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Seven Ways to Improve Your Email Pitch Subject Lines

Ninety percent of journalists who responded to a 2020 survey (of over 1,000 journalists) said they prefer receiving pitches via email. The same survey found that more than 60% of journalists do not want to be pitched over the phone.

So, when you’re ready to pitch reporters with your next great story idea, how will you do it?

If you answered ‘by email’, read on. (If you answered ‘by phone’, you might want to reconsider.)

When you send a reporter an email pitch, your first job is to get them to open the email. How do you do this? With a compelling subject line that they just can’t ignore, of course.

If you think your subject lines are falling flat with your media contacts, check out the simple suggestions below.

Keep it brief

Keep your subject line brief and to-the-point. Don’t waste valuable space with unnecessary words or overly descriptive language.

Treat your subject line like a headline

What headline would you like to see written as the result of your story pitch?

Try writing your subject line as though it were the headline of an article about your company. Doing this will enable you to start thinking like a reporter and can help you craft a media-worthy subject line.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Speaking of headlines, take a look at those produced by the outlet or outlets you’re pitching. Shape your email subject so that its tone is similar to that of published headlines at your target outlet(s).

If, for example, you’re pitching an outlet that commonly runs click-able headlines like “How one entrepreneur made $1 million in 60 days”, follow that example when writing your email subject.

Don’t give it all away

Leave the recipient of your email wanting more. Offer enough information in your subject line to be intriguing – and to give them a sense of what your email is about – but leave out a crucial bit of information.

For example, if you’re pitching a reporter about the findings of a new study, leave a critical piece of information out of the subject line. “New study finds 85% of children are allergic to this fruit” will get more email opens than “New study reveals 85% of children are allergic to pineapple”.

People like personalization

If appropriate, personalize your subject line. If you’re pitching a reporter who recently wrote an article relevant to your story idea, for example, you might reference their article in your subject line.

Practice, practice, practice

Content marketing experts often suggest the practice of drafting 10-20 (or more) titles for each blog post you write. Apply this practice to your email outreach, as well. The more you practice writing compelling subject lines, the easier it’ll get.

Track your results

Develop a method for tracking which email pitches result in a) responses from journalists, whether positive or negative, b) requests from the media, and, c) published media coverage.

Identifying, over time, which types of subject lines generate the best or the most media responses can be helpful in informing the way you write your email subjects moving forward.

The bottom line is to remember how important your email subject line can be in the process of generating media coverage. Journalists receive dozens – if not more – of unsolicited email pitches a day, and your subject is the first chance you have at encouraging them to pursue whatever it is you’re pitching to them.


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