A recent study of Muck Rack’s Public Relations Management (PRM) Platform can be described simply as PR gold. Its findings are enlightening and counterintuitive. They can save time and handwringing. Best of all, the PR Pro equipped with these facts and stats is sure to impress a boss or two. You can throw your preconceived notions and educated guesses based on anecdotal evidence about how public relations is supposed to work out the proverbial window, because the data is here.
The Muck Rack media pitch study
Now, enter the study, its methodology, and sourcing. Muck Rack, which describes itself as an ‘All-in-one PR Management solution,’ together with PR coach and data junkie Michael Smart, CEO of MichaelSMARTPR, queried its extensive data base—pulling over 5 million anonymized pitches sent between August 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021. They used advanced analytics technology to sort and rank an enormous number of pitches utilizing a wide variety of metrics.
The goal: Identify the commonalities and trends of the top performing pitches for the last year. A ‘pitch’ is basically an e-mail sent to an individual journalist or several journalists. However, if a singular pitch was sent to one hundred journalists that would count as one hundred pitches in the analysis.
The study focuses in on the very best performing pitches with click-through rates (CTR’s) higher than 20 percent and open rates above 90 percent. CTR is calculated by dividing the sum of clicks by the number of impressions. An impression is an ad on display waiting to be clicked on or, in our case, an e-mail pitch to a journalist. Clicks / Impressions = CTR.
The intel gained on these top scoring pitches enables public relations people to figure out what does and doesn’t fly when a journalist powers up her laptop, clicks into e-mail and begins sifting through her inbox.
The main media pitch findings
What are the best days of the week to pitch? Common wisdom holds that it’s best to pitch journalists between Tuesday and Thursday. This wisdom isn’t wisdom, it turns out. It’s wrong, seeing that the pitches sent on Friday, Saturday and, Sunday saw a significant bump in open rates. CTR’s were regular throughout the week but surged dramatically on Sunday.
The report hints that this finding might be influenced by a more relevant factor than the day of the week. It may very well be the case that because Tuesday and Thursday have the typical journalist’s inbox swamped with pitches, that would cause the statistical probability of open rates and CTR’s to decrease for everyone. In fact, the number of pitches sent on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday alone account for the lion’s share of all the pitches analyzed in this study. The message is straightforward: pitch when others aren’t.
Narrowly targeting versus larger blasts – does it really matter? The data is clear, the fewer people you target with a pitch, the higher your CTR’s and open rates will be. This seems to make sense on its face, even without the data, because a journalist will generally pick up on the level of specification in any given pitch, and with a simpletons grasp of human nature, all can easily understand the motivation to open an email that is addressed to you versus a number.
Is there a specific preferred length for inbox subject lines, or is that notion arbitrary? Email marketing orthodoxy states that an email subject line must be 55 characters or shorter—the better to deliver the full idea inside an iPhone preview window. For media pitching, not so much. As the data in this study reveals, there are no proper lengths. For the Muck Rack report, a longer subject line is defined as having more than eight words. The data revealed that there was no correlation between length and success in CTR’s and open rates, at least from the pool of high performers scrutinized in the study. Although best practice in the world of public relations has its PR Pros banging out subject lines with under 6-8 words it turns out that the best performing pitches have significantly greater word counts in their subject lines.
What about pitch length? Does that affect your pitch’s chance at success? The truth is that the length of the pitch doesn’t matter much, like the subject lines. High performers were a general mix of large, small and medium word counts.
What can we learn from high CTR? According to Muck Rack, one should not assess the success of a pitch according to its CTR. However, the information gleaned from the analysis is still of value. First, what isn’t surprising is that the number one factor for high CTR’s was the actual news/content value in the pitch. This should be obvious, no matter how much tinkering one does with a pitch, success still largely boils down to the actual worth of its information. Secondly, as mentioned above, the actual length of the pitches in question didn’t matter (namely pitches with rocking CTR’s in the zone of 20% or higher). Another factor of interest is that when PR Pros included link attached assets to the pitch it raised clicks. For example, including photos and videos from YouTube or even raw B-roll footage can achieve the desired result.
What are the most pitched outlets and what does that mean for you?
You can see a list of the 50 most-pitched outlets on Muck Rack for the last year on Muck Racks official study paper, but for the purpose of this summary we will zero-in on the top 10 most-pitched digital newsletters. This is a new and fast-growing category of news media outlet. The PR Pro who is clued into the ascendancy of the digital-native outlets has an extra tool on his or her belt.
- Morning Brew
- The Pink Sheet
- The Daily Money Newsletter
- Scouted Newsletter
Note: According to Muck Rack these outlets have dismal numbers in comparison to the overall count of media outlets. For instance, theSkimm is Number One here but is number 187 on the overall ranking as opposed to the NYT which is #1 on the overall ranking. Only don’t let that detract from the message: digital-only “upstarts” are a real phenomenon. According to Muck Rack the new digital-only outlets are proving their worth to Muck Rack subscribers. They even have data showing these digital vistas overperforming their legacy media counterparts in total number of received pitches.
The Muck Rack study provides valuable data that allow PR pros to go beyond anecdotal evidence and base pitching strategies on real evidence. It’s definitely worth a read.