You know that getting publicity is vital to the health of your business. You probably also know that email is the way most publicity seekers get in touch with reporters to score that precious coverage.

Here's what you may not know: the vast majority of emails sent to journalists never get read.

Bottom line: if your emails don't get read, you have no shot at getting the publicity you so desperately need.

Here's how to beat the odds.

Avoiding the Spam Trap

To a spam filter, your humble email pitch may appear to contain an array of trigger words and suspicious phrases. A server that relayed your message may be on a blacklist, or a “do not open” list of known spammers.

Or perhaps the filter's having a tough day and has decided to start blocking things arbitrarily. You can't prevent every instance of spam blocking, but you can take some steps to help lessen the chances of your email ending up in a black hole.

The most important step is learning how spam filters think, and creating emails that avoid the usual pitfalls. Fortunately, once you can do this, you'll find that many spam triggers are easily avoided.

Here's a terrific tutorial on the subject:

Opened and Read

After beating the spam filter, next up is getting your email opened and read. The key here is the subject line. No matter how “on the money” your pitch, a sub-par subject line will kill any chance of getting the reporter's attention. You've got one shot at getting your email opened, make the most of it with a killer subject line.

Here's how to do it:

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

  2. Try to incorporate the reporter's first name 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. If the reporter doesn't 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 email subject line might read:

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

Finally, hare a few more email do's and don'ts:


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

  • Don't get cute or be too vague in your subject line. For example, Here's a Great Story! is vague and sounds like spam; This Will Win You A Pulitzer! will make you look silly (unless you're delivering the scoop of the century, of course).

  • Try to make your most newsworthy points at the top of your email message. Don't expect a reporter to scroll down to find the news.

  • Include your contact information, including cell phone, email address, regular address, fax number and Web site URL, at the beginning and end of the email.

  • Include a link to your Web site if you have additional information such as photos, press releases, bios, surveys.


  • Include more than a short pitch letter or press release in the body of your email.

  • Allow typos or grammatical errors.

  • Include an attachment with your email. In this day and age of sinister viruses, reporters automatically delete email with attachments.

  • Place the following words (by themselves) in the subject line: hi or hello. The media's spam filters will pounce and destroy.

  • Send an email 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, email 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 he's working an electric car story, he should get in touch, as you're 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 he'd like to see a full press kit.

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Bill Stoller is publisher of the Publicity Insider (