When we have a big product launch, I devote endless hours to crafting the perfect press release. One that perfectly summarizes each of my key points, a crystal clear message, with just the right tone, and beautifully sharp images. When it’s got the potential to be a hit, I can feel it.
Full of excitement, I write a devilishly persuasive pitch, and right before I hit send I realize I forgot to think of a subject line. No time to dwell on that, so I improvise and hit send. A move so small, yet it has the potential to crush my chances of getting published.
Without a strong subject line all your perfectly crafted pitches will be ignored. If the subject line doesn’t resonate, the person in charge of the editorial inbox will simply hit archive and your email remains unopened. Bye-bye coverage.
In this article, we’ll share best practices and tips from experts on how to write powerful subject lines that will guarantee to boost open rates and engagement.
What makes a good email subject line?
So what establishes whether an email subject line is actually good? We gathered some tips to help yours stand out:
Keep it short
Brevity is a sign of respect for the person on the other end of the screen. Keeping your email subject line short is like saying, “I know you have a lot on your plate, so I’ll be quick.” Studies reveal that as subject lines get longer, open rates decrease. So how long should your media pitch subject line be? Experts say try to keep it under 10 words. Other studies show that on average, email subject lines feature 44 characters.
Cutting characters is nothing short of a tall mission. However, including too much information in your subject line will not only get cut off in most preview panes, but it will also decrease your chances of getting noticed.
Email subject lines that are intended for marketing emails are one thing, media pitch subject lines are a whole other story. Either way, we tend to steer clear of the ones that are too salesy. Journalists and editors especially. If you want your recipients to engage with your email, make sure you keep the fluff to a minimum and clearly communicate the value for your media contacts’ audience.
Tip: Oftentimes PR pros will label their email with the word pitch or press release, so that journalists clearly identify they are receiving a potential story and not clickbait. However, this already cuts your headline length by two words.
Watch out for spam filters
As a consumer, having tighter spam filters is a blessing. As a PR pro, these filters can be a nightmare. You will be punished for using salesy words (watch out for words like limited time*, sale*, and offer*), the excessive use of capital letters (no one likes to be screamed to), the image-to-text ratio, and other formatting elements like the overuse of emojis. If you want to make sure you don’t get lost in the spam folder, your best bet is to test out your subject lines with these lists of words to avoid.
Make it personal
The American writer, Dale Carnegie, once said: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. One way to catch the attention of your reader is by personalizing your email. At the very least, you should mention their name. But a common connection, one of their recent articles, or a trend that is relevant to their beats are great additions. What is most important is conveying how your story can add to the work they’ve been publishing.
Avoid the clickbait
Your email subject line isn’t a Daily Mail headline. While evoking curiosity or creating a sense of urgency are two great psychological tricks, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of clickbait. Your goal as a PR pro is to increase the engagement of your email, not sell a specific product. Therefore, your main objective should center around building trust with your media list.
- You should spend as much time writing your headline as you spend on writing the content. The same goes for your subject line.
- Once you’ve drafted your press release and email pitch, write 3-5 different email subject lines. Narrow it down to two based on the ones you would actually be prone to open.
- What is the sender name you are currently using? Do you send your emails from company ABC or do you use a specific person’s email? If you are using a personal name, you can increase your open rates by as much as 35%. Not too shabby.
- Beware of jumping on trends that are not related to your news just to catch a journalist’s attention. For example, adding “COVID-19” to your subject line to make your story more relevant to a journalist can backfire. If the journalist opens your email and realizes it’s not what you promised, you will likely end up being blacklisted.
Are you working on writing a killer press release? Here's a checklist you can use to make sure your next release is spot on.
Advice from a Pro
We recently sat down with Adam Stones, author, and founder of A’Dam Communications, to chat about what it means to be strategical in media relations. Here’s what he had to say:
“Effective media relations means being tactical and targeted”, according to Adam Stones. "There are four principles I suggest you use every time you pitch:"
- Personal: It’s called media relations for a reason. You have to get to know the journalist; what they’re passionate about, what relevant stories they’ve covered, where their stories appear specifically. Then show off this knowledge in your pitch. And state why you are approaching them specifically. Be friendly and show you get them.
- Clear: Journalists have little time and are bombarded with hundreds of ideas a day, so be direct and concise. Make it clear what the story is and why this is an opportunity for them (including any exclusive aspects): show its news value, its relevance, and the significance for their audience. There must be some value in your pitch or they may not open your emails ever again.
- Easy: If the journalist has to do lots of work to ask for missing information, to decode your technical language or anything else that requires precious brain space or time then you’ve lost them. Have everything they need, ready to go. Make sure images and other visual assets are ready and approved, spokespeople are named (and briefed) and case studies are written up. (Better still, have everything ready in your online newsroom from pr.co!)*
- Timely: Ensure you are aware of what else is happening in the world around your launch date, as well as what the journalist may be working on. Perhaps you need to reference or connect with those time references, or now even avoid that date entirely. Then, when you do pitch, give them enough time before the story’s go-live date so they can plan how they will cover it, then follow up a couple of days before launch to give them a nudge.
*Disclaimer: Adam was not paid to say anything about our newsrooms. We simply don’t have that kind of budget.
Media pitch subject line examples
Enough theory, let's get to the practice. Here are some fictional examples of media pitch subject lines, based on some of our client’s products and services, for different event types:
- Here’s how SILCA is setting a new standard in the cycling industry
- VanMoof’s latest campaign for S3 x X3 bikes gets banned from French TV
- 78% of consumers prefer wireless headphones says study by JBL
- Europe’s No.1 outdoor app, Komoot, launches in the Netherlands
- A sight for sore eyes: Ace & Tate launches recycled eyewear line
Investment and Growth:
Press Release: Rad Power Bikes the most funded e-bike company in the world
Lynk & Co expands it’s global presence with new club in Berlin
- 84% of Americans believe the future of the economy is crypto
- Amsterdam-based startup, BUX, raises $80 million to enter new markets
- VanMoof receives largest-ever Series C investment for a European e-bike brand
- Komoot sponsors first-ever women-only backpacking trip from Torino - Nice
- WePresent opens immersive art installation with Marina Abramovic in London
- Customized VanMoof bikes take the stage at Paris Fashion Week
- Harman’s Citation speakers make a debut at London Design Festival
- VanMoof launches new e-bike in immersive, digital-only event
Organizational changes (acquisitions, mergers, partnerships)
- Swapfiets seeks partnerships to achieve 100% circular product by 2025
- Antwerp Festival Poster and Dopper team up to fight single-use plastic
- Former Marketing VP at PriceGrabber joins Ticketmaster as Chief Marketing Officer
- All-in-one charging solutions: how EVBox and Q8 are disrupting the industry
- MBL joins JSR Life Sciences, focusing on advancing health technology
WeTransfer forecasts creative trends for 2022 in fourth annual report
Exclusive interview: How Lynk&Co reached 27,000 members in one year
GCAC is Canada’s top startup according to Top Market Research
SILCA takes a stance on environmental issues, eliminating “forever chemicals” in lubricants
“Spaniards saved more during the pandemic than ever before” (Research by BUX)