Wait, did I really just say that the headline for your press release is the most important part of your press release?
Yes, and I stand by that opinion.
Here are eReleases we rewrite hundreds of headlines for our clients every year. Why? Because the headlines they write oftentimes don’t do the job a headline is supposed to do. Our professional editors, because they’ve done this hundreds of times, can usually see how to rewrite it to make it better (one of the key reasons why you should consider having your press release distributed by eReleases instead of other services or trying to do it yourself.)
Headlines for a press release are different than the headline in a blog post or the subject line of an email. They are not primarily designed to break out and attract attention, though a good one does that. Instead, they are designed to quickly tell the reader (in this case, a journalist, what your story is about and why it is newsworthy for their audience.
Mystery headlines, headlines that are salesy, headlines filled with superlatives (awesome, amazing, best, etc.) are not appropriate for press releases.
Journalists are incredibly busy and typically have to scan dozens, even hundreds of press releases in just a few minutes to determine if any should be considered further.
Most of the time, they are only reading the headline of each press release. If yours doesn’t create a positive impression, the rest of your press release will never be read, much less do you any good.
A great press release starts with a hook, something that tells the journalist this is newsworthy and interesting enough to be worth pursuing further.
That hook is then supported by the subheading, if you have one, and by the rest of the body of your story.
Think of your hook as the statement made by a news broadcaster just before they go into a commercial to get you to wait through the commercial to see what that story is about.
My very first journalism teacher used to ask the question – “what is the purpose of the headline?” The answer he was seeking was “to pull the reader into reading the first sentence of your story. “And what,” he’d follow up with, “is the purpose of the first sentence of your story?” The answer was “to pull the reader into reading the second sentence of your story.”
This applies to press releases too. Your press release headline begins the process of setting the hook, pulling them into the story, which is then followed up throughout the rest of the story.
The ideal length of a headline is 60-80 characters. I realize it may be tough to do everything else in this list of headline requirements in that short length, but hundreds of press releases do it every day!
The job of a journalist is to convey facts, editorials are written by other people in the organization. They’ve been trained to recognize the difference between facts and opinions since their very first class in news writing, and any hint of opinion in a headline will usually cause a journalist to stop reading immediately and go on to the next story.
A statistic, though not required, can be an incredibly powerful addition to a headline.
Sometimes it’s tough, because there are terms in most industries that say in a single word what takes a sentence or two to explain to a normal human being. But, unless your press release will only be read by journalists and audiences of people in your trade who know the meaning of that jargon without explanation, those terms should not be used.
Earlier I referenced my first journalism teacher. So I might as well hark back to an assignment he had us do at least 5 times during that course, an exercise that I still regularly do to this day:
Writing great press release headlines is a skill that doesn’t come naturally, and certainly not from reading a list of 8 attributes of a powerful press release headline.
That skill comes from practice.
And one of the best forms of practice is to take any story and write 50 different headlines for a press release to promote that story.
I literally still do this exercise to this day, even after years of writing headlines. Why?
Because here’s what happens. Your brain thinks it understands this story and what will work to get it covered.
But your brain is almost always wrong.
So the first headline you write will be OK at best.
Your second will probably be a bit better.
Your third will be much worse, the same with your fourth.
After five you’ll want to quit, and most writers do. That’s why they rarely succeed.
But when you keep going, and push through that frustration and pain, somewhere around headline number 15, something interesting will flow from your fingers.
And that will trigger creative thoughts, most bad, but somewhere around headline number 22, true brilliance emanates from your brain, your fingers will capture it.
And there you’ll have your headline, your story hook, and the foundation of a great press release!
Try it, it works!
Here are some additional resources to help your press releases shine and get the pickup you desire:
Article: Get Shy Press Release Headlines to Get Up & Be Noticed – which not only trains, it shows examples of a “normal” headline and how it was rewritten to become an amazing headline.
Service: Let Us Write Your Press Release For You – if you’re struggling with writing a press release, our staff of professional editors can write it for you for as little as $300 when combined with our press release distribution service.
Service: Press Release Distribution Services – eReleases specializes in getting your press releases into the hands of a large number of targeted journalists and influencers who are actively looking for stories like yours, at a great price.