. The bullet method
Some time ago, we’ve asked our fellow editors about their favorite formats of email pitches they get from PR people.
One of the PR Week (UK edition) editors said that what works best for him is a short message with three-four bullet points presenting the key details about the news.
Reason? Such amount of space is enough for him to decide whether he wants to run the story or not. If you’re unable to engage a journalist using such a short form, chances are they won’t be interested in reading the entire press release.
Here’s a press release email example that shows this method.
3. The all-in-one method
It’s good to try this method, especially if your recent click rate is rather low and you want to make sure your media contacts have read the whole news.
The main part of the email body should include one or two paragraphs containing the so-called “meat”—the essence; the key details and info that should win the journalists’ attention.
Next, after your standard email ending (“Regards, John Smith”), paste your press release text into a clearly separated section. This way, most editors who open your email will also see the full story (useful when you can’t measure how many people opened the attached/linked material).
Make your subject line count! The subject line for your email is often your first point of contact with journalists and sets the tone for everything that follows. Writing a good subject line is just as important and what’s inside your actual message. Read more about email pitch subject lines →
Avoid adding attachments to your press release email
Journalists get a ton of press releases every day. Their poor inboxes are usually running out of space, so it’s a good idea to ditch the attachments.
If you’re using a PR outreach tool like Prowly, the process is a lot easier. All you have to do is throw in a link to your press release. Upon following the URL, the journalist will find your press release along with any photos, videos, social media conversations, and other rich media that you added.
By attaching your press release via an external link, your email stays lightweight, and your message short and to the point.
How to follow up on your press release email?
One of the less pleasant parts of pitching to journalists is the dreaded follow-up.
A few days have passed and the journalist’s response is nowhere to be found. You can almost hear the crickets chirping. Did they read my press release? Did they open my email? Did they even get my email?
While it’s possible that the journalist has simply no intention of covering your story, it’s important to remember that journalists are, simply put, busy. A safe way to follow up is to wait a few days and send them another email asking if they received your story.
The best way (and less stressful) however, is to use a PR outreach tool like Prowly for sending press releases and tracking who interacted with your email.
By using PR outreach tools, you are able to view individual email statistics for each journalist you send your press release to, including open rates (who opened your email), click rates (who viewed your press release), and bounce rates (indicating there was a problem with their inbox).
This makes the follow-up process a lot easier because you’ll know how to approach the journalist if you know if they’ve even opened your email.
Conclusion: How to send a press release email to journalists
If you’ve made it all the way here, congratulations! By now, you should know the basics of sending a press release to journalists.
To sum up, follow these 5 steps:
- Make sure your press release is newsworthy and error-free
- Figure out which journalists will be interested in your story and find their contact details
- Send your press release at the right time to increase the chances of it getting noticed
- Write your press release email: make it attention-grabbing, short & simple (and without heavy attachments!)
- Follow-up if needed
Ready to send a press release email? If you need some more inspiration, check out successful media pitch examples.
Cover photo by Chris Blonk