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Email subject lines that don’t pressurise you

June 3rd, 2012 by piers | No Comments

Here’s a different way of writing email subject lines which bucks the conventional wisdom. Instead of shouting, it takes the opposite approach. The email was from the Red Cross. Probably the easiest way to have stopped me from opening the email would have been to say something dramatic and challenging like ‘Could you live like this?’ or ‘In Syria they’re operating on children without anaesthetics’ or ‘We’ve never needed your help more urgently’. I would have felt guilty about it, but I would have ignored it. I would have known they wanted my money.

Yet those are the standard ways to get an audience’s attention. Shock them, ask them a question and demand a response, be urgent.

But actually the subject line email subject line simply said:

A quick update

Three relaxing little words. Not ‘the’, not the most important thing in the world, just ‘a’. One little thing among many. ‘Quick’: right, so it won’t take up too much time. ‘Update’: fine, so it’s just going to tell me what’s happening, perhaps something I ought to know.

What the subject line didn’t say was equally important. It didn’t lay guilt on people. It didn’t sound remotely challenging or difficult. It was just light and easy.

So I clicked and read the email. It was calm, clearly written and didn’t pressurise me.

The key lesson is that people’s inboxes tend to be stressful places, bombarded with incoming email, things to deal with, tasks to get done, stuff that will take time that we haven’t got.

In this context, being light and easy and stress-free can let people off the hook so they go, ‘OK, why not?’


Posted in Email marketing