How to Write a Media Pitch Email Subject Line to Get Noticed (w/ Examples)

When you think about creating a press release, you probably focus on crafting a message that gets attention, is informative and supplies media contacts with all the information they need in an effort to convince them to get more interested.

Every word counts in the body of a press release and converting interest into media coverage is always the goal. But with so much effort and attention directed at the press release itself, it can be easy to overlook a key bit of text when it’s time to send it out—the subject line of your media pitch

We all know that journalists receive tons of pitches every day and scanning the subject lines of those pitches is one way they deal with the deluge of emails. Having a confusing, vague or suspicious one-line message can be the fast track to the “Delete” button. If you’re really unlucky, it can get your name permanently associated with something journalists think they should ignore. 

The subject line is often your first point of contact with journalists and sets the tone for everything that follows. Getting it right is just as important as the message inside. We want to help you increase your chances of getting your pitch in front of media contacts that can provide the coverage you’re looking for, with tips, examples of great subject lines and more.

Tips for writing a killer media pitch subject line

Let’s start with a few things to bear in mind when creating media pitch subject lines that will help get the clicks, opens and engagement you want for your pitch. Here are our top 7 tips:

Tip #1: Keep it short

There are two good reasons for this. The first is imposed by email service providers, which allow around 60-80 characters in subject lines, depending on the service. The other is a matter focusing on the purpose of your message and getting to the point. This is no time for vague references to what’s inside your message—simplify things and make it easy to understand what recipients will find inside your mail. 

As a rule of thumb, if you need more than eight to ten words at most in your subject line, you’re doing it wrong. Press release subject lines are not the place for wordy descriptions of anything. Short & simple always wins. 

Tip #2: You don’t have to impress with style

Too many people think they have to come up with witty, tabloid-style headlines to stand out in a crowded inbox to make their PR pitch subject stand out. In fact, editors and journalists will tell you this is just what not to do. 

The reason is that trying to be funny or outrageous sets off the clickbait radar. Remember, you’re trying to use your subject line to communicate the idea that there is valuable content inside your mail that can be easily transformed into interesting content for their readers. This is not practice for a standup comedy routine or writing for sitcoms. 

Being direct and specific in your PR pitch email subject line isn’t boring, it’s respecting the time of journalists while improving your chances of engagement. 

Tip #3: Beware of spam filters

Let’s stay close to the same subject here with a reminder that crossing the line from “boring” into something more exciting comes with risks. The same rules that apply to any other email are in full effect when it comes to press release subject lines sent by email.

Salesy words, excessive use of capital letters or punctuation and other formatting elements are exactly what trigger spam filters to take action and direct your message to a place where it’s unlikely to ever be seen, let alone opened. 

The threat of having your message disappear into the void because of spam filters is perhaps the most persuasive argument in favor of keeping things simple and direct. Avoid the language of marketing, describe your pitch in a straightforward way and the subject line of your press release will work for you instead of against you. 

Tip #4: Mention a connection to what’s inside your email

This is an extension of the previous point about being direct about why you are reaching out to a particular media contact. A good example of this is the inclusion of something like “Story idea”, “Background on XXXX” or some reference to a trend or ongoing story that a journalist is covering. It’s another way to signal that you are writing for a specific reason that deserves a look and a clue about what they will find in your pitch. 

When you use your press release subject line as a kind of offer to help, you’re framing the communication as something that benefits both parties. You’re making it easy for a journalist to dive into something new or expand on something they’ve already started. When you make a pitch in terms of how you can help them, it’s only natural that you will stand out from the rest. 

Tip #5: Personalized subject lines

Using personalization tokens in your subject line is an option that most CRM’s, email tools, and PR platforms offer.

Here’s an important tip to bear in mind when using names in your subject line—be sure that the personalization extends into the body of the message itself. Using your email sender to put a name on top of a one-size-fits-all message doesn’t fool anyone. 

Personalize your message content with references to previous mails, conversations or interactions, anything that makes it clear that this message was crafter especially for them. Obviously, if you say that you’re following up on something, be sure that you’re actually following up on something. This where the power of segmentation comes in—if you carefully tag and organize contacts according to where they are in a funnel, this kind of personalization becomes much easier and more effective. 

Tip #6: Using “PR” or “Press release” in your subject line (or not?)

This is a tough one because there are good arguments to be made for both sides of this debate. 

On one hand, adding “PR” or “Press release” to your subject line helps to clarify what your message is about and separate it from salesy or spammy messages. Like we mentioned above, getting to the point and being direct about why you’re reaching out is always a good thing. 

On the other hand, some journalists may react negatively to seeing your message labeled as a “Press release”. Opinion seems to be pretty evenly split on the subject.

Research shows that while there may be a slight bump in open rates for messages with “PR” in the subject line, this doesn’t translate into higher click rates, which is the more important metric. Our best advice here is to rely on the analytics you use to measure engagement and make your decision based on that. Using “PR” or “Press release” in your PR pitch email subject line seems to be a risk/reward calculation that can vary quite a bit. 

Tip #7: Including multimedia elements? Be sure to mention them!

Research consistently shows that media pitches with graphs, videos and other interactive elements achieve significantly higher levels of engagement. It goes without saying that if you have such assets to supplement your pitch, you should definitely use them. 

And when you use them, be sure to include a reference to them in your email subject line. 

“Video shows…”, “See how…” or “Watch…” are all great ways to start your subject line and spark interest in what’s inside. Not only do multimedia elements tell your story in a more compelling way, they offer a kind of shortcut by getting your point across more quickly and effectively—all things that score points with journalists. Use your subject line to tell them that your pitch saves their time while communicating your pitch in an engaging, informative way. 

Examples of great email pitch subject lines

Let’s move from theory to practice now and have a look at some examples of PR pitch email subject lines that work. To get these examples, we reached out to some PR pros that collaborate with Prowly and asked them to share some insights on what gets results. Here’s what they told us. 

Examples from Digital Third Coast

Matt Zajechowski, Outreach Team Lead @ PR & digital marketing agency Digital Third Coast has had great success with using data from their own research to get attention. They’ve found that starting a subject line with “Study, survey, new data, new research” following by a reference to a trending topic gets impressive results: 

  • [Study] Half of Americans want cash phased out after Covid-19
  • 85% of consumers report paying more for groceries during COVID-19
  • Study: Marijuana consumption – Boomers vs Millennials
  • Survey: How Americans feel about returning to work during Covid-19
  • Robocalls during Covid-19: Watch out for these scams
  • Study: 22 million Americans took advantage of 2020 tax extension

Back up hooks like these with real data explaining your story to get journalists interested in discovering more. 

Examples & tips from ZeroBounce

At ZeroBounce, they’ve found that good research is the foundation of effective pitch email subject lines. PR Manager Corina Leslie tells us that sometimes she spends months studying a magazine and its writers before she approaches them with a pitch. Once she’s familiar with the publication, she follows a proven strategy for starting engagement:

Tip #1: Start your subject line with the word “pitch” so the writer knows right away what to expect.

  • Example #1: Pitch: + your context and story in a few words
  • Example #2: Pitch: + the actual headline of your story

Tip #2: Personalize it by using the person’s name.

  • Example #1: I wrote this article for you, (Name)
  • Example #2: (Name), here are 3 ways to (solve industry problem)

She adds that, before you send out your email, don’t forget to double-check the writer’s email address. You want to make sure it’s valid and that your email is going where you intend it to—the person’s inbox. 

Examples & tips from TalentLMS

Ana Casic, Media Relations Coordinator at TalentLMS, shares three tips for effective email pitch subject lines, with an accent on data, trends and a mention of the site or service being pitched:

Tip #1: Use a newsworthy stat in your headline, starting with a number/percentage

  • Example #1: 7 in 10 remote workers want more training, survey finds
  • Example #2: 83% of cold pitches are irrelevant and ignored, journalists say

Tip #2: Include a timely topic in a meaningful and interesting way

  • Example #1: 43% of companies stepped up their training after the COVID-19 outbreak 

Tip #3: Tie in the name of the website you’re pitching in the subject line

  • Example #1: State of media in 2020 report for Prowly  [research]
  • Example #2: New PR industry stats for Prowly’s blog 
  • Example #3: Press opportunity for Prowly
  • Example #4: Loved your piece on how to pitch journalists –  would love to collab 

Tips from The Gab Group

Kristen Skladd, Senior PR Executive at The Gab Group, shared a valuable insight about using personalization to grab attention:

“When pitching an email to a reporter, separating yourself from the rest of their inbox and initially capturing their attention is everything. Often, I will begin a subject line with “For PUBLICATION’S NAME Consideration” so that they can see right off the bat, this isn’t a mass email and directed specifically to them. If it’s a print publication such as a magazine or a newspaper that you’re pitching to, consider swapping the publication’s name in the subject line for the section that the reporter writes for instead which makes it clear that you’ve done your research and know your client would be a fit for this particular piece.”

Examples from Marquet Media

Marquet Media boss Kristin Marquet Chester revealed some high-performing email pitch subject lines from various client campaigns. Note how they’re to the point and very informative at the same time:

  • Summer Style Steal Segment: Fashion Stylist & Blogger on How to Get the “Look for Less”
  • Fashion Feature Segment: Activist & Designer Launches Sustainable Fashion Brand
  • Interview: Bestselling Author Reveals How to Write and Launch a Bestseller in Fewer than Three Months
  • Interview: Successful Entrepreneur & Mom Talks Tips on How to Manage the Boardroom & Home Life
  • Beauty Interview: Mom & Celebrity Hairstylist w/ A-List Clientele Talks…
  • Feature: Digital Marketing Expert, Visionary, and Lifestyle Entrepreneur on…
  • Interview: Therapist and Entrepreneur on How to Manage Everyday Stress
  • Interview: Bestselling Author on How to Build a Six-Figure E-Commerce Business in Fewer than 12 Months
  • Interview: From Burnt Out and Overworked Digital Marketer to Fashion Entrepreneur… 

Tips & examples from Mancini Media Strategy

Jennifer Mancini, the force behind Mancini Media Strategy, provides these tips for email pitch subject lines while reminding us of the importance of standing out in crowded inboxes:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Long subject lines often can’t be seen.
  • Be concise. Let the reporter know right away what your pitch is about. 
  • Appeal to the reporter’s interest. Your pitch should always be aligned with what that reporter focuses on.
  • Create a sense of urgency. When pitching reporters, pick subject lines that you could see as a headline for an actual story, like “Fall Finances: How To Start Preparing For The Holiday Season”. Also, this is a subject header that easily fits in articles by CNBC, CNN Money, and various personal finance blogs. It blends, it makes sense, and it easily draws a reader in. The same goes for “Money Moves To Make Right Now.” You’re telling the reporter these tips are for “Now,” so they are currently relevant to their audience and offer immediate useful information. 
  • Offer valuable information or product. “Free New Product Sames of Eco-Friendly Clothing Line” and “Watch Out For This Amazon Phishing Scam” are both examples of subject headers that inform the reporter before they open the pitch that you are offering something. All the reporter has to do is open the email and respond. “Watch Out For This Amazon Phishing Scam” is also a great example of a subject header that is guaranteed to get an open, even if the reporter can’t work the topic into a story at that moment in time, because it baits the reader.
  • Stick to the facts. “New Stats: How Broccoli Can Save Your Breasts” and “Why You Need To Stop Carrying Your Cell Phone In Your Pocket” are both claims that can be backed up with facts in the pitch. Journalists are always looking for the most recent health breakthroughs and stats, so highlighting that the research you are offering is “new” is key to getting your email clicked on. 

She also includes a few great examples of her advice in practice:

  • Fall Finances: How To Start Preparing For The Holiday Season
  • Mentally Healthy Holidays: How To Survive & Thrive This Holiday Season
  • Why You Need To Stop Wearing Your Cell Phone In Your Pocket
  • Money Moves To Make Right Now
  • New Stats: Broccoli Can Save Your Breasts
  • Creative Ways To Build Your Professional Network
  • How To Get The Cheapest Flight Deals This Christmas
  • Free New Product Samples of Eco-Friendly Clothing Line

How Prowly can help you pitch more effectively

Using Prowly for your PR outreach & media relations makes it easy to implement some of these strategies and craft better subject lines when pitching the media by email. 

Check open & click rates to see what’s working

  • Check open rates and compare the performance of different subject lines used in mails to different regions, outlets and contacts. Use this statistical feedback to optimize your next campaign. 

Segment recipients based on the type of subject lines they prefer to increase your chance of success

  • Create segments of recipients based on the kinds of email pitch subject lines they best respond to. Maybe you do have a group that consistently opens messages with more humorous subject lines, or with more statistics or whatever.
  • Prowly lets you group them together and assign subject lines at scale. As we mentioned above, more personalization is better but there are times when using the same subject line for a group with common characteristics works well too. 

Group recipients based on if they opened your previous emails to stop following-up blindly

  • Speaking of segments, you can also use them to group together recipients that are at the same point of a funnel—say, after opening (or not opening) your first message. This lets you customize your follow-up with a relevant subject line (“Just following up…” or “Sorry we missed you..”, etc.). 

Personalize at scale with personalization tokens

  • Simple {first name} customization using personalization tokens in the email body. 

Find new media contacts

  • In a larger sense, Prowly also helps expand your audience with our huge database of current info on media contacts from every region, industry and publication type. 

Conclusion

Getting noticed in today’s busy world is hard enough even when you optimize every part of your PR activities. Overlooking even a slight advantage you can gain with the limited real estate available in your email pitch subject lines only makes it harder. Putting a bit more time and effort into your subject lines will help in getting the engagement you’re looking for. 

Follow these tips and make the most out of what is often the very first point of contact with journalists and boost your chances of finding a receptive audience for your email pitch. 

Use Prowly to find relevant media contacts for your PR outreach and pitch them effectively right from the same place. Prowly offers a free 7-day trial so you can see if it’s a match for you.