The Anatomy Of An Outstanding Outreach Email

27 October 2020

Posted in: Outreach

You’ve got your niche, your audience and a solid pitch. So why are your outreach efforts still falling flat? Seeker Senior Campaign Manager, Laura Slingo, takes us through everything she’s learned about writing killer outreach emails, with specific examples to take your outreach efforts from bland to brilliant.

Let’s be honest, it’s bloody hard to write the perfect outreach email every time. But, break your email down to its core, essential pieces, and you’ll see that the anatomy of a winning outreach email is well within grasp.

It’s all about being specific, relevant and timely—creating a pitch so juicy and enticing, it’s almost impossible for the recipient to say no. 

Want all your comms to exude that special something? Read on to find out what outstanding outreach emails are made of. 

A killer subject line

35% of recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.

So it’s strange how often body copy takes precedence. Even with the most eloquent prose, if you can’t convince your contact to open the message, your efforts will be for nothing.

What makes a killer subject line for outreach emails? It depends who you’re talking to. 

Research shows that emails with the recipient’s first name in the subject line have a higher clickthrough rate than those that don’t. Since bloggers and influencers hold their brands close to their hearts and tend to work solo, it’s worth referencing their name or brand name in the subject line. 

But journalists and editors? That’s a different story. Since writers often turn eight articles around in a day, and editors are busy pulling strings to publish content, it’s unsurprising that they’re short on time. Here, I recommend getting straight to the point. 

If you’re sending a press release: put “press release” and your headline (or a condensed version of it) in the subject line. 

If you’re sending a pitch or a feature: say so in your subject line, with a sprinkling of extra details for context. 

Want your email opened? Whatever your reason for getting in touch, your subject line should be as clear as day — journalists don’t have time to decode your creative, sassy one-liners. 

That said, there is definitely a place for the creative subject line. My personal fave is “I promise this will only take 26 seconds to read”. I wish it was mine, but it’s a gem found on Hubspot.

An accurate salutation

First thing’s first: pitch a real person.

There’s nothing more impersonal than receiving an email that opens with a generic and formal ‘to whom it may concern’. Most of the people you want to reach can easily be found on Twitter, or simply googled to find a personal email address. This means you can use people’s names, approach them directly and take a more particular approach. 

Now you know who you’re talking to, you can also adopt the right tone from the get-go. Keep it friendly but remove any fluff—this gives your email a much higher chance of being read. 

A personalised opening line

I’ve received a fair few outreach emails that begin:

Hi Laura, 

I’m so and so, from so and so, and I loved your latest article on X, so I wondered if you’d be interested in a similar piece on Y.


It’s no secret that outreachers use merge filters in email templates to pull in the latest or most relevant article and praise the author.

It’s perfectly acceptable to use this AI function – that’s how we make outreach scalable. But a personalised opening line is essential. In fact, a tailored email can improve your click-through rate by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%!

Go above and beyond to make the recipient feel valued. Invoke empathy and a connection. Be human! Or you may just rattle an editor because you’ve sent them the tenth carbon copy email of the day.

Pitching to a journalist or editor

If you’re pitching to a journalist or an editor, remember two things:

  1. They’re time poor.
  2. They receive hundreds of emails a day.

In fact, the number of full-time journalists in the UK has fallen by 25% over the past decade. Now that’s a saturated market.

I wouldn’t bother introducing you or your client in the opening line. Get straight to the nitty-gritty. Prove that you’ve done your research, cite an article of theirs and develop this. Add some commentary, ask them a question, reference something they added on social, tell them you want to help and add to their stories in this niche.

And do it concisely.

For example:

Hey Megan, 

I saw you’ve published a few articles on outreach tactics recently. Broken link building is my fave tactic too – an oldie but a goodie!

Pitching to a blogger or influencer

If you’re pitching to a blogger or influencer, you need to do two things when personalising your opening line. Firstly, in the same way you would with a journo, add something extra to the article you’ve cited to encourage a connection. Secondly, plainly state your reasons for reaching out.

At September 2018’s BrightonSEO, content marketing expert Hannah Butcher made an excellent point about working agency side. You might know if you’re working in SEO, PR, or social, but an influencer does not. That’s why they often respond with a very generalised price or media kit that is a million miles from what you’re after. 

Get savvy and get specific.

For example:

Hi Jack,

Flippin’ loved your piece on travel essentials for the frugal backpacker – I’m definitely stealing a few of those for my trip to Italy in a couple of months!

Anyway, I’m Laura from Seeker Digital, an outreach agency. I’m doing a bit of PR work for a client in the travel industry and wondered if you could help. It’s right up your street! 

Your value proposition

Outreach is a tricky business. Anyone can send an email and ask if they can guest post, secure a feature, or land some product coverage, but an outreach expert will make the conversion.

The secret? A value proposition.

Your value proposition is your negotiation cornerstone – it’s your offering that makes this exchange worthwhile to the journo, editor, or blogger. There are endless value propositions out there. Expert-level content written by industry thought leaders, articles that are optimised for certain keywords, and unique and exclusive data are just a few.

If you’re offering something of real value, how can they say no?

Just be aware that one size doesn’t fit all. Typically:

  • Journos are after data and comments
  • Editors want commentary on trending topics
  • Other publications and websites might want graphics
  • Bloggers and influencers seek a brand they can truly get behind.

As always, thoroughly research the person you’re contacting and find out what matters to them the most.

Here’s an example of an outreach value proposition for a journalist:

Hey Megan, 

I saw you’ve published a few articles on outreach tactics recently. Broken link building is my fave tactic too – an oldie but a goodie!

Would love to help with your next outreach story – I’ve got some unique data on open rates and subject lines. 

Key findings include:

  • xxx
  • xxx
  • xxx

Notice that I’ve added the stats in the outreach email, as opposed to asking if Megan would like to see the data. Top tip: always think about how you can reduce email traffic and get to the point quickly.

Your call to action

Sometimes outreach email threads go cold, and that’s to be expected. (I don’t know about you, but I’m a busy person and don’t always have time to review the content sitting in my inbox, although I really really want to publish it.)

But the worst mistake an outreacher can make is openly letting the conversation die, especially in the early stages of cultivating a relationship. There are a few ways conversations go dead, and they typically revolve around the call to action (CTA). 

Not including a CTA or including a weak CTA are guaranteed ways to bury your email in an inbox. Adding too many CTAs though and you risk seeming pushy and causing friction – which at worst case, results in being blacklisted.

I recommend including one clear call to action at the end of your message that prompts a response. A single call to action can increase your clicks by 371% because it’s clear, simple, and ideal for a potentially time-poor editor or influencer.

Depending on your outreach goals and contact, your CTA might:

  • Add urgency
  • Use humour
  • Reiterate your value proposition
  • Include a calendar link
  • Request a media kit.

Here’s my example of an outreach email CTA when contacting a journalist:

Hey Megan, 

I saw you’ve published a few articles on outreach tactics recently. Broken link building is my fave tactic too – an oldie but a goodie!

Would love to help with your next outreach story – I’ve got some unique data on open rates and subject lines.

Key findings include:

  • xxx
  • xxx
  • xxx

Would you like me to write this up into a feature for you?

Happy to help in any way I can 🙂

Speak soon,



‘Template’ is not a bad word. Look at other outreach email templates, get inspired and then—and this is the crucial part—create your own. Copying someone else’s work will come across as inauthentic and won’t help you stand out from the crowd.

To create your template:

  • Do your research—find the best outreach emails and note what works. 
  • Make it yours—use your findings to write your own template, in your own words.
  • Split test—trial a few different variations to optimise your approach.
  • Personalise—always adapt your template so it’s relevant for the recipient.
  • Update—something stopped working? Revisit and refresh your template.

Key takeaways

Ready to put these outreach email learnings into practice? Remember:

  • Keep it targeted by contacting the right person at the right time.
  • Stay relevant with a personalised subject line and body copy tailored to the recipient. 
  • Build a relationship by doing your homework and referencing any of the recipients relevant previous work.
  • Empathise with who you’re talking to and explain how you can help them.

In short, the perfect pitch structure to guarantee a time-poor editor will say yes is: 

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain why you’re getting in touch
  • Provide a relevant value proposition
  • Include a strong call to action.

Be short and snappy, conversational and non-salesy. 

Of course, this is just one approach to writing an outreach email. Want more? There are plenty of enticing ways to create that killer email. Or you could always get in touch with our team of link-building pros. 

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