In the crowded world of media, where journalists' inboxes are constantly flooded with pitches, standing out is a daunting task faced by every PR professional, whether you’re a seasoned pro or novice. The bridge between obscurity and spotlight? A compelling subject line. It's the first interaction a journalist has with your story, and it could very well be the last if it doesn't strike the right chord.
How exactly do we catch a journalist's eye in the chaos of their inbox? Drawing from my journey as a Senior Publicist at Society22 PR, I'm sharing five straightforward tips that have worked for me time and again.
Embrace the Art of Clickbait (But Keep It Honest)
Clickbait headlines have a notorious reputation, but there's no denying their effectiveness in capturing curiosity. The key is to create a hook compelling enough to draw clicks without resorting to misleading exaggeration. Strike a balance between intrigue and factual representation. Make bold statements or ask thought-provoking questions related to your pitch that will force recipients to stop scrolling and start reading.
Mirror the Masters: Study Language in Print Publications
Dive deep into your target publications and analyze the language they use. Newspapers and high-caliber magazines are goldmines of impactful phrasing and vocabulary that resonate with their readership; after all, only the best of the best articles make it into the print version of any publication. By reflecting similar language in your subject lines, you're speaking directly to journalists in a language their audience understands and appreciates, increasing the likelihood of your pitch harmonizing with their editorial direction.
The Allure of Alliteration
When all else fails, and the pitch can’t be made into a flashy, engaging headline, rely on alliteration. Perhaps one of my favorite tools, alliteration isn't just a literary device for poets. A well-placed sequence of words that start with the same sound can make your subject line sing. This technique adds rhythm and flow, making it pleasing to the ear and, more importantly, memorable. But use this tactic wisely; excessive alliteration can feel forced and lose the very charm you're aiming to create. For example, “Please, No Pickles! Picky Eaters' Predicaments” sounds much catchier than “3 Problems Faced by Picky Eaters”.
Ride the Wave: Incorporate Current Events, Trends and Holidays
Has a recent event shaken up the industry? Is there an emerging trend taking hold of the public's interest? Is a major holiday around the corner? (Pro tip: use National Today to find niche holidays throughout the year.) Use these elements to your advantage. Tying your pitch to current happenings not only showcases its relevance but also demonstrates your brand's engagement with the world at large.
Grammar is Your Silent Partner: The Technicalities of Subject Lines
Never underestimate the importance of nitty-gritty details, like proper grammar and copy editing. Length is a crucial factor—aim for 6-10 words, enough to convey substance but short enough to be completely read without opening the email.
When it comes to capitalization, keep it professional. Title case or sentence case works, but avoid writing in all caps, as it can come off as shouting.
Also, remember that clarity trumps cleverness. If a journalist doesn’t understand the subject line at first glance, they won’t bother opening the email.
In summary, the perfect pitch starts with a subject line that can't be ignored. It should captivate, convey and compel the recipient to delve deeper. In the digital age, where attention spans are dwindling, investing time in mastering the art of the subject line is not just advisable; it's an absolute necessity. Our pitches don't just compete with other PR professionals; they're up against every piece of digital content out there.
Cassaundra Kalba is Senior Publicist at Society22 PR.