When writing a press release, even experienced public relations pros often get tripped up. Crafting a world-class headline can be a real struggle. So we reached out to some of the industry’s top experts in PR, marketing, and social media and asked them this one simple question:
“What’s your #1 proven tip for writing a press release headline?”
Below you’ll see what these experts said was their best tip for overcoming the challenge of writing a press release headline.
There needs to be a sense of shock & awe as media are deluged with press releases, pitches and alerts every day. It’s important to ensure that there is a mix of ‘what’s the news’ along with a catchiness that gets the reader to go beyond the headline, sub-head and first paragraph. In the Twitter sound-bite world we live in, the words used need to give the reader pause to catch up to the overall thoughts that are being conveyed.
Matt’s favorite headline: World’s First “Climate-Smart Beef” Is Touring LA November 13-15
Who is Matt? Matt Kovacs is President of California-based Blaze PR, which has offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. Blaze specializes in integrated PR, marketing, influencer and social media strategies.
When it comes to formulating a press release headline, think about what your main message is for the announcement. It’s not uncommon for a journalist to receive thousands of emails a day so you need to be clear and concise – because they may only see that first line. On the other hand, creative and attention-grabbing headers prove to get longer reads and in turn, more engagement and coverage. A balance of both fact and fun makes for a well-received headline.
Samantha’s favorite headline: Margaritaville Resort Orlando Releases New Vacation Cottage Rendering, Offering a Glimpse of Life in Paradise
Who is Samantha? Samantha Jacobs, Founder of Hemsworth Communications, a PR agency that specializes in the travel and leisure industry. She began her career at ABC News’ Good Morning America in New York City.
When deciding on a headline, try to put yourself in the mindset of a journalist and ask yourself why a journalist would care about the topic of your press release. The reason itself could be the critical element needed in the headline to capture the attention of the journalist. Reasons could include a popular industry trend, a controversial topic, a new innovation, or an important development within the journalist’s beat and/or regional or local coverage area.
Who is Liz? Liz Burke is Vice President of Account Services for digital marketing firm Didit, which has offices in New York and Massachusetts. Burke, who spent 10 years as an on-air TV reporter before turning to PR, has worked with clients including Delta Air Lines and Yahoo!
Would I read this headline if it popped up as the subject line of an email on my smartphone? Why? Because this is where the journalists and influencers you want to reach will first see that headline. If the headline doesn’t grab you so that it would stand out among a sea of unread emails on the small screen of a smartphone, you’ve lost the press release battle before it’s even begun.
Who is Paul? Paul Furiga is President and CEO of Pittsburgh-based WordWrite Communications. Furiga, who spent two decades as a journalist before going into PR, has worked with clients including Allstate and Pfizer.
First, use data and statistics. These instantly set a tone of credibility and speak to the specific information the journalist can learn more about in the release. Or, answer the top question you expect journalists to ask about the topic. Speak directly to the questions and then answer it in the release. A news release headline isn’t any different than any other type of headline. Your goal is to draw the journalist in and get them to bite, so to speak. It should be compelling, engaging, and speak to their needs.
Who is Gini? Gini Dietrich is the CEO of Chicago-based PR firm Arment Dietrich and founder and author of the popular website Spin Sucks, and the book with the same title. Her clients have included Ocean Spray, Sprint and Denny’s.
The very best headlines need to be a combination of the dramatic and the relevant. No one can ever top The Daily News and Post for accomplishing that goal in three or four words. And they do it every day. It’s a true art form in the hands of their editors. But, back to the keys: A headline MUST immediately stop a reader in her tracks because it’s immediately relevant to her, and her personal interests. It also has to contain a “surprise” element that elicits a response along the lines of, ‘Gee, I never knew that.’
Steve’s favorite headline: Tax Preparation Strategy: Take a Nap
Keep your press release headline succinct. It needs to capture the essence of the total announcement in one line. Be sure to include the company name that you’d like highlighted as some of your audience will only read the headline to determine if they’re interested or not. You also have the opportunity to include a sub-header which further supports the headline so be wise about what information you include in each.
Lindsey’s favorite headline: Cuddle+Kind to Double Meal Donations in Recognition of World Food Day 2017
Who is Lindsey? Lindsey Carnett is the CEO and President of Los Angeles-based Marketing Maven. Carnett, who’s been featured in the Forbes Most Powerful Women Business Leader issue, has had her copy appear on TheStreet.com, National Public Radio and in USA Today.
Traditionally, press release writing has been rather formulaic, stiff, and especially within the B2B universe, not surprisingly, corporate. Even if you are writing for a business audience, at the end of the day, you are writing for another human – Business2Human. Increasingly brands are aiming to make their press releases more relatable, both in context and tone of voice. At the end of the day, press releases are an opportunity to tell a story. The best headlines are short, simple and memorable. After you craft your headline, ask yourself, ‘Is this how a journalist would have introduced this story?’ If not, reconsider your headline.
Nicole’s favorite headline: Industrial Real Estate Set to Break Records in 2017
Who is Nicole? Nicole Stenclik is a Vice President at Evanston, Illinois-based content marketing and PR firm Akrete, which focuses on commercial real estate and financial services. Nicole has worked with clients including KeyBank, Metlife and Blackberry.
Make it newsworthy. Ask yourself, ‘What is new, first, different, innovative and surprising about this announcement?’ Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Objectively ask yourself if this nugget would pass muster with a top reporter. If not, start over.
Who is David? David Landis is President of San Francisco-based Landis Communications, a social media and digital PR agency. Landis Communications, which has been in business for almost three decades, was named #1 Small PR Firm by Ragan’s and has had clients including AT&T, Emirates Airline and Gap Inc.
Alex Armitage is co-founder of Publiqly, whose step-by-step systems help small and medium-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our blog posts directly in your inbox. Let me know in the comments section below what you think of these tips or if you have any headline-writing tips of your own.