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Research shows best ways to ensure your email is picked up by journalists

Building positive relationships with the media has its perks - a friendly contact may reach out to you first for a resource or recommendation on a story. In most cases though, you’ll need to practice the art of email pitching to get coverage for your brand or client and thus compete for attention in a journalist’s crowded inbox.

We recently conducted an analysis of over 5,000 email pitches sent by our clients through our integrated media database and outreach platform. We wanted to see what our clients were doing that got journalists to open, read and click on pitches, and if there were patterns that other wily PRs could take advantage of. Here’s what we found:

Keep your subject line clean and short

When speaking with the PRs behind some of the best performing emails, without prompting all three of them belied the importance of a succinct subject line that clearly encapsulates the story. Their advice syncs with our own finding: the average length of subject lines among emails with an open rate of 21% or higher was a short 79 characters.

Percentage of emails by list size (number of contacts)

The myth of mass emailing

Unfortunately, the carpet-bombing method of media relations lives on. The smallest list size clocked in at 100 contacts. List size, coupled with the finding that over 85% of emails with top clickthrough rates were copy-and-paste press releases, suggests that practitioners may be continuing to play the numbers game.

However, just because the list is bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean the open rate is better. In fact, as open rates improved (21% or higher), the percentage of emails with list sizes of over 500 contacts decreased. Hyper-targeted, extremely relevant lists should remain best practice.

Give them what they need

A lot of PRs tout the benefits of short emails. In our analysis, we found the top performing emails by clickthrough rate had an average length of 620 words, coinciding with the finding about copy-and-paste press releases in the email body. It’s still best to keep a personalised note short but press releases should be as long as needed to convey all the relevant information. Make sure to include links to multimedia resources or more information in the copy. Over 75% of emails with top clickthrough rates had between one and nine links.


The Agility PR Solutions marketing and engineering team pulled 5,162 distributions sent from the Agility platform between 1 September 2020 and 30 November 2020 and categorised them by open rate and by clickthrough rate for analysis. Relative clickthrough rate was calculated by dividing unique clicks by unique opens.

Written by Joy Knowles, marketing content strategist at PR tools and services provider Agility PR Solutions

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