For the love of everything good and holy, read this before you send your next PR email

As a PR professional, you’re busy. I understand that. I also understand that you’re probably being forced to do at least some of these things by your boss. Or that you’re working on a budget and marketing your own product, and somebody told you these tactics work.


These annoying, time-wasting emails have to cease, ASAP. On behalf of everyone on the receiving end of them, I’m begging you: Please. Stop.

Read this post. Fix your next batch of PR emails. Save time by not sending useless emails that don’t get results and infuriate the recipient.

Here’s what you need to know to do that:

All bloggers/writers are not the same.

I don’t know if this is an old-guard vs new-guard (is “new guard” a thing?) PR issue, but I regularly get pitches that are for “newsworthy” type topics. Things like “this company released a new product” or “we’re hosting a conference” aren’t super relevant to me as a writer, since I mostly write how-to or tactical articles, rather than news coverage. Asking me to write an article around that press release isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Similarly, someone who does short write-ups of local events doesn’t want to be pitched on your app. And someone who writes about social media trends doesn’t care about your CEO’s philanthropy.

While we’re at it, please stop sending emails that have no actual information in them and say to refer to the attached .doc press release. It’s not 1999, I don’t want to have to fire up Word just to know what your email is about.

Not everyone is a good fit.

Related to number one, please do at least some cursory research before you pitch people.

Example: last week, somebody emailed me wanting me to review their educational app for 3–5 year olds. My entire YouTube feed is reviews of business-related apps, mostly productivity/project management apps for freelancers. That pitch is so far off base, it’s not even in the same ballpark.

We don’t want to get form emails.

At no point in my career have I ever opened an email that started with “Hi,” then immediately segued into a copied-and-pasted pitch, and done this:

Pretty sure nobody else has, either.

I know you’re busy, but the very least you can do is put a name in the email. The next (tiny) step up would be telling the recipient why you think this is relevant to them, so they aren’t left wondering about that, either.

Stop with the excessive follow up.

If a writer didn’t reply to your first three emails where you mass-pitched with a copied and pasted email, they’re probably not going to reply to your fourth email. Or write something about you/your company. Stop wasting their time (and yours).

Don’t argue with us.

In one very memorable incident, which has been duplicated to lesser degrees since then, a company (which we’ll come back to in a moment) pitched me on covering their app via Twitter. I replied back & said that I didn’t think it was a good fit for a review, since it didn’t look like it was intended for freelancers (my primary audience for reviews).

This marketing person then proceeded to argue with me on Twitter about how freelancers would want/use a tool that was $50/month…so they could use Gantt charts.

(The answer, coming from a freelancer of 6+ years, is probably not.)

Needless to say, I was not sold by somebody I didn’t know lecturing me about what would be relevant to me and my audience.

Whoever you’re pitching is the expert about what’s relevant to their audience and what performs well for them. And in our online, metrics-driven world, if something doesn’t do well, there’s often repercussions — at the very least, they wasted their time. At worst, they could have their boss come down on them. If they say it’s not a good fit, leave it alone.

We’re all busy and nobody wants to work for free.

Somewhere along the line (maybe with Ryan Holiday?), this myth started that all bloggers, everywhere, are just waiting to be handed content by PR folks. They spend all day anxiously staring at their inboxes, keyboards at the ready to instantly turn your press release into a blog post.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but: this is not true. (Or possibly, it’s only true for a very specific subset of writers who do a specific style of writing — refer back to point one. I’m not ruling it out…but I’ve never actually met one of those writers, either.)

Everyone you email is busy, and when you send them a totally irrelevant pitch email, it feels like you’re wasting their time. When you send them a totally irrelevant pitch with an air of entitlement, acting like they’ll be super-grateful for the ability to cover your event/app/whatever, it can be downright infuriating.

When you email asking me to…

  • review your app

Remember: you’re not the one paying me.

As a rule, writers don’t owe you anything. Getting pissy when we turn you down, or when we take a few days to reply (because we have to wade through a slew of time-wasting emails) is just bad form.

Don’t duplicate efforts/STOP THE STALKING.

Remember that company I referenced above, the one that argued with me on Twitter? That wasn’t even the end of it.

Over the course of a few weeks, that company:

  • Sent me a form pitch email

Aside from this being a case study in what not to do at every turn, it was borderline creepy. It made me wonder if anyone at that company ever spoke to anyone else there. And it could have been prevented so easily.

A less extreme example: a few months ago, someone from an app’s marketing team emailed me and asked if I’d do a write-up of their app. I sent back my standard reply (which is along the lines of, “I’ve added this to the queue, if you want a review up within a specific turnaround time, here are sponsored post & other options”) and got a short reply back saying they’d let me know.

Two weeks later, I got the exact same email, word for word, from the same person (which included a PS about how the email was sent by hand — oof).

I understand being frazzled and accidentally sending a duplicate email (which is probably what happened there). It’s not ideal, but it happens.

Scenarios like that first example, however, are inexcusable because there are approximately a million and one CRM apps out there specifically intended to prevent issues like that. Make your team start using one and stop stalking writers. (And don’t reward “persistence” like that, because you’re probably just really pissing people off.)

Now that we’ve covered the don’t’s, in great detail and with maybe more sarcasm than strictly necessary, let’s showcase a star example:

This example from Nikolay at Casual, is well over a year old, but I keep using it because it’s such a great example.

A step by step of why this worked:

  1. Clear subject line. Like everyone, I get a lot of email. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a pitch email is disguised as something else via an unclear subject line (whether it’s intentional or not). If I can’t tell what it is without opening, I don’t want to open it, and I’m already annoyed when I do.

I reviewed Casual a few weeks later (the video now has over 1,300 views) and he followed up with a thank you not,e in addition to the company Twitter handle for re-sharing the tweets of the review article.

This is an industry specific example, but there’s takeaways for pitching whatever it is you’re trying to get coverage of:

  • Use a clear subject line.

Other good rules of thumb:

  • If the writer replies with questions, reply back ASAP. We’re all on deadlines. If you take four days to reply, don’t be surprised if they move on to a different topic/source/whatever for their article.

And that’s how it’s done, folks.

Now go forth and send better pitches.

hashtag launch

Posts from our community of entrepreneurs, designers…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store