Can Bad E-Mail Etiquette Make for Better Pitches?


According to New York magazine econ writer Kevin Roose’s new LinkedIn Influencers post, the answer is “probs :-/”

Roose begins by writing that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel‘s casual emoji email response to Mark Zuckerberg didn’t just make him look “arrogant”. It also clarified that this was a conversation between equals: no “”Hope all’s well” or “love your company”—just a simple “Thanks 🙂 would be happy to meet.”

The point is that Spiegel, in his own way, played hard to get and made himself more appealing by dialing down the excitement most startup CEOs would feel after receiving an email from the guy who founded Facebook. Instead of waxing reverent, Spiegel addressed Zuckerberg like he was just another West Coast tech guy in his 20s. Oh, wait…

It’s the rare exception that proves the “adopt a formal tone in business comms” rule, but Roose notes that it can also apply to PR pitches.

In the given example, a rep sent Roose an email reading “what things can i send you that you’ll actually give a crap about“, and the message stood out so much in its “strategic sloppiness” that he responded despite the fact that he deletes 90% of pitches without even opening them.

His point is that formality can be off-putting, especially when buzzword-heavy pitches tend to blend together. At the same time, we’re fairly sure no PR exec will coach his or her media relations folks to address prominent journalists in such a way, so we’d say take his advice with a big grain of salt. Here’s his qualifier:

“…the ultra-casual approach works best when the person you’re e-mailing is already familiar with you and your work…if you don’t feel comfortable using strategic sloppiness at your job, forget it.”

Uh, yeah. This.

In our own experience, the biggest turn-off is a formal, formatted mass email pitch. If you really want us to cover something, then you have to make it seem like you care. At the same time, it’s a little weird to get a casual, personalized pitch from someone whose name you’ve never heard.

Determining when it’s OK to take your office pants off is a key element of good pitching, though, and it reminds us of our recent story about journalists and social media pitches: you should follow relevant writers [like Kevin Roose] and interact with them accordingly. If a Wall Street Journal writer always tweets in a very formal manner, then it’s probably not a good idea to send a “hey what kind of stuff are you interested in now” subject line.

Journalists are just people, bro 🙂

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