Dozens of e-mails flood into your inbox.   This means it’s time to prioritize – you pick and choose which e-mails to open and which to come back to later.  The problem is, some of those e-mails you promise to return to may never meet your eyes again.  Therefore, as a PR professional, nailing the subject line is the key to convincing reporters and other influencers to open your e-mail on the first try.  Here are a few adjectives that describe an effective subject line:

Relevant – A subject line that has some tie to the person you are e-mailing has a higher chance of being opened than one that does not.  For example, if you are pitching a Boston-based reporter who writes about the city, including keywords like “local” or “Boston-based” may catch the reader’s eye.  This is why it’s important to know reporters’ or influencers’ beats, because if you know exactly what they write about, it’s easier to tailor the subject line to appeal to their interests or a story they might already be writing.  Keeping the subject relevant is also a great way to prove you’re not spam.    

Illustrative – It’s important that your subject accurately represents the contents of your e-mail.  While it’s tempting to make it shine by offering some sort of great promise or exaggerated statement to get someone to open your e-mail, it won’t be long before the reader realizes the contents of your e-mail don’t quite match the subject.  If this happens, you lose credibility and the reader will likely discard your e-mails in the future. An effective subject-line gives the reader an incredibly short (but accurate) summary of what you’re offering or want to discuss.    

Succinct – While it’s important your subject line gets the main point across, it’s also important it does so in a few words.  This part is challenging, but not impossible, and it’s usually a matter of identifying and pulling out key words.  Try to put the most important, engaging words first, as the first few words are what will stay visible as the e-mail sits in someone’s inbox.  To cut down on length, avoid going into detail in the subject-line and keep it as a very broad description of the topic.    

Of course, having a superstar subject line does not make up for a poorly written e-mail, so  make sure the body is just as captivating and well-written as the subject.  Writing the body of the e-mail first will help you identify those key words and allow you to effectively summarize what you’re talking about.  So after you write your e-mail, it’s time to master the subject-line –keep it relevant, illustrative, and succinct, and your e-mail will earn more eyeballs!