Clear is the new clever when it comes to subject lines

A few weeks ago a journalist from a top trade publisher reviewed 12 actual pitches live for my Inner Circle. We gleaned tons of valuable takeaways – here’s one of them.

Repeatedly she emphasized that, at least in her world, she and her colleagues want subject lines that clearly articulate the news. That may sound obvious, but often we in PR try to mimic the fun teaser headlines that we see on consumer sites. She said that slows her down.

Take this subject line for example:

Why a craft chocolate company is axing its most successful products

After she read that and the rest of the pitch, she said:

“That would be a really good headline to get a reader to click, but that's not necessarily what I'm looking for. Me, I'm looking for news. If the subject line was ‘Company X is transitioning all of their chocolate to plant-based,’ that would probably get me to open faster.”

And then later in the session, she read this subject line:

Look closely: Is that toy under the tree a counterfeit?

She liked the pitch underneath it, which was a study that showed the prevalence of counterfeit toys. But she wouldn’t have gotten the depth and substance of the pitch from the subject line and might have missed it.

Most journalists won’t take their constructive criticism this far, but she even suggested a better subject line: “New study shows majority of adults have bought a counterfeit toy.”

Remember, she’s B2B. When you’re targeting consumer or lifestyle outlets, those teasers may still work better.

The biggest takeaway is the importance of getting inside your target journalists’ heads. There’s no better way to do that than to hear them react to live pitches like we do in the Inner Circle (I’m not aware of anywhere else you can see this happen). Members listen live, and then they get the recording and the transcript (that’s where I pulled her quotes from). These resources are available only for members.

But I’m about to make a small exception. I have queued up an excerpt from the pitch review session we did with a Reuters editor – her feedback on one particular pitch is really helpful. That video is going out early next week only to people who have signed up for our Inner Circle Wait List.

Register for the Wait List now and get that video in your inbox next week, then watch for other similar free bonuses and details on when we’ll open up next for enrollment.

This article was originally published on September 1, 2021

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