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The Ultimate PR Edge: Getting Reporters To Open Your E-Mails

By Bill Stoller
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2004

You know that getting publicity is vital to the health of your business. You probably also know that e-mail is the way most publicity seekers get in touch with reporters to score that precious coverage. Heres what you dont know: The vast majority of e-mails sent to journalists never get read.

Bottom line: if your e-mails dont get read, you have no shot at getting the publicity you so desperately need.

Here's how to beat the odds:

Avoiding the Sp*am Trap

To an email filter, your humble e-mail pitch may appear to contain an array of trigger words and suspicious phrases. A server that relayed your message may be on a blacklist - a "do not open" list of known sp*ammers. Or perhaps the filters having a tough day and has decided to start blocking things arbitrarily. You cant prevent every instance of filter blocking, but you can take some steps to help lessen the chances of your e-mail ending up in a black hole.

The most important step is learning how email filters think, and creating e-mails that avoid the usual pitfalls. Fortunately, youll find that -- once you can do this -- many spam triggers are easily avoided.

Rather than taking up space here with all the how-tos, allow me to simply direct you a terrific site on the subject: (

Getting Your E-Mail Opened & Read

After beating the email filter, next up is getting your e-mail opened and read. The key: the subject line. No matter how on-the-money your pitch, a subpar subject line will kill any chance of getting the reporters attention. Youve got one shot at getting your e-mail opened, make the most of it with a killer subject line.

Heres how to do it:

1) Place the word "News" or "Press Info" or "Story Idea" at the beginning of your e-mail subject line, in brackets e.g.: [Story Idea]:

2) Try to incorporate the reporter's first name also at the beginning of the subject line.

3) If you know the name of the reporter's column, for instance "Cooking with Linda", also try to incorporate that. One more thing -- if the reporter doesnt write a regular column, try to at least include their beat (e.g. Joe, re: your future pieces on the wi-fi industry).

With these three tips in mind, a successful e-mail subject line might read:

[Story Idea]: Linda, Here's a Tip for Your "Cooking with Linda" Column

Thats a heading that will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Here are a few more e-mail dos and don'ts: Do:

* Make the information you place in the subject line short and to the point. Often, reporter's e-mail software cuts off the subject at only a few words.

* Dont get cute or be too vague in your subject line. For example "Heres a Great Story!" is vague and sounds like spam; "This Will Win You A Pulitzer!" will make you look silly (unless youre delivering the scoop of the century, of course!).

* Try to make your most newsworthy points at the top of your e-mail message - don't expect a reporter to scroll down to find the news.

* Include your contact information, including cell phone, e-mail address, regular address, fax number & website URL at the beginning and end of the e-mail.

* Include a link to your website if you have additional information such as: photos, press releases, bios, surveys, etc.


* Include more than a short pitch letter or press release in the body of your e-mail.

* Allow typos or grammatical errors.

* Include an attachment with your e-mail. In this day and age of sinister viruses, reporters automatically delete e-mail with attachments.

* Place the following words (by themselves) in the subject line: "Hi", "Hello" - the media's spam filters will pounce and destroy.

* Send an e-mail with a blank subject line.

A cool tip: Use Google News ( to search for recent stories that have appeared relating to your industry or field of interest. Then, e-mail the reporter directly (use a subject line such as Re: Your July 5th piece on electric cars). Give positive feedback on the story and let him know that, next time hes working an electric car story, he should get in touch, as youre an expert with provocative things to say. Give a couple of supporting facts to back up the assertion, include your phone number and web link, and ask if hed like to see a full press kit. This technique really works!

About The Author:
Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as one of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine and subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses (, he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site: (


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