In our experience, most journalists prefer e-mail pitches to phone calls. But reporters are inundated with e-mails—making it a challenge to get your e-mail pitch read. Alyson Shontell at Business Insider advises PR professionals to “accept that most of your e-mails get deleted instantly” without ever being opened. Her list of what goes straight to the trash includes unknown senders, non-compelling subject lines, incorrect name spelling, or a boring first sentence.

Recognizing that e-mail pitches can be tough, here are a few tips:

  1. Use the Subject line wisely. Include relevant information such as the name of the person you’re pitching or the company they’re with (if the reporter will recognize either one). Boil your pitch down to a few words or a sentence and use it in the subject line. Consider making your subject line a question. You have to give the reporter a reason to open your e-mail—but don’t ever mislead.
  2. Make your pitch short and sweet. I try to limit myself to no more than three or four sentences. Additional information including links, charts, and data can be included at the bottom, but I know I only have about 15 seconds and 50 words to get the recipient’s attention.
  3. Personalize your e-mail. Get to know the reporters you’re pitching and mention previous stories and how your idea fits into their beat. Know the publications, too. It’s important that you are knowledgeable about the topics you are pitching and the publications you are pitching them to.
  4. Be helpful. Can you connect them with an expert? Offer new research?
  5. Highlight the audience benefit. Does your expert have something timely and new to offer their audience? Will they learn the difference between two charitable giving techniques? Or why now is a good time to invest in energy? Make sure the benefit to their audience is clear.
  6. Do what you say you’re going to do. If the reporter is interested in your pitch, get back to them ASAP! If you offer to set up a phone call, make sure that happens sooner rather than later. Send them any background information that might be useful prior to the interview, and follow up afterwards to see if they need anything else.
  7. Know when to walk away. Sometimes they’re just not interested. It’s much better to let it go and come back at another time with a new idea than to harass reporters with follow up e-mails and phone calls.

At the end of the day, it’s really about building relationships. If journalists know you are providing good sources and are reliable, it’s more likely that your e-mails will get through.