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How to Write the Best Email Pitch, Backed by Numbers

How to Write the Best Email Pitch, Backed by Numbers

Here's everything it takes to write the best email pitch and increase your earned media opportunities.

When it comes to email pitches, we’ve all learned that there is no silver bullet. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you can do to improve your results. We'll go through these in detail below, so read on or bookmark this page for later. Oh, and be sure to watch our free pitching masterclass.

 

 

Data from nearly 16 MILLION emails

In 2019, 15,976,113 emails were sent using Prezly. That’s about 43,770 per day. Surely, there are be some things we can learn from a dataset of this size.

Ever wondered...

  • How personalisation might affect the impact of your email pitch?
  • What about how often you contact someone?
  • How long your email is?
  • Whether or not you include images?

Well, good news! We’ve looked into all of that and more to help you get better results from your email pitches. First, we’ll start with the best practices and then drill down into the nitty gritty analysis. Read on to learn how you too can get to pitch perfect.

Part 1: The ideal email pitch…

... has a short subject line

And I mean short-short. Looking at all ~16 million emails sent through Prezly in 2019, those with just 3 words in their subject line performed best.

… is personalised

For the best results, always pitch one-to-one.

Second best is to personalise.

When sending to 10 people or more, personalising your pitch by addressing your contacts by their first name for a quick win.

But be careful: if your pitch isn’t targeted and tailored to the right audience, using someone’s first name isn’t going to make a difference.

… is sent to people that regularly hear from you

This one is actually based on our 2016 data as the new report isn't ready yet. In case you were starting to get anxious about the number of emails you’ve been sending out, don’t fret. Our data revealed that people receiving more emails had around a 30% higher open rate and a 40% higher click rate than people receiving less emails.

… is short and to the point

Keeping your emails short and sweet is the most commonly given advice, and we’ve found nothing to contradict that. Our data suggests that, on average, pitches of <100 words perform up to 4x better than those with 300 or more.

Simply put: the shorter, the better.

This is why it can help to put only the summary of your press release into your pitch and link it to your online newsroom, where journalists can find the full story. (That’s why we built this function into Prezly – take a look.)

… use images

Two years ago, we found that pitches with no images performed best. It appears times have changed!

Looking at the data, pitches that use 1–5 images score the highest clickthrough rate.

Part 2: A closer look at the data (+ some charts 👀)

What will we be investigating?

In this analysis, we look at:

  • Whether subject line length influences how likely people are to open
  • How personalisation impacts on email open and clickthrough rates
  • Whether how frequently you contact a journalist affects how they respond
  • The ideal pitch length for getting your story picked up
  • What difference including images in your pitch makes

Before we get started, some context...

In research papers, it’s common and good practice to describe the data that you’re working with. Don’t worry, we’ll run through this rather quickly.

The data we use here comes from the hundreds of thousands of pitches sent through Prezly and the resulting analytics, specifically, open and clickthrough rates. There’s really only one thing you need to know before you look at the numbers: Prezly emails come in three flavours.

The three types of pitches:

1. The summary email. It lacks any personal touch whatsoever. The only thing that lands in people’s mailboxes is a visual snapshot of a press release:

 

2. A summary email with an introduction. It has a little more personalisation: it generally adds a bit of context around the story that’s being shared.

 

3. The whole shebang. The final option is a visual summary email with a personalised introduction: these are emails in which the first names of the recipients are inserted.

 

The results

Subject lines: How short is too short?

Turns out there's pretty much no such thing as "too short". Looking at all ~16 million emails sent through Prezly in 2019, those with just 3 words in their subject line performed best.

Translating that to character count, the most successful subject lines consisted of just 10–20 characters, followed by 20–30 and then 0–10 characters.

Add to that the fact that subject lines get cut to around 50 characters on most mobile phones, and the takeaway is simply keep it short.

Pitches with just 3 words in their subject line got the most opens! What
Pitches with just 3 words in their subject line got the most opens! What's happening to attention spans...

To personalise or not to personalise?

The first thing we did was simply compare the clickthrough rates of the three different email types. To no avail: there seemed to be close to no difference. And to our surprise, a generic introduction even seemed to have slightly better results than a personalised one.

We assumed that a personalised email would have the greatest impact because engagement tends to be greater when the message is personally relevant to the recipient. So why was this not the case?

Suddenly, it hit us: including someone’s first name in an email isn’t the only factor that makes it more relevant. What if the message itself was simply not relevant to the recipient?

Look at it this way: if you send commercial emails about cat food to someone that doesn’t even have a cat, you can include that person’s first name all you want; they’re just not interested in your cat food.

So we decided to throw another variable into the mix: targeted-ness. And that’s where things started to get interesting.

Less targeted email = lower clickthrough

To gauge the degree to which an email campaign was targeted, we used the number of recipients of a given campaign. Our assumption being: the fewer people in the recipient pool, the more targeted the email campaign, and vice versa.

In the below graph, as you’d expect, you can see that the less targeted an email campaign is, the lower its clickthrough rate.

Send to small, carefully thought-out groups. The more targeted your email, the better.
Send to small, carefully thought-out groups. The more targeted your email, the better.

If you're sending to 10+ people, at least use mail merge

For your most important pitches, go one-on-one.

Second best is to carefully research and compile an audience of 10 people or fewer. This audience will be niche enough by virtue of targeting so as not to require further personalisation, gaining a 14% clickthrough rate regardless.

However, if you must send a campaign to 10+ contacts, use mail merge to personalise it at least a little.

💡TIP: When using mail merge, go beyond the salutation. You can use dynamic fields to insert your contact’s name or other details anywhere in your pitch – use it to catch their attention mid-sentence or as you sign off.

Sending to niche audiences of >10 people gets the best results, but if you MUST send big, use mail merge.
Sending to niche audiences of >10 people gets the best results, but if you MUST send big, use mail merge.

 

How often should you be reaching out?

For this parameter, we used our 2016 data as a more recent report isn't quite finished yet. (Watch this space!) Here's what we found.

So we know that getting the right info to the right people goes a long way. And it sure helps to use someone’s first name when writing to them.

But what about how often you write someone? Sure, you want to talk to people on a regular basis, but you also don’t want to overdo it.

Looking at the email campaigns sent using Prezly, it seems you don’t really have a lot to worry about with this one. In fact, it seems that people that are contacted more often tend to open and click through emails more often.

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Long and wordy, or short and sweet?

It’s a question that's asked a LOT: what works best, a longer email or a message that’s quick and to the point? There are some exceptions, but the advice most commonly given is keep your emails short.

Our data suggests that, on average, pitches of <100 words perform up to 4x better than those with 300 or more.

A recent survey data from Muck Rack supports the claim that shorter is better: “92% of journos also said their ideal pitch length is capped at 2–3 paragraphs.”

Simply put: the shorter, the better.

This is why it can help to put only the summary of your press release into your pitch and link it to your online newsroom, where journalists can find the full story. (That’s why we built this function into Prezly – take a look.)

Simply put: the shorter, the better.
Simply put: the shorter, the better.

 

What about pictures?

Time to put the final pillar of emails to the test: images. Should you use them in your pitches? Our findings are a little mixed and surprising on this one.

The last time we did this query in 2016, we found that pitches with no images performed best. It appears times have changed.

Looking at the data from 2019, pitches that use 1–5 images score the highest clickthrough rate.

Include 1–5 pics in your pitch – just don
Include 1–5 pics in your pitch – just don't go overboard.

 

Want more pitching insights?

Download our free pitching pack featuring a step-by-step walkthrough of how to build a great media relationship, including the answers to these questions:

  • What's the best way to approach a journalist?
  • How do I write a pitch that gets 50%+ opens?
  • What makes a great pitching strategy?

We've also thrown in a strategy framework template to make your next pitch your best, and an extended Prezly trial with how-to. 100% free.

Download it here.

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Want to see how Prezly can help you send your dream pitches, track engagement and oh so much more? Just book a demo.

Article updated June 2020

Distribution / Email Marketing