August 28, 2017
Comms Best Practices
/ by Susan Guillory
When it comes to getting more people to read your press release, nothing does the job better than a well-written headline. After all, it’s the first thing people see, and if it sucks, they won’t click it to read your release. On the other hand, a killer headline can attract journalists and customers alike to your release, where they can click back to your website. We polled PR and brand experts to get 10 amazing tips you can use to improve your press release headlines.
Envision your press release on the front page of a newspaper to determine if it’s newsworthy or not. Does the headline grab attention? If not, it probably needs some work.
Melissa L. James, marketing director at The Curtis Group, takes that idea one step further. She says writing your headlines as they’d look in a newspaper article can “show the reporter the article through his/her readers’ eyes.” This is a great strategy to appeal to journalists who you want to write about your news.
The style of your writing in the headline is as important as the words you use to attract readers. In general, passive voice takes readers out of the action and makes content less appealing. To engage your audience, use active voice. Brad Hem, account director at The Dialog Lab, also suggests avoiding “be” verbs.
“Get to the heart of what your press release is really about in the headline,” Carrie Winans, public relations officer for SmartSign says. It’s important to include the most interesting details there, “always prioritize statistics that prove the story is unique.” So, if your release talks about how you can reduce plaque by 48 percent — then use that statistic in the headline!
Judy Crockett, a retail management consultant, has had great luck using sensational or double-meaning headlines. “I worked with a jeweler that was having trouble earning the respect of his business colleagues. He spent a great deal on marketing and promotion,” she says. “Other business leaders in the downtown area where his store was located commented to each other that the jeweler would be ‘belly up’ with all this promotion. “So, I wrote a press release and sent it to the media with a photo. HEADLINE: ‘Jeweler Goes Belly Up.’ I included a photo of the jeweler lying on the floor of his store — belly up. Text: ‘Jimmy the Jeweler went belly up giving away one too many diamonds. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the store is giving away a one-karat diamond. Simply stop in and guess the “dead weight” of the jeweler.’ The media loved it and ran the story and photo. Several business members cut the press release out and brought it into the store — with a change of attitude.”
Dave Manzer, managing director of Dave Manzer PR & Marketing, encourages you to use strong language in your headlines. “No, I’m not recommending you use profanity in your headline! But you should choose language that paints a picture,” he says. Consider how you can add sizzle to your headline to get more clicks.
Christian Kendzierski, director of media relations at Mount Saint Mary’s University, says she boils her headline down to what journalists want to know. “I often will give my stories/pitches (or press releases) headlines that either give the writer their first question she or he would ask or give them the answer to their first question … so immediately the headline cuts through the wordage and gets to the meat of the story.”
“Don’t waste time trying to pick the perfect headline before you’ve even written the release,” says Cathy K. Hayes, principal/director of Crescendo-Public Relations Turned Up. “Write the story first, and then come up with the headline last,” she says. “This way you see the story as a whole, and you can better identify the most newsworthy title.”
Knowing your punctuation can make you a smarter headline writer. Mandy Bray, chief copywriter at Bohlsen Group, says the colon is great for press release headlines. “You want to include a snappy header, but you can’t leave readers in a state of mystery. Use a colon to transition from artful to exposition in a short space. Example: ‘When Nurses Unite: A call for leadership and advocacy in nursing.’”
Christine Blain, senior account executive at SHIFT Communications, says alliteration is a great way to get people to read your press release. “Employing this classic writing technique often results in a catchy headline that’s more likely to pique interest and stay in readers’ minds.”
The big challenge with your press release is to make sure that people read your headline and care about learning more. Anthony Kirlew, founder and chief strategist at Infinion Marketing, says, in your headline, you need to: “Answer the ‘who cares’ question. Many do not and therefore don’t get the desired exposure.”
Want to get the most out of your next press release? Download our Quick and Easy Guide to Sharing Your Press Release With the World.
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