A Good Pitch Won’t Guarantee You Coverage – But a Smart Subject Line Will Get You Noticed

I get over 1,000 e-mails a day – and this is nothing compared to journalists and reporters, whose attention PR professionals (like me) are clamoring to captivate. But as e-mail interaction has replaced the phone as the primary source of communication, it’s become increasingly difficult to get noticed.

Like a plain-Jane trying to get past the velvet rope at the hottest new LA club – overly mundane subject lines often get lost in the shuffle while outrageous ones might make you an outcast, thrusting your carefully quipped, well-written pitch into the realms of SPAM. So always remember that simply hitting “send” on an e-mail is no guarantee that it will actually be read.

So what does it take to be seen and more importantly, get read? Well, as we see it, a subject line needs to be somewhat irreverent, highly intriguing and/or slightly confusing (but in a good way – not in the “that makes no sense” way). In other words, it’s got to catch their attention, get them to open the e-mail and then read it top to bottom.

For Example: “Laps with Led Zeppelin”

Got your attention, didn’t I?

Bet you want to know what that’s all about, huh …

Well, so did the media. That headline generated interest amongst top national consumer publications like Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Men’s Journal, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. time mag

Had we led with something safe like, “Aqua Lung Invents Snorkel with a Radio,” or something more aggrandizing like “Aqua Lung’s New Technology Revolutionizes Swimming,” our pitch may have been passed over as PR hype – or in other words, “just another new product being hocked by overzealous PR peeps promising something out-of-this-world.”

By the way, since you’re dying to know, the aforementioned subject line was used to promote our client Aqua Lung’s launch of the then revolutionary Aqua FM snorkel – the first snorkel with a built in FM receiver so swimmers and snorkelers could tune-in underwater using state-of-the-art Bone Conductivity Technology. (Of course now you can take your Ipod underwater but this was ground-breaking news at one point – we promise.)

Some basic rules to follow:

  • DON’T use hyperbole
  • DON’T be too technical
  • DON’T be boring
  • DON’T lead with outrageous claims of excellence or revolutionary concepts (no one will believe you)
  • DO be clever and eye-catching
  • DO use creative devices such as alliteration (when appropriate and in moderation of course)
  • DO keep it short
  • DO play on words