As PR pros, we devote significant time to craft the perfect media pitch, landing on something catchy, creative, intriguing and most importantly, client-approved.

We’re often excited with our final product, ready to hit “send” and begin the process of answering reporter questions, setting up interviews, and seeing coverage come to life. Other times, we may panic over the lack of immediate interest over email, and feverishly hop on the phone to get these media contacts live.

But what happens when no one answers our call, or seems to remember seeing our email in their inbox?

A reporter’s work at a particular media outlet has changed dramatically over the years.  They are now working in a 24-hour news cycle, developing different and continuous content for TV, print, but also the news outlets’ social channels, online versions and tablet versions. With more and more work piling up, reporters are answering fewer and fewer phone calls.  It’s an email world and to break through the clutter of a reporter or producer’s inbox, you need to have a subject line that deems your email worthy of even being opened. Without the right subject line, the heart and soul you put behind your catchy pitch letter may never be seen.

I spoke with a few different local and national reporters to identify the ingredients of a worthy subject line.  Of the folks I spoke to, each said they delete approximately 75% of all daily emails to come through, never even opening them. But what piques their interest and what turns them off? Keep these insights in mind when developing your next subject line, to ensure your spot in the opened 25%:

  • Keep it relevant to the media contact you are pitching – which means you likely need to customize and do your homework. Many of these reporters said email subject lines often point to topics these folks covered in a past life, but not currently
  • Words like “exclusive” are likely to catch the attention of media – but only include if you can actually offer that
  • Words like “embargoed” mean more to some data-driven reporters, than others who noted embargoes seem to be “broken all the time”
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS – it doesn’t impact their interest at all
  • Celebrity names (being offered for an interview) are more likely to be viewed
  • Include company names in your subject line if the reporter/producer follows them
  • Be sure to mention the local tie in your subject line, if pitching local media

While these tips may be simple and sometimes obvious, a subject line that breaks through is one thoughtfully created for the exact reporter receiving it.  At the end of the day, all the reporters and producers I spoke to agree on this: relationships matter!  Every single one of them noted that if they have a relationship with the PR professional behind the email, they are likely to reply, even if it’s just to tell them that they have to pass.  By following the general rules of the subject line, you’ll increase your chances of building memorable relationships with media contacts, which means more of your emails reviewed in the long run, and better results for our clients.


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