Getting to the Point: How to Write an Effective Subject Line

By Andrea Landau

Associate Publicist

 One of the first basic lessons you quickly learn when beginning a career in public relations is that reporters are extremely busy people. They are constantly trying to meet deadlines, coordinate interviews and stay on top of breaking news.

From the point of view of a public relations practitioner, it is important to communicate with journalists in a strategic way to ensure you are providing them with useful information in an efficient manner.

Once you have a well-crafted pitch and a targeted media list, it’s time to think about the next step before you hit send on your email: the subject line.

While I have never seen the email inbox of a reporter, I can only assume it is constantly full. The first part of a pitch that any reporter will see is your subject line, so what will make them take the time to open the email and keep reading versus hitting delete? Below are my tips for writing an effective subject line:

  • Keep it concise: Find a way to incorporate your message into as few words as possible. You want the reporter to be able to determine their interest in your pitch before having to read the rest of your email.
  • Model your subject line after a headline: Ask yourself, “If a reporter were to write a piece on my client, what would their headline be?” As readers of the news, we know that headlines are enticing, and your subject line should do the same for the journalist you are pitching.
  • Avoid spam words: Do you ever find yourself deleting emails you assume are spam before reading them? Chances are, journalists are doing the same. Avoid words that make your email come across as spam so that it won’t get deleted as quickly as it was received.
  • Make it relevant: If your pitch relates to breaking news or a recent trend taking the world by storm, include that in your subject line. You have already compiled a targeted media list of journalists who you know cover the topic, so now is your chance to make it known that you have information relevant to their coverage.

Chances are you have put a lot of thought and hard work into crafting the perfect pitch. It would be a disservice to both yourself and your client to let it get lost in the sea of a journalist’s inbox. By following the tips above, you can write an effective subject line that entices any journalist to keep reading.