PR pros take meticulous care to get press releases just right in hopes of coaxing journalists to cover their news.
Few marketers and clients realize that the most important part of their communications with a journalist is not the press release at all. It’s the subject line.
Many think the press release is more important, because it can communicate all the details of a news announcement, embed a call to action and even improve a brand’s search engine rankings to drive new business leads, but what if I said that without an email subject that packs a punch, your awesome press release stands a near-zero chance of getting media coverage?
Journalists today are simply too inundated with email news pitches to open them all. They would be reading emails and press releases all day long. There wouldn’t be any time left to cover the news.
Journalists I interview as part of my PR over Coffee community in Austin report having to sort through hundreds of emails daily. On Mondays when they come back to the office, that number could easily double. This means you have mere seconds to stop a journalist in his or her tracks in hopes of getting a second, longer look.
The only way to get a journalist to not hit the delete key is by having a carefully worded, high-impact email subject line.
Here are some tips, including examples of email subjects that might lead a journalist to take a closer look at your announcement.
Keep it short. Try not to use more than eight to 12 words.
Example: “Mobile health app predicts heart attacks, sends 911 alerts”
Use strong verbs. Rely on hard-hitting action verbs.
Example: “Snow blower maker plows through revenue goals after record snowfall”
Add verbal vigor. Consider using alliteration to make your subject stand out.
Example: “Austin sweets seller to serve chocolate cherry ganache at Presidential party”
Keep it local. If you are trying to get the media in your community to cover you, point out in your subject line that you are a local company or mention the community by name.
Example: “Springfield home builder to break ground on development in southwest suburb“
Be provocative. Be as edgy as possible, given your topic and audience. I’m not suggesting you say anything inappropriate, but saying something too conservative or tepid won’t arrest a busy journalist’s attention.
Example: “New luxury car rental company promises zero-crappy-car policy at LAX”
Mention deadlines. If there’s a deadline or event date, then note it in hopes of getting the journalist to take action.
Example: “Annual Take Back the Night marathon and candlelight vigil set for March 15”
Drop names. Why not? If there’s a well-recognized name associated with your announcement, then jump on it.
Example: “PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel joins board of e-commerce startup Xzap”
Don’t sell. You are trying to win someone over on a story idea, not get a used car off a lot.
Example: “Enjoy ‘Chocolate Stout Night for Singles’ on Valentine’s Day at Drafthouse”
Stay relevant. Try to capture the essence of why your news should be shared with a journalist’s audience. Pitching a college-related publication like U.S. News & World Report – Education on a new mobile app for college students? Mention something about the app’s ability to help students’ in their studies, find dates, travel abroad, etc.
Example: “One quarter of study-abroad students lack the proper insurance, pay millions out-of-pocket”
Work at it. Don’t be afraid to spend time on getting the subject line just right. Run it by your colleagues, staff and even friends and family. Come up with a subject that will stop the journalist in his or her tracks and you’ll win that coveted second look every time.
Got any great subject lines you want to share?
Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. A version of this article originally appeared on the PR Over Coffee blog.