5 Things Journalists Want to See in Your Email Subject Line

A study released yesterday by Fractl and BuzzStream asked 500 writers and editors from publications like Fast Company, Mashable, Forbes, and USA Today how they want to be pitched.

I’m sure those 500 media professionals relished the opportunity to complain, as journalists often do. Luckily, complaints to them are tips for entrepreneurs – tips on how to make sure your email gets opened, read, and responded to.

Let’s start off with the problem: 81% of media prefer email pitches, yet publications in areas like Technology, Business, and Consumer Trends are getting 300 pitches a day. Many of those (over 68%) are getting sent to editors. What is a startup looking for coverage to do?

Subject lines

“The subject line acts as a gatekeeper to your open rates. The effectiveness of your pitch starts, and in many cases ends, with your email’s subject line,” Fractl and Buzzstream write in their white paper, which reports that 85% of media use the subject line to decide whether to open a pitch.

Here are some highlights on what makes a good subject line:

  • The ideal subject line is 6-10 words.
  • The best subject lines are targeted to their beat, specific, descriptive, and short.
  • 80% want to see the content type (infographic, white paper, research), statistic, or your pitch (launch, news, event) clearly in the subject line.
  • 66% say you should reference your past relationship with them in the subject line.
  • 70% of publishers don’t want to see CAPS, emojis, or exclamation points in your subject line!!

The email pitch

The white paper continues: “Know the people you’re pitching, but don’t try to be so friendly that it comes off as fake. Genuine interactions elicit the best responses.” As I’ve said before, we know it’s common advice to mention a recent article of ours, so only do so if you have something interesting to say about it – not just a token mention.

Here are some highlights on what makes a good email pitch:

  • 55% are often or almost always receptive when the email references something in their bio. (But be specific: I’ve gotten pitches that say, “I know you’re interested in startups.” Duh.)
  • Over 85% want to see raw data. Statistics do well!
  • 13.8% only take exclusives – a minority, but something to keep in mind.
  • 87% say you should send one or two follow-ups max.

In other words, please don’t be annoying. If you do, more than half of us might blacklist you. We are cruel, but wouldn’t you be cruel if you were getting over 300 unsolicited emails a day?

subject line infographic

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Written by:
Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.
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