Alicia Lawrence

How to Increase Your Response Rate in Outreach

By: Alicia Lawrence | January 7, 2014 | 

How to Increase Your Response Rate in OutreachBy Alicia Lawrence

A large part of public relations is outreach, but let’s face it, outreach usually takes the back burner because emails can be mass distributed to thousands of contacts in a single click.

While that used to work for pitching news releases, the web now provides journalists and bloggers with a never ending supply of stories to write about.

So why should they look at your email? Their inboxes are inundated with hundreds of other PR pitches that came in the same day.

Six Tips to Increase Your Outreach Response Rate

Make it Personal

Besides including the journalist’s name and publication they write for, there are a few key ways to make an email personal.

Twitter is the ultimate introduction platform. You can tweet to a complete stranger and it is perfectly normal. So why not break the ice with that journalist on Twitter? Reply, retweet, or favorite a few of their tweets to start the connection.

Once you establish yourself, the journalist will be more apt to respond to an email, as they recognize your name. Make sure to confirm that connection in the email.

Twitter isn’t the only platform you can create a connection on; you can also comment on one of their articles.

Rule of thumb: Make it about them.

Track and Test

Before distributing emails, set up Tout or Ducksboard to help you track your connections and results. Tout will let you know how many of your emails were opened, if the link in the email was clicked, and if they responded. It also provides a live feed so you can know the minute the person opens your email.

Ducksboard is great if you have a team of people outreaching, and need to coordinate activity. It will track each person’s response rate and how many emails they sent.

The Perfect Timing

After spending hours working on a media list and emails, you don’t want a silly thing like timing to get in the way of a good pitch. Typically, the best time to send emails is between 6 to 10 in the morning.

If you’ve already established a connection with the journalist, ask them their preference regarding what time is most convenient for them.

The Goldilocks Rule of Subject Lines

Subject lines are the most critical part of an email. It can’t be too generic, or too long and detailed – it has to be just right.

When pitching bloggers, I like to be casual and include their name. I try to make the subject line interesting and engaging. Most times my goal when emailing bloggers is to get them to embed or link to a video or web graphic.

Here’s an example: Hi Sally, I would love to hear your thoughts on the this graphic I created.

On the other hand, your subject line is going to be much different if you’re emailing a journalist. If you are pitching a local journalist, be sure to include the city from your news release, important dates, and significance.

Here’s an example: Lynchburg’s First Charity Film Competition Launches Feb. 28


In my personal outreaching, I’ve found 35 percent of people who didn’t respond the first time will respond if you send a second email.

I send follow-up emails about a week later. They tend to be generic (typically just the name changes), and very short.

A Different Kind of Call-to-Action

Calls-to-action are overlooked when it comes to news releases, but they still play a critical part to increase your response rate. Instead of stuffing your email to the brim with details, make it brief, including an overview and the key questions (5W1H). You can include the full news release as an attachment.

After your first email and the follow up, if they still haven’t contacted you, pick up the phone and call them. This kind of call-to-action will make sure your email was received, remind the journalist of your pitch, and give them the opportunity to ask any questions.

Outreach is the bread and butter of many successful PR campaigns, so do everything you can to increase the response rates of your pitching efforts.

Do you have any tips to add?

About Alicia Lawrence

Alicia Lawrence works for WebpageFX - the best SEO company (in her humble opinion). WebpageFX is a full-service Internet marketing company offering innovative web marketing solutions to mid to large size companies across the globe. Alicia also blogs at MarCom Land in her free time.

  • SpinSucks

    PaulaPedene Thanks Paula! ^lp

  • Following up. I found that to be so very important when I was working in sales. Far too many don’t go back a second or third time, but it can lead to a lot of new business.

    Thanks for the post!

  • SpinSucks

    guerrieo Thanks Michael! ^lp

  • Alicia_Lw

    riedmancomm Thanks for the tweet, Laurie!

  • Alicia_Lw

    clay_morgan Thanks for the tweet, Clay!

  • Alicia_Lw

    ClayMorgan I think PR folks can learn a lot about pitching to the media from working in sales. Just finished reading Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale (though I don’t work in sales) and learned so much!

  • Alicia_Lw ClayMorgan Zig Ziglar is my spirit animal.

  • riedmancomm

    Alicia_Lw You are welcome. I’m going to check out Tout – hadn’t done that before!

  • Wow, what great resources. I had no idea about some of these email programs, but these are fantastic, especially the timing one!

  • Technically,  the response rate in outreach determines how well the audience receives a marketing effort. Personalizing emails and  follow-ups are very helpful strategies in increasing responses rates. 
    In, this post was shared and I have left the above comment.
    Sunday –  contributor.

  • Smart use of the tools at our disposal make all the difference in the world, don’t they?

  • Love the Goldilocks Rule. Though sometimes ‘just right’ can be subjective. Knowing your audience is so important – what’s borderline ‘inappropriate’ for one, might be hilarious or innovative to another.

  • Alicia_Lw

    riedmancomm Let me know what you think about it. It has been such a useful tool for me. Tout

  • LynnMcConaughey

    Another great resource from Spin Sucks for my go-to file.

  • Alicia_Lw

    belllindsay So true, Lindsay! Well said 🙂

  • Alicia_Lw

    jasonkonopinski Sure do, Jason! Thanks for commenting!

  • Alicia_Lw Thank you for the informative post! I didn’t know about Tout until I reviewed your submission. 

    The next time you’re in York, we should have lunch!

  • Alicia_Lw

    LauraPetrolino Yes, Tout is especially handy for timing your emails right, which is so important for outreaching.

  • Alicia_Lw

    coledouglas7 Thanks for the tweet, Cole!

  • As someone who is pitched (constantly), I wish everyone read this blog post! The tips are very good. The only thing I caution is on the last one about follow-up. There is almost nothing that makes me more angry than when a PR pro sends a follow-up email that says, “Just resending to hit the top of your inbox again.”

    THAT MAKES ME CRAZY! And it happens all the time.

  • coledouglas7

    Alicia_Lw Thanks for the good read!

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  • Alicia_Lw

    ginidietrich Follow ups do have a very thin line between annoying and appreciated.

  • Alicia_Lw

    jasonkonopinski If you do start using it, you’ll have to let me know what you think about it. That sounds great! I’ll be sure to tweet you if I’m ever down there.

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