I am tempted to write a 16-word subject line

When the team at Muck Rack let me wade through more than 5 million pitches sent through their software, I was like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

One of the surprising findings was the length of the most successful subject lines.

We measured success by the open rate, and we zeroed in on those subject lines that were opened 90 percent or more. Just scanning the list that the database spit out, I was surprised to see some really long subject lines.

The best practice that I had been teaching was to limit your subject line to 6-8 words, because that’s what will generally fit into the recipient’s preview pane. But the average in this group of top performers?

TEN words, or 64 characters.

This forced sentence has 10 meaningless words with 64 characters.

(That took way too long for me to write – it was like a tortured PR haiku.) Doesn’t that seem kinda long to you?

But numbers don’t lie – and that was just the average. That means that about half of these top subject lines were longer than 10 words.

The more I thought about it, I realized that Stephen King novels are REALLY long. But people in his intended audience like them, so they read them. Journalists appear to value meaningful, relevant info in your subject line, even if there’s a lot of it.

Experiment with including more compelling, relevant language in your subject lines, and see if that works with your target journalists.

To help further, here are some of my recent articles on different aspects of getting your pitch emails opened:

This article was originally published on September 15, 2021

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