“1. Do your readers recognize the early warning signs of [blank]?
Do your viewers make these mistakes when [blank]?
This is a great subject line framework for the traditional problem/solution type pitch. It plays into the fear that media consumers (and journalist/bloggers) have that they might be doing something wrong, so they are anxious to see. Even if they are not, they get a reward because they feel smart.
Example for a story about a portable air purifier: Do your readers recognize mold allergies?
Example for a pitch about a luxury hotel: Do your viewers make these mistakes choosing a wedding venue?
2. Your story on [blank]; [hint about how pitch relates]
Journalists, and especially bloggers, are like anyone else – they love to talk about themselves. So when you acknowledge their work, it piques their curiosity. They also know immediately that you know what they cover. This approach works even better in the new media environment, because journalists who may feel they’ve already covered your topic also have blogs on which they can extend that coverage with your new angle.
Example: Your story on annuities; more on new tax ramifications
3. Applying [something specific they’ve blogged about that they like] to email
If you can’t find any angle of the story that you’re sure will drive them to open the email, and you can’t find any previous stories that relate to your pitch, you can roll the dice with this one. Rather than appealing to their professional side, you’re reaching out to their human side. You’re saying, in essence, “I read you. I get you. And I’m bending over backwards to do things the way you like.”
I was pitching a story to an NPR correspondent who had blogged about what he called “the McEnroe rule,” which, long story short, means “the less said the better.” So the pitch subject line was:
“Applying the McEnroe rule to email”
And the pitch, which had nothing to do with tennis, followed in very terse bullets. He responded gamely, “Why Michael, with an email like that, I’d be honored. . . Quite charming.”
4. [positive sentiment] [their story’s topic]
We counted up the times we’ve sent this to national media, and it has generated a reply email about 80 percent of the time. The journalists are so accustomed to receiving rants that they really welcome positive feedback, so many of them eagerly open email with this type of subject line. After sincerely and specifically commending them on a story or post relevant to your pitch, ease into an explanation of how your story idea relates. It actually works best if you just send it after you a see a story or post you like even if you don’t have a pitch. Then later you can follow up with a story idea.
Example: Nice piece on Amazon boomerangs
5. What not to do – don’t write “story idea”
Your space is precious – 5 to 6 words is optimum. Don’t use up two of them with something that will be inherently obvious to the recipient. Your goal with your email pitch is to have it be so obviously a good story idea that you won’t need to label it as such to the recipient.”