Writing Email Subject Lines: Art or Science?

Gabrielle Simon  Follow

Email Subject LineAs PR pros, we all know writing an effective email subject line is an art and a science. After all, it can mean the difference between a journalist reading your pitch or just deleting it among the hundreds of other emails they receive each day.

While PR pros may say the skill tips toward "art," a recent Wall Street Journal story, says writing effective subject lines is more science than art.

Adam Auriemma's article offers a series of tips like using the word 'you', making the subject short and to the point, and explicitly describing why the reader needs to read your email.

Given the sheer number of emails journalists receive each day, the length of an email subject line is an extremely important factor.  In fact, according to a recent study by Retention Science on what email subject lines perform best for marketers, there is a magic number of words. Place your bets" how many do you think is just right?

The study cited:

We found subject lines with six to 10 words perform best, generating a 21 percent open rate, well above industry standard. Those with subject lines containing five or fewer words ranked second with a 16 percent open rate, and those with 11-15 words returned a minimal 14 percent open rate.

How'd you do? Are you a wordy subject line writer?

But word count isn't the only factor to consider. The WSJ doesn't address the value of existing relationships. For PR pros especially, knowing who you are emailing, what topics they care about, and how they typically look for sources can mean the difference between landing that feature story and ending up the Bad Pitch Blog.

Taking it a step further, some PR pros use humor to grab the attention of journalists. For example, according to an article in the Bad Pitch Blog,  PR professionals have tried subject lines like "Bob! I Found Your Keys!" in order to  intrigue journalists. However, I personally find my best subject lines to be very short (don't forget - six-10 words!) and direct, which automatically inform the receiver what the email is about, like "Story Idea: IP Concerns in M&A" or "Source on Annuities."

Either way, make sure to give Auriemma's story a read as it does give good food for thought along with a few great anecdotes to consider writing your email subject. What tips and tricks do you have when writing your emails? Share within the comments. End of Story

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