Want to Write Effective Subject Lines? Act Like George Clooney

George Clooney could craft fantastic email subject lines if he wanted to. Learn what he can teach you about email marketing and writing effective subject lines.


Email subject lines are arguably the most important component of your email marketing cycle. After all, without an effective headline no one will even open your email to see all the fantastic information you’ve put inside, and they certainly won’t learn about your referral rewards program. Consider your subject line as an introduction to your reader. You want to be memorable, attractive, engaging. You want to be George Clooney.

Alas not all of us can have the charm and panache of the Hollywood superstar, but there’s a lot we can learn from his swagger to help craft effective email subject lines to build awareness of a social referral program. Here are 5:

1. Understand your target audience:

George Clooney never walks into a room without charming the pants off of everyone inside. There’s a good reason for that. He understands who his audience is and what topics of conversation they are most interested in. At a movie premier, George turns the charm way up and offers fans a look into his celebrity life. But he’s just as comfortable giving lectures on Darfur and humanitarian issues. Even President Obama said that George is a “wonderful guy.”

When starting to craft your subject line, use what you know about your fans to pique their interest. If your audience responds best to informative emails, make sure to reflect this in your subject. Or perhaps they’re the type that loves promotions and special deals. Regardless it’s important to utilize this information to drive customers to open your email and start reading.

2. Give your readers a sense of urgency:

When George Clooney heard about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, he boarded the next flight to Darfur and got down and dirty helping the cause. The situation was dire and urgent; he knew the time for action was immediate.

Your email subject lines should follow a similar trajectory and compel your readers to act quickly or miss out. One best practice to keep in mind is starting your subject off with an action verb like “Get started” or “Learn.” People are much more likely to open your email if they feel like their neglecting to read important information. Keep Clooney’s gumption in mind and get people mobilized to read your content.

3. Be Personal:

George Clooney never walks into a room without knowing everyone’s name beforehand. That might not be true, but it certainly feels like it. And there’s a reason for that. Magnetic people like George always act engaged in what you have to say and make you feel like you’ve been best friends forever.

There are a lot of opportunities to customize your email subject lines that can make your customers feel special and unique. If you have a defined target audience, use that in the subject (for example if you run a cooking website, work with “Chefs! Try Out….”). To get even more personal, personalize the recipients email addresses so it doesn’t look like you’re blasting it out to a 1000+ person list. Always think of your emails as a one-to-one interaction with a customer. Keep in mind your recipient and write like they’re the most important person in the world to you.

4. Be Consistent:

When you hear that George Clooney’s in a movie, chances are it’s going to be a solid film. Even if you don’t like his movies, there’s something to be said for the staying power of an actor who’s been a positive celebrity for decades.

Consistency in your emails is equally important. Have a subject line that’s worked well for you in the past? There’s no reason to fix something that isn’t broken. Obviously there is always room to work with A/B testing and other tools to optimize your open rate, but use your best writing as a baseline to measure future email subject line success.

5. Be Concise:

First impressions are everything in the email subject line game, and you only have one opportunity to loop your readers in for the actual email. Generally speaking, keeping your subject line below 50 characters works well and accurately conveys the most important parts of your message. Also be sure to put the most relevant information at the header of your actual email. Many email clients show brief previews so it’s a good idea to make sure your getting the point across quickly.

Ultimately writing the perfect email subject line is about knowing your audience and engaging them on a personal level, like George Clooney on any day of the week.

Next up, we’ll talk about writing killer email copy to get people looped in and reading for the long haul.

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