How to Write the Perfect Subject Line for Pitching Local News

If you’re a PR pro, you’ve probably spent a lot of time wondering what makes the perfect subject line. If you’re like me, you’ve probably encountered a few of the following thoughts: 

Shorter is better, right? Journalists won’t give my subject line – let alone the pitch – the time of day if it’s too long….

..But, what if it’s not enticing enough? Let’s add even more information so it makes sense….

Does capitalization matter? Or is sentence case the new “it girl”…

…Just give them your most interesting stat and be on with your day…Wait, but this could be a creative pun! No, too complicated….

Should my subject lines be different when pitching TV journalists, compared to what I’m sending to radio outlets?… Do newspaper outlets even like me?

Maybe that *exact* stream of consciousness hasn’t hit your brain, but I’m sure you’ve experienced some degree of angst when trying to craft an irresistible media pitch subject line. 

As we established, subject lines aren’t one-size-fits-all — they’re an artform that carefully factors in the vertical and medium of their intended target. 

Best Practices for How to Write Media Pitch Subject Lines for Local News

In this blog, we’re focusing on local outlets. Why? When it came to the successful placements of Digital Third Coast’s DPR team in 2022, roughly half of our coverage was in high-DA local news outlets.

Since you’ve found yourself here, reading this blog, you’re probably looking to boost coverage in the local realm… and, in our opinion, that’s a brilliant idea that you won’t regret!

<em>Speaking of our team 78 of us are former journalists with a combined X years of journalist experience In addition to that weve got a combined X years of experience in the digital PR industry So its safe to say we know a thing or two when it comes to how to pitch to local news<em>

If you need some numbers and stats to back up our trusted experience as a team, we conducted an open rate analysis which led to the detailed performance of analysis of 467 subject lines from our 2022 pitches to local news outlets, journalists, and niche writers. 

In our hunt for what makes the perfect media pitch subject line, we’ve been able to see what factors do and don’t work for cold emailing various verticals and mediums.

In this blog, we wanted to know: What leads local news journalists to open an email, and what sends emails to the spam folder (or, in this case, the trash? Do catchy email subject lines and clear call to actions lead to higher click through rates? Or should PRs focus on creating a sense of urgency?

How to Write Media Pitch Subject Lines for TV Stations & TV Journalists

Crafting subject lines targeting local TV coverage requires a unique approach. Television journalists are often strapped for resources, stuck on quick deadline, and their web staff has a voracious appetite for new and click-worthy content.

The 24/7 news cycle means trends move quickly and content being pitched to outlets and journos alike needs to offer something “new” to advanced the narrative. Highlighting that newsworthiness element in your pitch needs to be clear from the start — and that means your subject line.

Here’s how to create subject lines that are both engaging and informative for the local TV journalist audience:

What’s the best character count for subject lines to pitch broadcast news?

Our analysis found that subject lines with an average of 62 characters had higher open rates than subject lines with fewer characters

So, if you’ve got a catchy subject line that’s on the longer side, give it a go! The more context about the data and possible local elements, the better. This is likely because local TV news outlets are more likely to be interested in stories that are relevant to their local audience. 

A longer subject line gives you more space to include keywords and details that will make your pitch more appealing to local TV news editors. 

Writing subject lines with mobile considerations

Another important thing to keep in mind when crafting your local news subject line, is the mode in which it will be read. Many local news journalists are on-the-go and check their inboxes on their phones during meetings, in the car with their photographers, and late and night/first thing in the morning to plan for the next day.

This means that your subject line may only be seen as a notification on a small screen. This makes it even more important to make sure that your subject line is clear, concise, and easy to read.

How to phrase subject lines for media pitches to TV journalists:

We found that TV outlets opened more pitches when the subject line mentioned a ranking. 

In fact, subject lines mentioning a ranking averaged 15% higher open rates compared to subject lines mentioning a single statement, which performed the lowest. 

Examples of Subjects lines with rankings

  • Map: Each state’s top self-care activity
  • The Most Popular Drinking Games, by State in 2022
  • Top NFL Game Day Superstitions, According to Fans

How to format subject lines to TV journalists:

When it came down to subject lines with sentence or title case, TV outlets preferred subject lines in title case. Adding report/study or other research references at the beginning didn’t make a difference for TV outlet open rates. 

Our DPR team has had great success using both data from our own research to develop PR strategies that deliver results. We have a proven track record of earning top-tier coverage for our clients, including coverage in local newsrooms, nationally recognized publications, niche writers, and more. 

How to Write Subject Lines for Radio Stations & Radio Journalists

When crafting subject lines for pitching PR content to radio stations, you want to capture their attention and convey the value of your story succinctly. Here are some effective strategies based on our analysis. 

Best practices for pitching digital PR to radio stations

When it comes to pitching digital PR content to radio stations, brevity is key. Radio professionals are often bombarded with pitches, so getting to the point quickly can significantly increase your chances of grabbing their attention. Here’s how to effectively create short and concise pitches:

  • Character count: Radio outlets want a subject line that’s short and sweet. Subject lines that achieved above average open rates have an average of 47 characters. 
  • Formatting: Subject lines formatted in either sentence case or title case performed equally when it came to open rates. We also found negligible differences between open rates when we did and didn’t format subject lines with “report” or “new study.”
  • Phrasing: Similar to local television news outlets, radio stations gravitate toward subject lines that did mention a ranking (where applicable). Wondering what to avoid? Apparently, subject lines in the form of a question as they performed worse than those phrased more factually and statement-based.
<em>The numbers dont lie and we found those open rates get pretty low when your subject line is in the form of a question This is a common trend among our analysis so it wont be the last time you hear that piece of advice<em>

How to Write Subject Lines for Newspaper and Print Journalists

  • Character Count: Newspapers like a short subject line (even shorter than radio). We found the top performing subject lines have an average of 40 characters. 
  • Phrasing: While the way you phrase your subject line doesn’t seem to be a huge factor in this case, subject lines with a ranking or a statistic achieved above average open rates consistently.
  • Formatting: Newspapers did show a slight preference for sentence case, but still no major difference for referencing the research at the beginning of your subject line.

When to Test and Pivot Subject Lines When Pitching Local Media

A/B testing subject lines during outreach to local news can provide valuable insights into what resonates best with your target audience. It can also significantly improve the effectiveness of your pitches. 

While this analysis identifies trends in what performs well, statistically, with various mediums, ultimately the content speaks for itself. Local outlets tend to prefer local narratives. Local clients, creating local narratives, earn relevant, and authoritative links.

Now that we’ve reviewed best formatting practices, you have the foundation upon which to A/B test various formats — from character count and phrasing, to formatting and title case — to find the write format to sell your content.

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