A lot of attention is paid to press releases and how to write them just so in hopes of getting a journalist to cover your news.
Yet few marketing professionals and business owners realize that the most important part of your communication with a journalist is not the press release at all. It’s actually the subject line of your pitch email!
I know, I know, many of you think the press release is more important, what with its ability to 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 zero chance of getting media coverage? Okay, maybe not zero, but probably no more than 0.001%.
Journalists today are simply too inundated with email news pitches to open them all up. 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 – literally hundreds. And 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.
(It stands to reason that the 2nd most important part of your pitch to a journalist is the first paragraph of your email, but let’s leave that for another post, shall we?)
Here are some thoughts and examples of email subjects that might cause a journalist to take a closer look at your news announcement.
Short: keep your email subject line short and to the point; basically no more than 8-12 words.
Example: Mobile health app predicts heart attacks, sends 911 alerts
Punch: add some punch to your email pitch with a subject that relies upon hard-hitting action verbs.
Example: Snow blower maker plows through revenue goals after record snowfall
Verbal vigor: consider using alliteration (words beginning with the same letter/sound in close proximity) to make the subject stand out.
Example: Austin Chocolatier to serve chocolate cherry ganache at Presidential Inauguration
Local, local, local: if you are trying to get the media to cover you in your own community then point out in your email subject line that you are a local company or mention the community by name.
Example: Local home builder to break ground on development in southwest suburb
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
Deadline: if there’s a deadline or event date then mention it in hopes of getting the journalist to take action.
Example: Annual Take Back the Night marathon and candlelight vigil set for March 15
Name drop: sure, why not? If there’s a well-recognized name associated with your news announcement like a tech company getting funding from Mark Cuban then jump on it!
Example: PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel joins board of e-commerce startup Xzap
Don’t sell: what I mean by this is don’t sound like you are selling something; you are trying to sell a story idea, not a used car.
Example: Enjoy “Chocolate Stout Night for Singles” on Valentine’s Day at Drafthouse
Relevance: try to capture the essences 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: 25% of study abroad students lack the proper insurance, pay millions out-of-pocket
Final tip: 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 2nd look every time.
Got a few left hooks and right jabs you want to share to help others create knock-out subject lines?
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. 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. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.