Best Practices for Your Parish Newsletter Subject Line
The subject line of an email determines whether or not someone opens it. Does it suggest interesting content? Does it pique their curiosity? Does it ask for action?
We all receive countless emails every day — it’s predicted that the average email user receives about 306 emails daily . That’s a lot of clutter to break through! Luckily, your email subscribers (parishioners) are likely interested in reading your emails as involved members of your parish community. However, your emails can quickly get lost in parishioner inboxes if your subject lines aren’t relevant or compelling.
The subject line can convince a subscriber to open the email (or not), and sets the tone for the rest of the email. Follow these best practices to make the most of that first impression.
1. Every subject line should be descriptive.
The most important principle of a compelling subject line is its descriptiveness. Does it let parishioners know what to expect when they open the email? Or is it unclear? Your subject line doesn’t have to include every message or call to action in your email, but it should indicate the most important or interesting content. Prioritize what you want parishioners to do.
Here are a few examples:
- July Newsletter: RSVP for our fall fundraiser
- Weekly Update: Interested in being a eucharistic minister?
- Parish News: Photos from Sunday’s First Communion Mass
2. Subject lines of recurring newsletters should be consistent.
For recurring newsletters, whether daily, weekly, or monthly, it’s important to use a consistent subject line structure. This will help recipients easily identify your newsletter in their inbox and differentiate it from any other emails you send. Like the examples above, a common format is to lead with a specific title such as “July Newsletter” or “Weekly Update” followed by a brief description.
3. Use a sense of urgency to encourage action.
When you’re trying to drive a specific action through your newsletter (every email should have at least one call to action), create a sense of urgency with the subject line. This will help encourage immediate email opens through a “limited time” message. A few examples of calls to action are event attendance, program signups, parish donations, and recruiting volunteers.
- Weekly Update: 5 days left to RSVP for our fall fundraiser!
- July Newsletter: Our new bible study is filling up fast
- Parish News: We need 5 more volunteers for this Sunday
4. Don’t make your subject lines too long or too short.
Aim for a subject line that is between 30 and 60 characters. You want it to be long enough to be descriptive, but not too long that it breaks off in email inboxes. A subject line that is too short is unlikely to capture the interest of a recipient as they skim their inbox. Of course, there are exceptions to this best practice, but whenever possible, the subject line should fall within this character count.
5. Avoid spammy words and punctuation.
Email clients like Gmail have sophisticated filters to eliminate spam and prioritize high-quality email content in a user’s inbox. To avoid getting routed into spam folders, don’t use words, phrases, or punctuation that often appear in spam emails . Don’t use all caps for the entire subject line or excessive punctuation like double exclamation points.
A few word and phrase examples to avoid are:
- Click here
- Apply now
- Limited time
- Once in a lifetime
- Now only
- Special promotion
- This won’t last
- Great offer
You can still solicit action and include a sense of urgency without using these spam-like words.
6. Track open rates to find what works best for your subscribers.
As you start to implement these best practices, continually monitor the open rates and other email metrics. If you aren’t sure what works best for your subscribers, test a few approaches. A common email marketing strategy is to A/B test subject lines . This lets you compare open rates to find the top-performing subject line. Over time, you’ll be able to identify the ideal subject line formula.
Incorporate these best practices as you develop your subject lines. Find what works for your parish community and stick with it — again, consistency is key for recurring newsletters.
Have a question about email newsletter strategy? Join the conversation in our ‘Engagement’ group for parish marketing and communication staff and volunteers in the Encounter Grow Witness Online Community .