Press Release

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Oh, have you still clicked on this email? I’m surprised because that subject line is a real turkey, isn’t it? The herpes of come-ons, scientifically proven to be the biggest turn-off in journalism.

I might as well have put “Nothing to read here” for all the curiosity it sparks. And yet every day I’ll get at least half a dozen emails marked Press Release. And every day those same emails will end up unopened in my bin. Why people persist is a mystery.

So what should your subject line say instead?

You might think the answer is to be more teasing, to make me go, “Oooh, I wonder what this is about?”. “Fancy some free champagne”, say, or “Celebrity chef goes nuts for new protein bar”. But the trouble is, the more oblique you are, the more I suspect you have something to hide.

That the free champagne is actually a warm glass of prosecco at a new kebab house in Dunstable, that the “celebrity” chef is famous only to his mum. And won’t we both be kicking ourselves when it turns out I was being offered an exclusive with Michel Roux over a glass of Dom Perignon at Le Gavroche, had I only bothered to open the bloody email.

No, the best advice is to play it straight and be as SPECIFIC as you can. Slightly against the grain, I do actually try if not to open all my emails, then at least to consider them. I think it’s only polite: if you’ve gone to the trouble of writing, the least I can do is give you the time of day. But to have a hope of doing that, I need the subject line to indicate what the email contains.

I’m not asking for the full “Who, what, when, where, why” but two out of five would be a start. If it’s an invitation, put INVITATION plus outline of the event (press trip/dinner/etc). If you are offering up recipes, put “Recipes for possible pancake feature” or whatever (actually don’t: it’s today – you’re too late!). If it’s about the launch of a new chocolate spread, say “X launches new chocolate spread.”

True, it makes it quicker for me to delete the irrelevant emails, but think about all the extra time I’ll have to focus on those carefully crafted, personalised pitches you should be sending me.


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What Tony Thinks... "We are witnessing hot cross bun proliferation as the supermarkets prepare to do battle over Easter. Waitrose's opening salvo included THIRTEEN variations, including lovage and green tea, but M&S has instantly hit back with eight of their own. I'm not convinced flavours like chocolate, salted caramel fudge and caramel pieces are really entering into the spirit of Lent, though."

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