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Why Your PR Pitch is Likely Not Being Read

Walker Sands

Walker Sands

For so many PR Pros, pitching via e-mail is a great way to touch base with a lot of folks in an efficient manner. However, plenty of us out there make mistakes in our pitches that ensure they won’t get read, or even opened!

Here are some tips for ways to improve your chances of having your pitch read and hopefully converting it into a placement.

How You Send

How you send your pitch has a lot of impact on if it’s read. If you use a mass e-mail blasting service, you can sometimes get caught up in spam filters. Chances are the larger the publication, the better spam filtering they will have. This can be a major problem for some as the largest publications are the people you want reading your pitches!

To see if this is a problem with your pitch, test it out. Next time you need to send information out to a large database of journalists, put yourself and maybe a few other e-mails on your list. I have created e-mail accounts for myself on a lot of different services, including Gmail, Yahoo, my own domain and others. When I send out a large pitch I always include my e-mail accounts in the database as well. If they go to the spam filter, chances are it was not seen.

A lot of different services offer better results. Walker Sands recently started using SendBlaster and when we send to large databases there seems to be much less caught in spam filters.

Your Subject Line

Along the lines of spam, you don’t want to get classified as spam by the receiver because your subject line sucks and sounds like a robot. While I can’t give away all of my secrets (sorry, proprietary information 🙂 ), I can tell you some general tips for getting past the subject line test.

  • Make it personal. If you can mail merge to include a city or a name in the subject line, it will help your cause.
  • State your objective upfront. I often put “Story Idea:” or “Source for you:” before the rest of my subject line just so the person on the receiving end knows what I’m asking from them.
  • Make it believable. One of the least successful pitches I had included some outlandish claim. My thought process being that I could invoke someone just to open the e-mail because it was shocking. Not the case. Of course I didn’t say anything detrimental to my client, I might have just been a little more bold than I needed to be. This will not work and don’t try to use shock value to illicit openings.
  • Make it interesting. In my free time I do freelance writing for It not only gives me a great opportunity to write about my favorite hobby – bass fishing – but it also gives me an opportunity to go “behind enemy lines” so-to-speak and see what kind of pitches PR pros are sending out. Believe me when I say I get some real garbage. Half the time I don’t even realize it’s a pitch and just end up deleting it. So make sure you’re subject line is interesting.

Oh, and by the way, for more on subject lines here’s a past post from our blog about mastering the subject line.

What You Say

The two steps above outlined just getting your message opened. What you say in the message is how you drive conversions to get someone to write up a story on your topic or take some other action.

First and foremost, remember that you are talking to people. Their e-mail may come from a media database, you might not even know who they are, but they are still people. And as people, they liked to get treated and talked to like people. Always remember the people in your message.

For myself, I prefer to set a rule of making my pitches no longer than 5 paragraphs. But a graf is not a research paper graf, but more of a newspaper graf with no more than three sentences, but usually one or two. By following this rule it forces me to be succinct and to the point.

If you want to add background information, you can always append it below. Never attach it, because I bet it won’t get read and you might add an additional element to getting caught in the spam filter. Just paste it below your signature and mention up above what you’ve placed there.

Finally, and possibly most important, ask a question or set some clear action step. If you want feedback, ask for it. If you want them to do a story, ask them. If you want them to just file your source in consideration for a future story, say that. Be clear and to the point. No sense being cloak and dagger when you’re looking for the person on the receiving end to help you out.

How You Follow Up

Following up to a pitch is an important step. Most times I find most of my successes come from the follow up and not from the initial pitch. If you’re following up via e-mail, make sure to denote that in your subject line. It lets that person know that this is at least the second time you’ve reached out and potentially attracts more attention.

When you do follow up, make sure to keep your note brief and include the original email. My follow up e-mail usually consists of nothing more than two sentences with the original e-mail below.

Everyone is busy, keep it short and sweet and recall that it’s a person receiving your message and you’ll be alright.


This blog post only mentions pitching via e-mail. It is of course always important to make the phone and the face-to-face meeting an important part of your pitching strategy.

For all the PR pros reading this, what works for you? Any tricks of the trade you’d like to share with our readers?