5 reasons journalists aren’t opening your pitch emails
Content Marketing

5 reasons journalists aren’t opening your pitch emails

14th August 2019

When it comes to sharing a story with journalists, especially in this era where media are notoriously hard to reach on the phone email is everything. This means that reaching out via email is the most effective and direct medium of getting your press release to the right media contacts. Therefore, the open rate for a campaign has become the all-important metric for understanding why you may or may not be swimming in links and coverage. 

Tracking software like Mailtrack make it simple to optimise your outreach by offering a peek at whether your audience is actually reading the email. These services also let you see the number of clicks and even device location, giving you a more detailed view or how your campaign is performing. So you’ve got the data, and it’s not looking good, what’s your next move? I’ve got five reasons your mail isn’t being read and what to do about it. 


1.Poor timing 

Early on in my career, I believed that if you didn’t get a pitch out before 10 AM it was destined for failure. I thought that after this narrow window of time, all newsrooms have their stories for the day and wouldn’t pick anything else up. What I have learned since then, is that yes, media do often look for their breaking stories first thing in order to have enough time to write them up throughout the day. However, there are other times of the day when your story will be welcomed. 

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

I’ve found that a mid-afternoon or early evening emails can be equally as effective, as this is usually a lull time for publications after a busy day of writing. Of course, this only works for stories and news that isn’t dead the next day. 


2.Your email subject just isn’t cutting it 

Sadly, as content marketers or PRs, many of our outreach emails won’t be opened and this can be for two reasons. Firstly, the topic isn’t of interest, or it’s just not compelling enough for the journalist to bother opening it. Capital letters and exclamation marks don’t automatically put you in ‘open me’ territory. Always use 2- 3 different subject headings for a campaign to see which one performs the best. If you can see a contact hasn’t opened your email after a few days, change it up and send them a revised version using your best performing subject title. If none of your email subjects is performing, go back to the drawing board and come up with a fresh set. An unopened email is an opportunity to start fresh and learn from your mistakes. 


3.Quantity over quality media list 

It can be tempting to create epic press lists, containing hundreds of contacts and feel like it’s a job well done. Surely there must be someone in there that’s interested! For example, just because someone covers sports, doesn’t mean they will want to cover your sports-related graphic or microsite. They might cover purely match and league sports results.  Every person or publication on your list should be cross-checked with this simple list of requirements:  

  • Have they covered something like this before? 
  • Have they written a story with a similar angle or theme recently? 
  • Are you sure there isn’t someone at the same publication which is more relevant that you should try first? 
  • Do they show variation in the types of things they cover – straight news, features, data, graphics? 
Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

If the answer to one or more of these is no, then you should reconsider if they need to be on your list at all. Take the time to thoroughly read the publication you are contacting and research what and how it’s staff cover news. Work out the best way to approach them or decide whether to get in touch. Sending an irrelevant email wastes your time and theirs.


4.The error of attachments 

Bulky emails with the press release or image attachments are a no go for outreach and media pitching. It’s time-consuming to open and review attachments and in some cases, it can prevent your pitch from getting the time it deserves. Aside from the preference for most editors and writers to have press releases copied into the body or the email and images shared via Dropbox or Google Drive links. Large emails are much more likely to bounce or be rejected by email servers. If you are getting a low open rate and you are taking the attachment approach, I strongly recommend considering altering your method of sharing files.

Plus with so many more journalists freelancing now and using their mobile devices to work on the go, attachments are impractical and difficult to access using a smartphone.  


5.Your email is getting caught in spam filters 

Email tracking software is getting smarter and smarter but so are spam filters. So it’s tougher to work on large scale outreach campaigns where you are sharing identical content with lots of contacts-  to a bot, this looks like spam. Campaign Monitor has a helpful post on how to avoid spam filters for those wanting to delve deeper into the subject. 

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

If you needed another reason to personalise your outreach emails and tailor your communications, this is it. Spam filters are primed to flag anything that contains sales language. Form fill type language and even particular words will trigger the spam filter to reject or blacklist your email address. Words like ‘click here’, ‘special promotion’ or ‘great offer’ are examples of words that trigger a block. Make sure you avoid this kind of language in your outreach correspondence altogether. 

So there you have it, five reasons your outreach emails aren’t being opened by journalists.  Along with handy but useful ways to up your open rates and improve your media relations. A noteworthy campaign can depend on so many factors, some of which you won’t have control over but if you can streamline your promotion strategy, you will certainly see better results! 


Written By
Rebecca has over eight years of experience executing successful integrated PR campaigns for clients across travel, entertainment, fashion, tech and e-commerce sectors.
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