Are you about to reach out to reporters for your app launch?

Are reporters not responding to any of your emails?

In this post, you will discover the subject line framework we use at Runway that regularly gets a 50-80% open rate for our clients.

Before We Begin

The number one mistake that most app developers make is NOT tracking their emails. Before sending another press email, make sure you read our post about the tools we use at our agency.

Secondly, make sure you come up with a subject line for each of the five frameworks outlined below. We do this for every client and typically test two of our favorites to smaller publications.

#1: What’s the hook or tagline?

Use the "eye brow" test to find your unique feature.

Use the “eye brow” test to find your unique feature.

Think of this as the “eyebrow test.” When you show your app to strangers what’s the feature that gets them to raise their eyebrows or respond with “oh wow!”?

This is also your unique feature. It’s the one that separates you from your competition. If you’re having trouble finding it, think about the pain you experienced when you were inspired to build the app.

What are your competitors lacking that you wanted to improve upon? If you’re having trouble just picking one, ask a few of your friends or some strangers to see which one gets them wanting to learn more about the app.

Homework: Come up with three unique features of your app. Then talk to nine different people, opening the conversation with a different feature. See which feature gets the best “raised eyebrow” reaction.

Real life example: Here’s the subject line that I used for my app oSnap that was covered by The Next Web.

oSnap – Tap anywhere to take a pic

#2: One way or hack that improves upon the current situation

Think about the pain or problem you are solving.

Think about the pain or problem you are solving.

For this subject line, you want to think about the pain or problem you are solving. Try to start with a really specific problem and then broaden out into bigger problems.

When I talk to app developers, they tend to talk about their app in a way that they think the program solves the biggest problem, which isn’t always the reason why they built the app.

However, when I ask them why they built the app, then I tend to find the real problem they are trying to solve.

Homework: Think about the number reason that you built the app and what internal problem you were trying to solve.

Real life example: Here’s the subject line that we used for Fit Men Cook, which hit No. 2 under paid apps and was featured on BGR, AppAdvice, Tech Cocktail and more.

The one HACK to actually sticking with a diet

#3: Piggyback

Piggyback off the names of well known apps.

Piggyback off the names of well known apps.

One of my favorite ways to describe a product is to piggyback off the names of well known apps. For example, your app = Product A meets Product B,  where you can combine a well-known app with another well-known app to describe your app.

Another variation would be Product A for different target market (i.e. Airbnb for dogs).

This framework is simple, clear and most importantly, descriptive. In an instant, the other person can get a general sense of what your app does.

Using products that are currently in the news is another great way to get noticed. You are riding the news waves and offering a story that reporters know will get them clicks.

Homework: Think about two popular apps similar to yours, or think about one popular app where you are targeting a different market.

Real life example: Here’s the subject line that we used for an app launch that got coverage on Social Times, AppAdvice and more.

Candy Crush meets Farmville

#4: Contrarian view

Use a subject line that is contrary to popular opinion.

Use a subject line that is contrary to popular opinion.

Offering a view that is contrary to a popular notion is a great way to get a reporter’s attention. In fact, it’s a strategy that bloggers routinely use to get clicks and backlinks.

For example, “why building your email list won’t help you sell more products” or “why getting featured by Apple won’t get you more downloads”.

A great add-on to this framework is to support your claim with data or expert opinion.

The 7-minute workout is a great example of using this strategy. We typically think of a workout as lasting about 30-60 minutes. However, when the 7-minute workout was released, they went against popular opinion and, here’s the kicker, “backed it by science.”

The general public won’t believe your contrarian view unless you have some data or expert opinion on the topic.

Homework: Think about a few well-known problems or statements that your app is trying to solve. What’s the contrarian view?

Real life example: Here’s the subject line that we used for an app launch that got coverage on Social Times, AppAdvice and more.

Math can’t be fun, can it?

#5: Social proof


Use social proof in your subject line.

There are times when you don’t really have to say much about the app other than the big names behind it. For example, when Rovio comes out with an app, there is no need to complicate matters other than to say “I’m Rovio, here’s our new app.” More often than not, that’s all you need.

I came up with this framework while trying to figure out how to explain a Star Trek app. I already had the other four frameworks, but didn’t have this one yet. Then I thought to myself, why complicate it, just let reporters know that my client and CBS were coming out with a Star Trek app.

And it worked! The app was covered on Venture Beat, Social Times, Gamemob, AppAdvice, and many more publications.

Homework: Is there something from your past worth mentioning? Are you releasing the app through a well-known publisher? Use anything you can from your past or soft launch to show social proof.

Real life example: This subject line landed press on Venture Beat, Gamemob, Social Times, and more.

CBS launches Star Trek app


First of all, remember to use the tools mentioned above to track your emails. Then use the five frameworks above, and come up with a subject line for each one.

A/B test your favorite two subject lines to smaller publications (less than 500K monthly unique visitors), and then use the winner on the top tier publications.

The frameworks above routinely result in a 50-80% open rate for our clients at our app promotion agency.

Steve Young

Founder at AppMasters
I started building apps in 2011 and my first app hit #8 under educational games. I started making a few hundred dollars a month, but had no idea what I was doing. Then in 2013 I decided to start a podcast so I could pick the brains of app creators that I admired including the co-founder of Shazam, Tapbots, Crossy Road, etc and that changed everything.

Now I run an app marketing agency where we’ve helped 28 clients get featured by Apple, 5X downloads with ASO, and get coverage on Techcrunch, Mashable, Venture Beat and other major publications. I also write about apps on The Next Web,, and on my blog