Media outreach can be tricky, especially if you do not get your emails opened by the journalists you are trying to reach during your PR campaign. It is possible that someone might read your email subject and immediately send that email to the trash without thinking twice. If no one is opening your outreach emails, then you have failed before you even get started. It is usually better if your emails are getting more opens because this might translate to more reads and more replies depending on how your email pitch is written.

We send PR outreach emails to journalists every other day and over the last several years, we have learned the secrets between what works and what doesn’t. However, the most basic rule you can start with is to write naturally, since writing your subject line like a robot would be your first failure. However, there is much more to it than that. This is our professional guide on how to write subject lines that convert in your media outreach campaign.

1. Be upfront 

One of the most important things to do when crafting your subject line is to be upfront. Do not try to beat around the bush. Journalists like subject lines that are upfront. Remember, they receive several emails throughout the day. They do not have the whole day to spend on yours. 

A critical tip on how to be direct is using terms like “story idea”, “news story”, “press release”, “new research” etc. These terms give the journalist an ideal picture of what to expect when they read your email. It sets their mind up for an expectation. This is great because managing expectations can improve the open rate for your emails.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 101: No beating around the bush. Get to the point and save you both some time.

2. Personalize the subject line

Don’t overthink this personalization thing. It is quite simple actually. You personalize the subject line by simply mentioning the journalist’s name. When you refer to them by name it breaks the ice. The journalist gives you some benefit of the doubt because you cared to find out who they are. It shows that the pitch hasn’t been sent to a thousand other people. There is just something about being called by your name in an email that makes a difference in how you react to that email.

This is why mass emailing journalists doesn’t work. When we were setting up Pressfarm in the early days, we had a lot of requests from our initial users to provide a way for them to mass download journalist contacts.

How we do things at Pressfarm

Pressfarm provides a platform where founders and entrepreneurs can search and find journalist contacts for media outreach during their PR campaigns. 

We had to make it quite clear that we would not build that feature simply because that strategy of contacting journalists is long dead and has never worked. Instead, we encouraged them to contact one journalist at a time in a strategic way. Over time, they began to understand why because most of them were getting positive replies from journalists. One of the reasons is that when you are mass emailing, you cannot personalize the subject line. You only get to do that when you are reaching out to a journalist at a time.

Another useful tip for personalizing the subject line is to mention the journalist’s segment. For instance, if you are sending a story to a journalist that runs a segment called Tech Mondays, it is good to mention that your story is for Tech Mondays. You might also be writing to a journalist who runs a particular column in a publication. If so, mention that column. 

Let’s take the first two rules and put together a quick subject line about a recent survey that might interest a journalist name Davis who runs a segment called Tech Babies in a publication. This would look like this:

Davis – New survey data shows increased tablet sales for children [for “Tech Babies”]

  • Being upfront – we immediately tell the journalist that this is New survey data.
  • Personalization – we call the journalist by his name – Davis – and also mention that our data might be useful for his “Tech Babies” segment.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 102: Mentioning the journalist’s name or media segment shows that you know who you are writing to.

3. Make your story newsworthy

This is crucial. You need to ask yourself why your story should interest anyone at all. This isn’t necessarily the journalist, because the journalist also writes for another audience. As such, it is the journalist’s job to write stories that would be of interest to this audience. Why should people care about this story you want to share? A newsworthy story gets media attention with very little effort. You can easily get a journalist’s attention with a well-crafted subject line.

To find out if your story is newsworthy, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my product idea truly groundbreaking?
  2. Have I gotten backing or funding from a big brand?
  3. Is this a new milestone for us or for the industry?
  4. Is our research or survey data special enough to generate some attention?
  5. Do we think this new column will be read widely?

All these questions are possible story angles for your media outreach. Each one of these questions, if answered in the affirmative, can be a story of its own. Newsworthy stories are usually really groundbreaking products or services, funding stories from big companies, new company milestones that have never been seen before in the industry, new research or survey that could shift the market, or new column pitches that can get lots of attention.

When it comes to research or survey data, sometimes it is not really special but it could be data that helps the journalist back up a previous or upcoming story. When your company provides help with such data they can definitely get a media mention in the story.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 103: Always pitch newsworthy stories because they create great subject lines that are attractive to open.

4. No over-promising in the subject line

As much as gaining a journalist’s attention is crucial, it doesn’t help you if you over-promise and under-deliver. When writing that subject line, ensure that you are managing your need for attention by promising only what you can deliver. 

For instance, do not call a story, product, or service “groundbreaking” or “never seen before” if you know that is not true. First of all, very few things are groundbreaking. Moreover, very few things have never been seen before. Don’t exaggerate your story idea. When the journalist opens the email, they will realize it was just basic stuff from someone who over-promises. Guess what happens after? Yes, your story is immediately sent to the trash folder. The same thing will happen to any future pitches that you send to this journalist. In fact, if you trick them this way, they won’t even bother reading the contents of the next email you send.

Don’t call it “new data” if it is not new. Don’t call it “research” if does not qualify as research. While we’re at it, do not say your research shows something that it doesn’t actually show.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 104: Manage your need for attention by promising in the subject line only what you can deliver in the email body.

5. Avoid using clickbait 

Do not use clickbait at all. It is unprofessional, irritating, and earns you nothing other than an uncoveted position in the journalist’s spam folder. To avoid having subject lines with clickbait, do the following:

  1. Get rid of emojis from your subject lines. Keep those in your phone for your family and friends.
  2. Stop writing your subject lines in CAPS. JUST STOP. Why are you shouting?
  3. Don’t use exclamation marks anywhere in that subject line. Believe me, the journalist doesn’t care how amazed or surprised you are!!!

You get the idea. Just be a sane and professional human being. Avoid using clickbait in your subject lines because this also breaks the rule about over-promising. More often than not, when you click on clickbait headlines, you come out unsatisfied with the actual story. You don’t want a reporter feeling like that about your email pitch.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 105: Avoid any click-bait tendencies in your subject lines: keep it professional and sane.

6. Pitching survey or research data 

When pitching a survey or research data, you want to focus on the most important statistic from the data. You need to mention it in the subject line too.

This is because that key statistic might be your ticket to appearing in the news. However, it is useful to note that the importance of a statistic also depends on the person who is reading it. This is why it is important that you learn about a journalist before pitching them something. You need to be sure that your interpretation of the term “key statistic” is similar to theirs. Failure to do this will result in you pitching the wrong thing to the wrong person and doing a huge injustice to your otherwise important research or survey. Once you have your key statistic in the subject line, get into it in that email body and dissect it further before highlighting the other findings of your research.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 106: Mention the key statistic of your survey or research in the subject line to pique the journalist’s curiosity.

7. Short subject lines

It is always advised to keep the subject lines short and to the point. There is no magical word count that works for everyone. However, ensure that the subject line fits fully in the recipient’s preview window without being cut off. If you make it longer, they won’t read it and might delete the email without opening it at all. 

You need to be specific, direct, and to the point. Since there is so much emphasis on being concise, you might find that you fail to tie your story into the journalist’s beat. Try to highlight how your story aligns with their beat even when you shorten that subject line.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 107: Avoid subject lines that are too long. Short ones are quick to read and show that you know what exactly you are pitching.

8. Practice

Practice makes perfect. When you start writing your subject lines, before settling on the final one that you will send, write a couple. Shorten them further to see which works better.

Often, when we are writing the subject lines we ask ourselves: What is so interesting about this story? What part of it does this journalist care about? How do we structure this so that it highlights the interesting aspect? 

While asking ourselves these questions, we jot down the subject lines depending on our answers to these questions. We then shorten them further and eventually settle on one. The more you send out media outreach emails, the better you become at those subject lines.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 108: Practice writing subject lines based on a set of leading questions that direct the story. Don’t settle on the first subject line you write.

9. Relate the subject line to a story they published

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Relating your subject line to a story the journalist published before can get you some email opens. If they published a story about something in the past and you have found out new information within the story angle, you might want to share that with the journalist.

For instance, if they worked on a certain story about electric cars and your company has done research that brings to light particular information relating to that story, mention that in the subject line. Give a snippet of that new finding, and how it relates to the story they published before. When your subject line shows the relation to their previous work, it also shows that you have been following the journalist’s work for some time. That is a good perception for them to have of you.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 109: Relate the subject line to a previous story that the journalist has worked on. It shows that you have been reading their work.

10. Indicate exclusivity

Who does not like being the first one to know something? Heck, I am not a journalist but I always love being the first one to break exciting news to other people. When writing to journalists and you are giving them an exclusive story, mention in the subject line that the story is exclusive.

You might do that by just having this – [Exclusive] – as part of your subject line either at the end or at the beginning of it. Journalists love being the first one to break a story because it gives them an upper hand, speaks a lot about the quality of their sources, and gets their story and career some more attention. However, if you know the story is not exclusive or the exclusivity is not really important based on how groundbreaking the story is, you shouldn’t claim the exclusivity badge. If you say it is exclusive, make sure it is exclusive and important or newsworthy.

Media Outreach Subject Lines Rule 110: If your story is exclusively sent to a particular journalist, let them know in the subject line. Journalists like to be the first ones to break the news.

Do you need help with your media outreach? Armed with a team of PR specialists, expert writers, and certified designers, Pressfarm can help with this.

With a professional press release, some engaging guest posts, and an eye-catching media kit, you can capture media attention when it matters most. By submitting this content to the right media outlets and startup directories, Pressfarm can help you feature in relevant search results across search engines. 

By combining a custom media list from us with our media database of 1 million+ journalists, bloggers, and influencers, you can connect with the best media contacts in your niche. With Pressfarm, you can do the kind of media outreach that puts your brand on the map.