5 Email Myths, Debunked

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What does the perfect email pitch look like? It’s a question without an answer, really.

Yesware is an email tracking/analytics software provider primarily concerned with serving the sales side of the business equation, but we think PR pros will be able to relate to some of the company’s recent findings a little too well. A 2012 McKinsey study told us that the average office worker spends 13 hours — or 28 percent of his or her week — sending, reading, sorting and deleting emails.

We’re sure the numbers are even higher for some media relations specialists, so after the jump we have five myths allegedly disproven by Yesware’s analysis of 500,000 individual emails.

Let’s see if they apply to the pitching process…

Myth 1: The best day of the week to send an email is Monday.

Strategically speaking, Yesware found no real difference: a good release should get the same sort of response whether the embargo drops on a Tuesday or a Friday.

The company did find that open/reply rates are significantly higher over the weekend due to a reduction in traffic, but we speak for ourselves in writing that news needs to be Earth-shattering for us to open and respond to a message on a Saturday afternoon.

On the other hand, if you know your contacts well enough you should be able to figure out whether contacting them over the weekend is a good idea.

Myth 2: The best time of day to send an email is the early morning.

This myth is actually half-true: emails in the study received the best open/response rates when sent in the early morning (between 6 AM and 7 AM) and early evening (approximately 8 PM).

Speaking from experience, we usually receive a “blast” of email messages between 7 and 9, which may well be the best time to send in the interest of rapid response. However, we also notice emails that arrive around lunchtime, primarily because they have so little competition.

8 PM is a definite no-no, though. Our significant others don’t appreciate the checking of work emails during dinner hours, and we totally get it.

Myth 3: The briefest subject line is the best.

We were a little surprised that Yesware found no correlation between subject line length and open/reply rates. None at all.

The company did find that certain words led to higher open rates, those words being “campaign,” “next” and “steps.” Remember, though, that these were primarily sales emails.

We say: the contact shouldn’t have to open the email to know whether it’s relevant. No one likes made-you-look clickbait — not even BuzzFeed. And only Obama for America, circa Fall 2012, can get away with using “Hey” as a subject line.

Myth 4: Multiple recipients mean more responses.

Not sure where this “myth” started, but let’s shoot it down right now: emails sent to a slew of people at once look a whole lot like spam. Alternately, emails on which every single recipient is BCC’d look even more like spam.

There’s no better way to say to a contact, “This is NOT exclusive. Everyone else in your zip code will be getting it, too.”

Here’s the useful part: Yesware found that emails sent to two people at once received better responses when one of the two was CC’d. So if you have multiple contacts at the same pub/company, make sure the secondary addresses fall in the CC field.

Myth 5: I shouldn’t follow up if I don’t receive a response.

Our inbox tells us that PR never believed this myth: the follow-up is standard industry practice.

Still, it’s worth noting that:

  • 91 percent of emails that do score an “open” will do so within 24 hours
  • Over half of replies come within three hours after opening

We’d say that following up is a good thing to do selectively. On the other hand, the best way to remind someone of a poorly targeted pitch (which is the primary complaint journalists make about PR) is to send it again.

What do we think, readers? Have these myths been thoroughly debunked yet?