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Press Release Hooks: How to Write Catchy Subjects, Headlines and Leads

Great Press Release HooksLet’s face it – a well-written press release means nothing if no one reads it. While quotes from C-Suite members and industry experts certainly enhance the credibility of your release, they do not amount to much if they end up in an email trash folder before they are read. In order to catch the attention of the decision-makers at news outlets, three areas need extra writing focus: the email subject line, the press release headline, and the lead paragraph.

Hook your readers and improve your open rate with these tips on press release starts:

Strong Subject Lines

Before any release is read, the receiver must decide if it is worthy of opening. Writing a specific, concise and interesting email subject line is the only way to make the cut. Think of the subject line-headline-lead paragraph connection as an inverted pyramid. Keep subject lines between five and seven words and choose the one most important takeaways from the release to include in it. Do not waste time on passive verbs like “shows” or “demonstrates” and avoid adjectives all together. Take a look at this progression from bad to best ways to write an email subject line for press releases:

Bad: XYZ Inc. is Going to Hire More People Just in Time for the Holidays

Better: XYZ Inc. Will Create 50 Spots as Part of Expansion

Best: XYZ Inc. To Hire 50 in November

Headline Hooks

Build upon the subject line with a flushed out headline. You still want to be concise – think between seven and nine words. Avoid boring verbs like “are” or “is” and write in an active voice. Remember that a headline is rarely a complete sentence; instead, think of it as a fragment that contains the strongest words of a larger thought. Specificity is also very important in a headline. Do not force an editor or reporter to search through the body of your press release to find the answers to big questions. If your company makes a donation to a charity, include the monetary amount or items in the headline. There are six things you should put in your press release to make it successful.  Below are some bad, better and best examples of press release headlines:

Bad: XYZ To Create Many Jobs in Area

Better: XYZ To Create 50 Local Jobs

Best: XYZ To Hire 50 People in Springfield in November

Leading Leads

If your subject line makes it past the automatic delete button, and your headline grabs at least the partial attention of a reader, then your lead needs to convince that reader to stick around for the rest of the release. While there is more space in a lead paragraph than a subject line or headline, avoid getting too flowery or overly wordy and just get to the point. A good rule of thumb is to pretend that all a news outlet has space to publish is the lead paragraph of a press release. Write the most specific details in the first paragraph then expand upon them throughout the rest of the space. Here are some examples of bad, better and best ways to write a lead paragraph:

Bad: In this tough economy, jobs are hard to come by. Many businesses are cutting back on full-time positions in an effort to save costs and improve bottom line. XYZ Incorporated is doing just the opposite, however.

Better: XYZ Incorporated is planning to hire people in an effort to improve the lives of families in the Springfield area. In November, 50 new full-time positions will be filled. The company makes auto parts for dealers throughout the world.

Best: XYZ Incorporated, an industry leader in auto parts manufacturing, will hire 50 people at its Springfield location in November. The hires come on the heels of a record-breaking sales year at XYZ. People that want to apply can attend a hiring fair Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the XYZ headquarters.

Some people find it easier to write the beginning of a press release after the “meat” of the release is complete, and others find writing the release in order helps with focus. Whatever your decision, take the time to perfect the subject, headline and lead paragraph before sending it off. Being creative can be hard, so it’s always good to read marketing quotes for a burst of inspiration.  Know that a little extra effort at the start will pay off in higher open rates and stronger responses from readers.

Megan Totka Chamber of CommerceMegan Totka is the Chief Editor for has one of the largest business directories on the web.  Megan also edits local news in over 30 markets.

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