Before I got into PR (some would say crossed over to the dark side) I was a television reporter. I find my news background to be very helpful because I understand how to find the unusual angle in a story that might pique the interest of a reporter/producer/blogger. However, the most difficult part of a pitch for me is writing the subject line for the email. Ironically I had the same difficulty in journalism school writing headlines and in the TV news business helping producers write teasers for stories. Then, as now, the challenge continues to be that if the headline/tease/subject line doesn’t catch the readers/viewers interest, there is a chance the story/email won’t get read.
Thinking about that continuing challenge, I wrote down my top five ideas for writing the subject lines for email pitches.
I try to keep subject lines to eight words or less. Emphasis on less if there are large words early in the subject line because the entire subject line will be truncated by many email services.
Avoid words such as revolutionary, effective, dynamic. Those words may fit the product, but it seems like I hear them all the time, so I have a gut feeling reporters tune them out.
More than word count, I’m focusing more and more on character count. I watched a webinar a while back that suggested aiming for 57 characters. Again less is better, but the most important rule to remember is to include the key words that will explain what the pitch is about.
“Palm trees help growers thrive” contains 26 characters. It sounds interesting but it is so vague I’m not sure I would open it if I was a reporter.
“Palm trees help local corn growers thrive in desert heat” contains 51 characters. It contains the word local, which reporters always notice. It also included enough information for a reporter to make an informed decision about the story.
Put the key words in the front.
Put the targeting words in the front. Depending on which reporters you are pitching, or what news hook you are hanging the story on, you could write the above subject line as:
“Local growers survive desert heat using palm trees”. Local media would focus on the word local. It wouldn’t mean much to the national media.
I’d like to hear your suggestions for subject lines.