Invite an audience to open your email


Leads invite you to read a story. A straight lead gives a chronological summary, an anecdotal lead teases us with something relevant, while a zinger baits us with an attention grabbing sentence. Then there are feature leads, summary leads and question leads that leave us curious.

Great leads make us read a story.

Email subject lines are similar. They invite your audience to open your emails.

They fight for our attention but subject lines like: “I am working all weekend for you,” make me nervous.

Bland subject lines disappoint me. “Something amazing is heading your way…” (Qatar Airways). Do I really care?

And, the perennial mediocre subject line: “Time is running out…” (Sling TV) makes me wonder if people ever open those emails. Let’s not forget the end of the year routine: “How will you start the year off right?” (Zoc Doc).

Subject lines that tickle my ego for a response make me anxious. “You are the expert…” (Indeed). If I am an expert, I wonder who the other reviewers are!

15 years ago, I tested subject lines to mobilize volunteers during Hurricane Katrina. Simple, specific subject lines got the most effective results: “250 volunteers needed: 6 pm at Salvation Army.”

People want clarity and a call to action.

Here’s an effective one from my child’s music school reminding me of her guitar lessons on Mondays: “Allegro: Lesson reminder.” Or, the apartment complex that says: “January rent due,” instead of “buy one get the other half off.”

Hotstar, an Asian streaming service recently had an interesting email subject line: “IND V SL. Jan 5. Stay Tuned.” Cricket lovers get this. Hotstar will stream a match between India and Sri Lanka on January 5, so stay tuned. Isn’t it better than: “Don’t miss the epic match of the century…”

I was disappointed when the “Houston Chronicle” carried the following subject line for their December 31 newsletter: “New cash crop is a tasty crustacean.”

A better subject line would have been: First baby of 2020.