How to write email subject lines journalists will actually open

How to write email subject lines journalists will actually open

In the competitive, frenzied world of journalism, the thought of writing email subject lines that will make a journalist actually open your message seems next to impossible. But with the strategies listed below, it doesn’t have to be. Fear the subject field no more.

The Initial Hurdles You Need to Clear

Before your email even gets opened, you need to do what you can to lower the risk of it getting caught by a spam filter or deleted.

1. Don’t Get Filtered into Spam

Sometimes, without even knowing, you send an email pitch filled with all kinds of suspicious words and phrases, and without intending to, you set off a spam filter. Although you can’t entirely prevent spam blocking from happening, you can do some things to lower its likelihood. The most critical thing you need to do is learn how spam filters operate and then learn to develop subject lines that side-step the usual pitfalls.

2. Avoid the Delete Button

Even if you make it past the spam filters, if you aren’t careful, the person you’re trying to contact will send your message flying into the trash bin. To avoid the dreaded delete button, make sure you are pitching the right people and avoiding misspellings, especially in the recipient’s name!

Ensuring Your Email is Opened and Read

Once you’ve cleared the spam filter and (hopefully) dodged the delete button, your next objective is to get your email opened and read. The subject line you choose is key because it can make or break any chance you have of getting the journalist’s attention. As with any first impression, you get one shot to do this, so you want to make it a good one. Here’s how it’s done:

3. Be Upfront

Use the terms “News” “Story Idea” or “Press Info” prominently within your email subject line. By doing this, you are being clear with your intentions and conveying to the reporter exactly what you have in mind with your pitch. Reporters work in a field that’s all about getting to the point quickly, so they’ll appreciate it if you can do the same.

4. Mention the Reporter By Name

If you can manage it, refer to the reporter by name in the next part of your subject line. Not only does this make you appear warm and personal, but it also shows that you’ve done your homework and know whom you need to contact.

If they use Gmail or a mail client with an email preview snippet, I prefer to just address them by name from the very top of the email message and use that valuable headline real estate for something else.

5. Include the Name of the Reporter’s Column or Beat

Again, this shows that you’ve done your homework and researched where your piece should go. It also makes you appear more professional and helps you stand out from the crowd. Here’s an idea of how your subject line might read with this step and the ones listed above put into action:

[Story Idea] Hey Joe, I’ve got a tip for “Tech Tuesdays”

Or, if you wanted to pitch a story about the correlation between drugs and genetics, you might have a subject line that looks like this:

Melanie – here’s a story idea for your “Battling Addiction” column

6. Emphasize That What You’re Pitching is Actually Pitch-Worthy

Some points that catch the eye of reporters include:

  • Well-developed Ideas

    • If you have an idea that is truly original and one-of-a-kind, reporters will want to follow up and find out more.

  • Backing from Big-Time Brands

    • If your company or organization has received support from a well-known, reputable brand, mention it in the subject and body of your email. These relationships make you newsworthy–flaunt them!

  • Insider Information

    • Everyone likes to be the first to get the inside scoop, so offer the reporter something newsworthy that other people don’t know about your company.

  • A Fresh Take

    • Being able to offer a unique perspective while at the same time having the facts and information to back up your claims makes your pitch compelling. Online publications will generally be happy to consider opinion pieces; they are great for igniting discussions around a particular issue, which can lead to more views and new visitors, and therefore more advertising dollars. Just make sure you’re pitching these polarizing stories to the right places.

7. Mention the Benefits

Remember that you are trying to sell your idea to reporters, so you need to make sure they know what’s in it for them. Maybe you have a follow-up idea for a recent story they wrote, or your suggestion involves a trend that impacts their readers. Maybe you’re trying to spread the word about an issue nobody talks about and the publication has the chance to cover something that is being underrepresented in other outlets. Whatever the case, tell them about these advantages. If it’s a huge benefit, make sure it’s in the subject line!

8. Promise Only What You Can Deliver

Nothing turns a reporter off more than a subject line that promises more than the pitch actually delivers. Even though you are trying to grab the reporter’s attention, it’s best not to exaggerate. A good reporter can sniff this out a mile away and your pitch won’t stand a chance of being heard.

It would be a crying shame to have an incredible pitch that gets turned down because of a poorly crafted subject line, but it happens all the time. You owe it to yourself to create the best subject line you possibly can to ensure that your pitch gets the attention it deserves. It may seem like a daunting task, but with the steps listed above and a little practice, you can and will get better at writing subject lines. Just don’t be too surprised when you start seeing all kinds of interested replies from journalists and bloggers popping up in your inbox!

Do you have other tips for crafting compelling email subject lines? Leave a comment below!

Adrienne Erin is an outreach specialist at WebpageFX who has sent pitch emails to thousands of bloggers and journalists. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine People, and SiteProNews. Catch up with her on Twitter to see more of her work, or check out her blog, Pongra.

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