Pitching a reporter: 7 tips for crafting irresistible subject lines

Keep your email pitch from being relegated to the trash can before it gets opened.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always been a big fan of calling a reporter first.

Unfortunately, these days, reporters have less time than ever, and chances are they probably prefer an email pitch. So, it all starts with a solid subject line. Here are seven tips to help your email pitch get opened:

Plug a previous story. Would you be more likely to open an email from someone if it made mention of your recent work? One simple way to catch a reporter’s attention is with an email subject line that plugs a recent story he or she wrote. For example, “News tip per [Insert two to three words on story subject] story.”

Word trending. Get creative and timely to help your pitch scream, “Open me!” A couple of years ago you could have taken a word and added “cession” to the back of it. If you’re keeping an eye on the news, you’ll know the newsworthy trends. If you want to find some more to work with, check out TrendWatching.com and sign up for the free monthly Trend Briefing.

Play on reporters’ beats. If the writer is always covering a particular column or segment, make the most of it. Like a local “Money Matters” column in the newspaper, or a national “Tech Tips” segment on TV. Give the following subject line a try: “Money Matters Tip: [Sum up your pitch in four to five words].”

Wordplay. Have some fun with a keyword. Use a word that sounds the same as another but is spelled differently (homonyms like “one” and “won”). Add parentheses to break up one word if it’s relevant. Combine words (like “Baby Boomer” and “entrepreneur” to make “boomerpreneur”). Scrabble Finder is also a cool tool for playing with words.

Latest slang. From “blamestorming” to “I-dosing” to “Belieber,” there are always some funny new words to work with. Great resources for laughs, Urban Dictionary and BuzzWhack can also help you find creative words you’ve probably never heard of.

Read headlines = Write better subject lines.
Ever flip through a magazine or newspaper and some crafty headline catches your eye? The more you see and read them, and write headlines, the better your subject line writing will be.

Stay fresh. Check in every now and then with some of the sites listed at 50 Cool Online Tools for Word Nerds. And if you’re not already getting it, sign up for Ann Wylie’s Free Writing Tips monthly newsletter.

After the subject line, the rest is up to the strength of the story you’re selling. First things first, you’ve got to get a reporter to open your email pitch.

What practices have you used to write better email subject lines for reporters?

Jamie Szwiec is a PR Specialist living in South Florida by way of Milwaukee. He blogs at PR Semi-Pro, where a version of this story first appeared. Connect with him on Twitter @PRsemiPro.

Topics: PR

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