PR professionals write various emails to journalists and editors daily. The agency, our clients, and our reputation depend on following the appropriate business email etiquette. In general, our email communications should place more emphasis on being clear and concise.
Want to avoid awkward errors in your business and media emails? Follow this email etiquette for professionals to get started.
1. Pay attention to the email subject
Media houses and journalists receive tons of pitches a day. According to Fractl, nearly five out of ten journalists receive at least 11 pitches a day, with some going over 26 pitches per day.
In short, you need a great subject line to get your email opened—no ifs, ands or buts. However, the story you’re pitching must be newsworthy in the first place.
Strong PR subject lines are concise, descriptive, and action-oriented. This might be something like a “Story idea”, “Background on [Story]”, or a reference to a trend or current story a journalist is covering. In addition to conveying your purpose, it also lets them know what the pitch will contain.
Here are tips to craft the best subject lines:
- Start with the word “Pitch” so the recipient knows exactly what to expect. E.g.: “Pitch + Why Japan will not make it to the World Cup finals.”
- Cite a captivating stat, hard and fast. E.g.: “8 in 10 women in the U.S. are adopting more cats than babies, survey finds.”
- State the kind of pitch upfront. E.g.: “Exclusive: Lia Pierce opens up about the incidents leading to her son’s arrest.”
- State the name of the website or publication you’re pitching to. Better yet, include the name of the newspaper section or broadcast segment if applicable. This will make it clear you’ve done your research.
If you’re sending a marketing kit about a brand to journalists, an email creator can help you come up with the best subject lines. Just give the lines a tweak to include the newsworthy event you’d like to have covered. This way, the recipients are more likely to open your email.
When you’re caught between using too few or too many words as the proper email etiquette for professionals—wrap it up in seven. According to a study, subject lines with seven words or less have the best engagement rates overall.
In addition to writing short, clear subject lines, ensure they’re well-addressed to the email recipient’s concerns and credible. For instance, do not use the “Re:” indicator in your subject line when you’re not sending a follow-up email or a reply. It’s deceptive and can breed distrust.
2. Focus on the tone of the email
Gauge the tone of your emails when sending out professional emails. Because business communication happens digitally, words could be misconstrued as something they’re not. The lack of facial expressions doesn’t make it any easier.
To be safe, avoid using humor in your emails. It could get lost in translation. Besides, corporate jokes are better said in person—when there’s a corresponding body language to the tone of voice.
An overly formal language may appear cold and impersonal. Instead, use polite yet formal salutations that reflect the relationship you have with the recipient. Words like “Hi” or “Hello” warm up and set your email’s tone.
Finally, you should follow proper email etiquette when your brand or a client’s brand is mentioned in the media. Sending angry emails or not replying at all is a no-no.
Remember, if your email sounds harsh or standoffish to you, chances are it’ll sound the same to the reader. As proper email etiquette for professionals, you should scrap it if it’s too emotional. Don’t send something that could ruin your reputation and your brand’s or client’s brand.
In cases like this, it’s crucial to identify the crisis before it reels out of control using media monitoring. Then, promptly follow through with a crisis communication plan, or create one if you have to. The key is to always stay one step ahead, so if someone asks for your comment, you already know what to say.
3. Proofread your email
Grammatical errors in work-related correspondence tell much more about your work ethic than you know. The occasional errors are excusable, but, too often and readers will get irritated by your emails.
For efficiency, use writing tools like Writer or Grammarly to catch any errors. Stick to classic, easy-to-read fonts like Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman throughout the email body.
Don’t just proofread the email you send. Proofread your attachments, too. It wouldn’t matter if your email was flawless if your marketing materials for the new product launch, for instance, are full of grammatical errors.
Also, marketing your products or services with too many attachments might seem tacky. QR codes make it easy to share this information. By creating a QR code for PDF files, you can easily transfer relevant information to your recipient in a mobile-friendly format. This is good because mobile users are more likely to engage with your emails than laptop users.
As PR professionals who help brands maintain a positive public identity, it’s imperative that we be of good conduct. Following the proper email etiquette for professionals will guide your media pitches and ensure you’re accorded respect. It will also improve communication and prevent problems for you and your business.
Mistakes happen, but to reduce awkward errors, proofread your emails before hitting send. Read them out loud if you have to. This allows you to catch sentence frictions and cold undertones that journalists may misconstrue. Focus on the subject line, too.
Use the email rules PR professionals should follow in this post to supercharge your next email.