Updated on Feb. 2, 2021. Originally published on Oct. 15, 2014.
Picture this: You’re an editor at a well-known and well-respected publication — let’s say Fast Company. You open your laptop to start your day, take a deep breath, and navigate to your inbox. You see hundreds of emails staring back at you from people who want to contribute to your publication.
Sounds stressful, right?
Publication editors receive so many content pitches that if they don’t recognize your name and if you don’t use a catchy subject line, your email might not be opened at all.
That’s why we’re going to discuss how to write a pitch email that actually gets a response and forges a relationship with the editor. Let’s dive in!
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The 5 Elements of an Effective Pitch Email
Before you can start building relationships with editors at your favorite online publications, it’s important to learn how to pitch your content — and yourself — to them. Here are a few key elements of effective email pitches that will start you off on the right foot:
1. Descriptive subject line
If your subject line is snooze-inducing rather than attention-grabbing, the editor is not going to open your pitch email. Depending on the type of content you’re pitching, you can make your subject line more engaging by creating a sense of urgency, piquing curiosity, including important names, or incorporating emojis. Just make sure the subject line makes it clear what the editor will be getting on the other side of the click.
CoSchedule has an email subject line tester that you can use make sure your subject lines are effective.
Need some inspiration? Check out the subject lines of your favorite newsletters. Are you clicking for fear of missing out? Are you curious about the answer to a question? What makes you take the next step of opening the email and reading?
2. A newsworthy or timely angle
Once the editor actually opens your pitch email, you need to make it readily apparent why readers would care about your guest post right now. What will be the impact of the story?
According to our 2021 “The State of Digital Media” report, Jim Davis, editor at HR Daily Advisor, said: “Guest posts must be ahead of the trends. By the time we get article offers on a hot topic, we have already known about that topic and published articles on it.”
To make sure your content idea is newsworthy, start by determining whether it contains any of the seven main news values:
If your topic appears to be newsworthy based on the main news values, take the next step to determine how your angle is newsworthy. In most cases, content marketing takes a different approach from more traditional news. Most likely, the publication you’re reaching out to has staff writers or reporters who jump on the 24/7 news cycle and keep the site filled with breaking news and updates.
So consider what makes your article supplementary to that other content. What can you bring to the conversation that no one else can? In your pitch email, show that you’re aware of what’s already been published — potentially linking to another article on the site — and explain how your article can build on existing content and advance the conversation.
3. What sets you and your content apart
The editor is relying on you to let him or her know why your article should be published above the rest. What expertise are you bringing to the table that no one else can?
For example, in a recent Bloomberg article, Laura Morgan Roberts gave this description at the beginning of her article explaining why she is the person who should speak on the topic:
I have been studying race in the workplace for 25 years, closely examining the experiences of Black workers. I recently published “Race, Work, and Leadership,” an edited volume authored by over 50 leading thinkers. Every step of the way, I’ve been asked to make the business case for diversity — to justify why it is important to increase racial diversity, equity, and inclusion by advancing Black leaders at work.
Years of experience in your industry, authoring a book, specific roles you’ve played, and more can be used to showcase your expertise and convince the editor that your content would provide immense value to the audience.
4. Why your content is the perfect fit for the publication
When you’re thinking through why the publication’s audience will care about a particular topic, make sure you understand who is represented within that audience. An article speaking to startup founders wouldn’t do well in a publication that speaks to enterprise CEOs, for example.
Don’t give the editor any homework. In your pitch email, clearly — and succinctly — explain what your proposed article is about and why it’s a great fit for the publication. Make it easy for the editor to say “yes.”
Most publications have media kits or guest contributor pages that contain information about the site’s audience. Some publications require you to download the media kit in exchange for your email address, but that’s well worth it if the media kit helps you write a winning pitch email and a truly valuable piece of content.
Looking for examples of media kits? Here’s Ad Age’s media kit and its audience profile.
Not sure which publications you should target?
5. A clear call to action
Before you sign off, make it clear what you want the editor to do with your pitch email. Publish an article? Give you thoughts on the topic? Give you the OK to move forward with writing?
Leave out phrases that provide an easy out, like “Don’t worry if you’re busy.” You already know the editor is busy, so help him or her make a quick decision! Try something like “Is this content compelling enough to publish?” or “I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback!” or “I’ll follow up in three days.”
The Wrong Way to Pitch Online Editors
Every editorial relationship has to start somewhere. Below is an example of the kind of email that would fail to set you up for a mutually beneficial relationship with an online publication editor:
Subject Line: Article
I have attached an article submission for you to publish on your site. Please respond before 5 p.m. tomorrow. My article is attached.
Now, what’s wrong with this email?
- The subject line isn’t enticing. As I mentioned earlier, publication editors can receive hundreds of pitches every day. A subject line like this doesn’t give an editor any reason to even open the email, let alone encourage him to accept your pitch for a guest post.
- The introduction is impersonal. In your research of the publication, you should be able to find the name of the section editor to whom you’re pitching your content. If you can find it, use it. Failing to include the editor’s name is impolite, and it signals that you could have blindly sent this email to any editor or publication.
- The body of the email is vague. If you don’t offer any summary of the article, the editor has no way of quickly assessing whether this content will be a good fit for his publication and be valuable to its readers, and he’ll move on to the next pitch in his inbox for someone who did.
- The deadline is unreasonable (and disrespectful). Requesting a review that soon after you pitch your content is disrespectful because it implies that you think this article is more important than anything else the editor is doing.
The Right Way to Pitch an Article to an Editor
By analyzing the elements of an effective email and learning what makes one bad, we can start to create a great one. Below is an example of the kind of email that will show a publication editor you’re a thoughtful, respectful, and knowledgeable contributor:
Subject Line: Exclusive contributed article submission: Reaching out to editors
I hope you’ve had a great start to your week! My name is Meagan Nolte, and I’m a publication strategist at Influence & Co. I have written an exclusive, non-promotional article for The Knowledge Bank.
In my article, I offer advice to thought leaders and marketers about how they can reach out to editors to get their content published online. I’ve included actionable tips about how to write the email so it’s more appealing for a busy editor to read, and I’ve provided examples of both good and bad emails.
I think this article would fit perfectly on your site. It helps further the conversation presented in another article published a few months ago and will help provide your readers with a more well-rounded knowledge of this topic.
My article and headshot are attached for you to review. Feel free to make any editorial changes that you see fit, or let me know if there is anything else you need from me. I understand that you’re busy, so I’ll touch base with you on Monday if I don’t hear back from you by then.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Guest-contributed content is a solid strategy that can help you work toward your content marketing goals. But if the editor never opens your pitch email, seeing those results will be impossible. So take this advice to heart to write truly engaging emails that motivate editors to click that “reply” button.
To learn more about what publication editors are looking for, download our free digital media industry report:
This article was co-authored by Melanie Janisse.