Category Archives: Email

Tip #174: Delusions of grandeur

If you say the company you’re pitching will one day be spoken of in the same breaths as major consumer brands, perhaps you want to be sure your company actually makes a consumer product.

Expedia, Amazon, eBay, Monster… soon [[Company]] will be up there with them, as it is changing an industry via the internet with an innovative strategy and proving to be quite successful. [[Company]] is retrieving research from publishers and then deploying the access and usage rights to these published materials to clients in research-intensive industries such as pharmaceutical companies.

Yep. The next Amazon for sure.

Look, I’m not saying that this company doesn’t have a good product or that it is not a fantastic business. But when you pitch, you want to excite the person hearing or reading the pitch with the realistic importance of the company. When you over-promise, you devalue the entire story.

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Tip #170: Rafe brain hurt! No like!

I hate to break it to you, but there’s no award for Most Convoluted Pitch. I therefore suggest this writing strategy: Lay off the Red Bull and only write in the still quiet of the dewy morning. Or something. Just not this:

Hi Rafe,

With thousands of travel apps available, it would seem that business travelers would have an endless selection to choose from, right?

Not necessarily. While many apps simplify consumer travel, they don’t necessary translate to corporate travel. Rather, they can cause companies major headaches and add expenses because they fail to take corporate policies into account, and multiple apps might be needed to juggle all the “simplifying.”

The key is finding a mobile solution that focus both on end-user experience and productivity, while keeping travelers compliant to corporate policies. But as more mobile developers jump on the HTML 5 bandwagon, sorting through the ‘business travel’ mobile market is about to get tougher.

How about a story that educates corporate travel managers about why consumer travel apps shouldn’t cut it for their business, how to get the most productivity out of an app by choosing one app that can do the work of 4 or 5, and how HTML 5 development is about to transform the mobile travel experience?

As a source, I can put you in touch with [a guy] of [a big Web development company], who is heading up the companies’ development of its [new app] in HTML 5.

Would you like to arrange an interview?

I think what you’re trying to say is that your product is better than TripIt for corporate clients. Is that it? Did I get it right? Where’s my cookie?

Related: Tip #98


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Tip #168: There is a right answer and a wrong answer

Another one from the Department of Emails We Never Finished Reading:

To: Rafe Needleman
Subject: Lying awake at night…

…wondering ‘what in heck does [Whatever] Systems do anyway??’

One of the secrets to success in business is to get people to say, “yes.” To what? To anything. Don’t ask questions where you can pretty well guarantee that the answer is, “no.”

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Tip #167: Don’t bury the lead

Although it pains me to repeat myself, I post the beginning of an email pitch I received this morning. It’s the perfect example of why I wrote Tip #98: Make it snappy, Sweetheart.

Subject: Everyone loves a good pitch in the morning


Who am I kidding, no one truly enjoys reading a press release; much less being bombarded by them hourly. If you don’t mind hearing mine, then keep reading… and if you don’t, then feel free to click the shiny red X or red circle at the top of the page anytime.

[Our company] is releasing a new service called…

By this point, you’ve lost your audience. Look, it’s your job to pitch. It’s my job to be pitched. So let’s do our jobs — quickly, please — and move on.


Filed under Common sense, Email

Tip #164: Whiners never whin

As much as I like hearing from the people who make products directly, if you can’t use nice words, have your babysitter — sorry, I mean PR person — contact me instead.


I’ve been assuming that you didn’t cover the email industry because I sent you emails about [our product] with no response. Now I just read your article touting [other products] while ignoring [my product] completely. [etc…]

Do you also report on [this other field]? Our mother company has a better [thing in that field] than [competitors]. I hope that you won’t write a big article about [the other field] that touts only [competitors] as if we never existed.

Please take notice.

It is true that the author of this e-mail, Kvetch McCranklestein (not his real name), did have a point. I glossed over e-mails he sent me in the past and didn’t cover his product. But this is so not the way to make things right when that happens. And it happens all the time. The thing is, even when you’re wronged by the press, it’s rarely in your interest to be snippy with a writer. Remember what your strategic goal is: To get known and then covered by someone who’s disposed to like your product. When you complain like this, you just give writers reasons to look for excuses to not cover you.

In the case of McCranklestein, I actually e-mailed him back, at first admonishing him for his tone. We eventually had a civil and forthright e-mail conversation about how things like this happen. It felt pretty positive.

But I still haven’t covered the product.


Filed under Common sense, Email

Tip #162: I love the smell of press releases in the morning

Avoid carpet-bombing your press releases. That is, sending the same release to everyone in a newsroom. It just creates problems.

First, it makes you look cheap. If you don’t know who to send information to, sending it to everyone is not a good alternative. Do your homework.

And of course, reporters know when a release is carpet-bombed. We carpet-bomb our newsrooms ourselves when we get information that we want someone else to grab but that’s not important to assign to a particular person immediately. But when everyone gets the same release,  you end up with multiple internal carpet-bombings. Any impression that the information is precious and worth jumping on is wiped out.

You dilute effectiveness when you don’t focus.



Filed under Common sense, Email

Tip #147: Who are you doing PR for, exactly?

Your job, when sending an e-mail pitch to a journalist, is to promote your client. So if you must put silly award logos in your e-mail sig, they should be your client’s, not yours.

You don't need no stinking badges.

See also tips #32 and #103


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Tip#144: Prune your lists

This was sent to one our reporters here. Here being CNET News, a technology news site. Emphasis to make sure we’re clear about that. We are? Good.

I wanted to get you to Save the Date of April 30. Norelco is holding an body grooming event with Carmen Electra that day. Location and other details forthcoming…

Bad email list management is one of the quickest routes to a reporter’s spam filter. Shave your lists, please.


Filed under Common sense, Email

Tip #139: I will honor the embargo… forever

This is really frighteningly accurate, with one exception. No journo would hang out on the phone this long explaining to the flack why they were turning down the pitch.

Video by Steve O’Hear of

Hat tip to Bill Baker.


Filed under Email, Phone

Tip #134: Check your work

If your story is that you can find personal information about people, and your  pitch includes a sample report on me, you might want to make sure the product is accurate.

"Stud or Dud" is a dud at finding accurate personal infromation

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