PR Pitches Are Valuable Real Estate

In the spirit of effective pitching, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. PR Knowledge

Communication is expressed in different forms. I get that. So why try the same communication approach across channels? Specifically, why do some pitches reaching journalists’ inboxes start something like, “Hi, XYZ. I hope your day is going well. I wanted to talk with you about …”

“I hope your day is going well.” – Let me tell you why that’s wrong.

The potential ROI of leaving that line in does not surpass the risk you take leaving it out.

Every word in a pitch is real estate, from the subject head to a signature. The value of that real estate is dependent on the order the journalist would read the pitch. Meaning, your email subject is the most important. It’s the first impression and what will get that person to delete or open.

The second most important copy is the first two sentences of your pitch. This is where the journalist decides whether they delete or keep reading. Chances are if you’ve got them to read that far, you might actually have a shot at closing the deal or at the least a response.

So why waste this valuable real estate on an insincere-looking greeting? Do you “really” care how this reporter’s day is going or do you care if this person will cover your client?

I asked my Twitter friends to chime in on this today and had some thoughtful feedback from a few journalists. Mitch Wagner, editor in chief of Internet Evolution, said “It’s a courtesy. It’s fine.” He followed up to clarify, “Pitches are entirely impersonal. I assume they’re generated by bulk email software. And I’m fine with that.”

While conceding that the greeting is a waste of real estate, Senior IT Reporter for Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin, followed up with “…the ‘hope you’re well’ doesn’t really bother me so much. There are tons of worse things.”


So the basic point here: While it’s not always considered a rookie mistake to include a warm greeting in your pitch, you’re wasting valuable real estate and potentially lowering the value of your pitch.

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  1. All true!

    Subject line and first two sentences are exactly how I read PR pitches.

    Another rookie mistake I see: Starting the pitch with background that I already know. “Cloud computing is changing the face of enterprise IT.” Once I see that, I stop reading and start skimming the first paragraph for keywords. If I don’t see any interesting keywords in the first graf — if it all looks like more background, more stuff I already know if I’m interested in your client’s story — then I just close the email and move on. And I don’t even look at the second paragraph, or anything else.

    Also, the pitch should never, ever include an attachment. Never, never ever.

    • Ruth Bazinet says:

      Thank you for sharing your insider baseball, Mitch. I really appreciate that and hope that any PR folks reading this take your words of wisdom with gravity.

  2. Having worked in PR firms for many years, I now treat all business emails as pitches. Everyone suffers from overload, so whether the email is to the CEO or a vendor, I use a direct subject line and bullet points within the email to compel them to A) open and B) respond with what I need in a timely fashion.

  3. Interesting post, Ruth. I really hadn’t given this a lot of thought until I read your comments. Now I realize that I (instinctively?) have never started any conversation, especially a pitch, off with a phrase similar to “I hope…” Given that I, myself, have the attention-span of a demented gnat, I can’t imagine wasting someone else’s time with banal trivialities.

    However, this is not to say…once a genuine relationship has been established with a particular individual…that I won’t inject the thought into the conversation somewhere. But not at the beginning.

    • Ruth Bazinet says:

      I definitely agree that once a rapport is established, this hard and fast rule isn’t as critical, but that’s because you know they will at least open it and likely read the whole note. I often add my pleasantries at the end of the note since they’re already invested in reading and perhaps wouldn’t mind the more personal exchange. Thanks for taking time to share your experience, Kirk!

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