How to write a media release that won’t go straight to junk

All in the subject line

“I delete most releases after about 0.5 seconds spent on the subject line.” This is the confession of Derek Thompson, an editor at The Atlantic, when interviewed for Robert Wynn’s book Straight Talk About Public Relations[5]. Research[6] by the marketing agency Greentarget suggests that Thompson is not alone: 79 per cent of journalists say the email subject line determines whether they open a press release.

Journalists may ignore a media release if they don’t recognise the issuing company’s identity, which often features in the subject line. This is why media releases from major brands often get widespread attention even if they convey relatively minor developments. The subject line ‘Vodafone Chooses Google Cloud as Strategic Cloud Platform’,[7] for example, probably wouldn’t wash if the companies in question weren’t so omnipresent. Smaller companies need to work harder by creating captivating subject lines that promise newsworthy information.

But while an arresting subject line is a must, it’s also important to avoid sounding like clickbait. ‘How our new CEO starts her day will SHOCK you’ will go straight to the spam folder, and you know it. Stick to the facts, clearly put. Remember: the media is not your customer. Your subject line doesn’t need to ‘hook’ the reporter, it just needs to show them your release is newsworthy.

Now that you’ve got their attention …

We could write a whole post about writing an email subject line your recipient will actually want to open. In fact, we already did[8]. But in a media release, the contents are even more important.

Firstly, congratulations if your media release is even opened! Unfortunately, most journalists will only spend 60 seconds reading it. So let’s make that minute count.

Table showing the average time journalists spend reading each media release.

From Disrupting the Press Release[9], Greentarget, 2014.

You need a headline that’s punchy, informative and tailored to the reporter who’s looking at your press release. The title should read like the sort of headline this journalist – and their publication – regularly publishes.

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