Press release vs. email pitch: 500 journalists weigh in on their preference

Content marketing is an ever-evolving industry.

With increased competition[1] for media coverage and a shift in outreach preferences by publishers, it’s harder than ever to pitch and earn coverage[2] for your brand.

Traditionally, PR specialists have stuck to a press release format to inform and engage their contacts, but with social media, networking apps and constant email correspondence, your prospects may respond better to a more personalized approach. 

Are there still benefits to distributing press releases via wire services? What are the pros and cons of 1:1 email outreach?

In a new industry report, The Fractl team surveyed 500+ journalists at publications like HuffPost, CNBC, and Bustle. In this post, we’ll explore the pros and cons to both email pitches and the press release format using data from our study.

What form of outreach results in increased placement rates, response rates, and brand recognition? Read on to find out. 

Press releases: A thing of the past…or are they? 

Pro: Journalists love the familiar

People respond to what’s familiar – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to traditional PR.

Since 1906[3], the media has worked to establish the formulaic nature of a press release. They inspire a sense of familiarity and tradition for journalists looking to have all the necessary details for a story at their fingertips. It’s a simple, effective system for communicating with a mass amount of contacts with minimal effort. 

It’s likely that journalists with longer tenure appreciate the thoroughness of a press release format.

Pro: We want to avoid a follow-up

In addition to the formulaic and familiar aspects of a press release, you can include all the essential details in a single document, negating the need for a follow-up email. 

That’s not to say you may not be inundated with phone calls and emails requesting “more details,” but in our study, we discovered that 25% of journalists[4] don’t want to receive a follow-up email. Our second attempt at reaching out may be met with crickets, or worse, adversity … so it may be better to leave additional correspondence to the publication. The press release format is an industry-accepted way to reach beyond that 300-word threshold and not wind up on a spam list.  

Con: You run the risk of limiting exposure

Recently, Muck Rack found that only 19% of PR pros[5] are using a wire service, and 17% aren’t using PR software at all. Instead of using a wire service, try tailoring handcrafted pitches for every writer you want to see your content and sending a message to arrive directly in their inbox. Additionally, nearly 19% of journalists admit they’ve never even written a story based on a press release – talk about a shot in the dark. 

Email outreach: Fresh, personalized and effective 

Pro: Journalists love to feel the love

Personalization in a pitch is proven to help foster relationships with your contacts while eliciting a response. In fact, we found that over 43% of journalists decline[6] a pitch based solely on the fact that it isn’t personalized enough. Taking a bit of extra time to check out an editor’s Twitter or to look through a writer’s Instagram photos of spaghetti and cats can develop a genuine connection and name recognition that is far more difficult to form when your company logo takes the place of personalization.

Con: Your journalists may not have publishing power

To be honest (and take into account our industry bias), our studies found very few “cons” to a personalized pitch, but here are a few points to keep in mind when delving into a personalized email outreach. 

In our research, Fractl found that less than 14% of all journalists could choose what they write about. So if your email isn’t reaching an editor’s desktop, your chances for publication plummet significantly. Additionally, 43% of writers claim email pitches are “not at all” valuable to their work, so taking the time to ensure you’re reaching out to the right person at each publication is imperative. 

Pro: We want to avoid the irrelevant

Journalists admit that the no. 1 most offensive thing is receiving a pitch that is irrelevant to their beat. By hand-picking who your pitch reaches, you’re instilling trust and appreciation for their relationship to you and your brand.

We’ve all seen journalists rip outreach emails to shreds on social medi[7]a, so as long as you don’t offend your contact by crowding their inbox with irrelevant material and typos, we can assure that you won’t be seeing your signature in a screenshot on Twitter. 

Choosing the right strategy for your goals

Whether you’re interested in keeping things traditional, or spending hours researching to craft the perfect pitch, there’s no flawless outreach method. The key here is to know your audience, establish a technique, and perfect it. If your content can be better conveyed in a press release, try it! If you want your content featured with a particular publication, do your research and make that subject line a killer. This industry is constantly shifting, and it’s our job to keep up. 

Delaney Kline[8] is a Growth Specialist at Fractl, a creative digital marketing agency specializing in the creation and promotion of branded content. When she’s not 12 pages deep in SEO news, you can find her on a trail in Colorado with her dog or watching true crime documentaries (again, with her dog). 

References

  1. ^ increased competition (voxeu.org)
  2. ^ pitch and earn coverage (muckrack.com)
  3. ^ Since 1906 (www.prmuseum.org)
  4. ^ 25% of journalists (www.frac.tl)
  5. ^ only 19% of PR pros (info.muckrack.com)
  6. ^ 43% of journalists decline (www.frac.tl)
  7. ^ We’ve all seen journalists rip outreach emails to shreds on social medi (muckrack.com)
  8. ^ Delaney Kline (muckrack.com)

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