Imagine having about 3 seconds to decide to keep or toss an email. Hundreds of emails. That’s what a typical day is like for a producer or editor. We get so many emails into our inbox that it’s impossible to look at them all. So they have to really catch our attention and make us want to find out more.
There are some that pop up over and over again and make us cringe. Don’t make the mistake of sending one of these subject lines to a journalist – she will likely hit delete immediately.
Bad Subject Line #1: What stories are you working on?
Ugh this is a common mistake. You think you’re being inquisitive and conversational but instead you are inadvertently rubbing a producer the wrong way with this subject line. Here’s why — it makes us do all the work! We have to stop, think about it and write you back. Plus, we might not even know who you are and definitely don’t have time to do an audit of all the stories we are working on.
Instead, make your offer. Tell me how you can help me do my job better. Is it that you are an expert in Jamaican cooking and you have a few simple recipes to share for the cold winter months? Or maybe you’re a publicist and you have several experts to share. Give up the goods! Show me what you can do to help me lighten my load, don’t add to it.
Bad Subject Line #2: Can I pitch you?
You’ve already lost my interest. Don’t ask to pitch – because you could have wasted your one shot at getting a journalist’s attention. I have no idea what is inside this email by this subject line – it doesn’t give me one detail. So I will just pass it by.
Instead, be catchy. Lay out your topic in a compelling way. Watch some TV news shows to get this tactic down. You know right before they go to commercial how they say “Coming up after the break” and go into what’s still to come? Well those are called teases and they are meant to whet your appetite and keep you watching. Do the same with your subject line. Make me want to find out more about what you’re offering.
Bad Subject Line #3: Can I call you about this?
No, I don’t have time to talk to you. I just don’t—especially when you haven’t made it clear what you’re pitching. So unless I know what I’m going to get from you, the answer is no.
Instead, give me a glimpse. Show me what you as an expert can give my audience. The one question you should be answering with your pitch is “why do I care?” And that “I” is the producer or editor who is sitting in the place of her audience. So why does that audience care about what you have to say?
Bad Subject Line #4 : Anything including “breakthrough” or other over-the-top claim
While obviously something described as “breakthrough” may initially get my attention, my BS meter is highly calibrated—people are always try to dupe us this way to get media coverage. I’ll know in seconds whether you’ve got the goods. So you better be sure you do. Because fool me once…and that’s it. Make a big claim, and fail to deliver, and I will no longer take your pitches seriously.
Instead, deliver on your promise. Make sure whatever it is that you choose to send to a journalist is rock solid information. Don’t go all over the top or outlandish to get our attention if you can’t deliver. Be careful with how your frame your stories because more than just getting media exposure you want to develop real relationships with members of the media. How do you think we find our recurring guests? Those are the ones that deliver quality content over and over again and never try to trick us.
Paula Rizzo is the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert, a six-week program that teaches experts, authors, entrepreneurs how to get, and keep, media attention. She’s also the author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed and founder of ListProducer.com.