How to Write Better Press Release Headlines

Mar 9, 2010   //   by Mickie Kennedy   //   Press Releases, SEO Blog  //  34 Comments

What’s the most important factor that determines whether your press release gets read by an editor or thrown away? It’s the headline. With editors and journalists receiving hundreds of press releases each day, they typically scan over the headlines to determine which ones seem interesting enough to read fully.

With that in mind, your goal is to write a powerful headline that sucks cynical editors and journalists in, making them want to learn more about your story. This gives your press release the best chance of getting picked up, earning your company valuable coverage.

Here are some tips to write better press release headlines.

  • Strive for being clear rather than clever—Don’t write your headline to impress other writers by showing how “clever” you are. Editors are only concerned with trying to figure out what your story is about. Your press release headline should clearly reflect what’s covered in the body of your press release. Focus on answering as many of the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions in your headline as possible.

    Here’s a little test you can run to determine if your headline is clear enough or not. Send just the headline to several friends. Ask them to describe what they think the rest of the story is about. If they can’t make a decent guess, it’s probably time to rewrite your headline.

  • Make sure the headline is accurate—Don’t try to trick editors into reading your press release by misleading them in your headline. A misleading headline might grab their attention for a moment, but it will lead to them getting upset when they find out you’ve duped them. This will cause you to lose all credibility, and it will burn any potential relationships you have with the media.
  • Ditch the hype—Sure, the goal of press release distribution is to build brand awareness and to create a buzz around your brand. However, that doesn’t mean you should treat your press release like an advertisement for your products and services. It’s not. So, your headline shouldn’t sound like Billy Mays (RIP) wrote it. By all means, be interesting, but above all else, be factual and straightforward.
  • Lists work—There’s no denying it: List headlines just work. You see them on blogs, magazine covers, and in newspapers. The reasons lists work are because they clearly describe what the story is about, are easy to scan through quickly, and can create controversy and debate.

    So, when you’re thinking of an angle for your press release, try to find a way to structure it in list form. I think you’ll find it gets a lot more attention than most other headline formats.

  • Keep it short—If you can’t get the main idea across in about 10 words or less, you don’t have a good enough grasp on what your message really is. Remember, the reporters and editors you’re sending your press release to are in a hurry. They’ll likely only give you a few seconds of their attention, so you need to get your message across quickly. Focus on creating concise headlines that clearly deliver your message. Write several different versions of your headline to find the perfect combination of brevity and clarity.
  • Include the targeted keyword—Never forget the importance of optimizing your press release. The search engines tend to favor press releases, giving them high rankings for the targeted keywords. Always try to get your main keyword in the headline, and whenever possible, place it toward the front of the headline.

Do you use press releases to spread the word about your business? How have your press release marketing efforts helped your business? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here: press release samples

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Comment Policy

  • Imran Anwar says:

    This is a sensible and useful collection of smart things to do when writing press releases. Thanks for sharing.

    Imran

  • Imran Anwar says:

    This is a sensible and useful collection of smart things to do when writing press releases. Thanks for sharing.

    Imran

  • Larissa Glueck says:

    Thank you Mickie this article is very helpful. I will get back to it when I write the next press release. Short and clear it sums everything up.

    Larissa

  • Larissa Glueck says:

    Thank you Mickie this article is very helpful. I will get back to it when I write the next press release. Short and clear it sums everything up.

    Larissa

  • Jimvesting says:

    Are press releases even a good idea though? I have heard from many now-successful businesses that the money they spent on PR releases was just plain not worth it. I had been planning on putting out some material myself, but have been really held in check by people telling me it would be a bad idea.
    .-= Jimvesting´s last blog ..Welcome to the New Face of The Net Fool… Jimvesting dot com! =-.

  • Jimvesting says:

    Are press releases even a good idea though? I have heard from many now-successful businesses that the money they spent on PR releases was just plain not worth it. I had been planning on putting out some material myself, but have been really held in check by people telling me it would be a bad idea.
    .-= Jimvesting´s last blog ..Welcome to the New Face of The Net Fool… Jimvesting dot com! =-.

  • Most people put their toes in the water using free or low-cost providers that never hit a true newswire. For those people, much of the money spent was a true waste of money. A true newswire of press releases, like PR Newswire and Businesswire, sends your press release nationally directly to newsrooms, journalists’ terminals, thousands of RSS feeds, and hundreds of websites. If you look at the testimonials on our website, including links to the press releases that generated the press, you will see that many tens of millions of dollars were generated $399 at a time. That’s the power of PR. However, press releases require two things: a commitment to a series of press releases (not a single, magic bullet) and a strong writer who can craft newsworthy press releases the media find engaging. Much of the dribble tire-kickers put out will not attract media attention.

  • Most people put their toes in the water using free or low-cost providers that never hit a true newswire. For those people, much of the money spent was a true waste of money. A true newswire of press releases, like PR Newswire and Businesswire, sends your press release nationally directly to newsrooms, journalists' terminals, thousands of RSS feeds, and hundreds of websites. If you look at the testimonials on our website, including links to the press releases that generated the press, you will see that many tens of millions of dollars were generated $399 at a time. That's the power of PR. However, press releases require two things: a commitment to a series of press releases (not a single, magic bullet) and a strong writer who can craft newsworthy press releases the media find engaging. Much of the dribble tire-kickers put out will not attract media attention.

  • Alex Sysoef says:

    I think headline will depend on the purpose of your PR. If you are writing it for SEO mainly – then approach might be slightly different and I would suggest inclusion of the main keywords :-)
    .-= Alex Sysoef´s last blog ..SEO Blogger – Firefox Extention For Simpler Keyword Research =-.

  • Alex Sysoef says:

    I think headline will depend on the purpose of your PR. If you are writing it for SEO mainly – then approach might be slightly different and I would suggest inclusion of the main keywords :-)
    .-= Alex Sysoef´s last blog ..SEO Blogger – Firefox Extention For Simpler Keyword Research =-.

  • Chris Norton says:

    Interesting – I have been working in PR for more than 11 years and I think the role of the headline is changing. This is due to the newswires and the SEO benefits of having a news headline that people will search for. I think as pracitioners we now have to balance the headline (hook) with what will be searched for. If you can combine the two – you are certainly on to a winner. Especially if you are writing a social media news release.
    .-= Chris Norton´s last blog ..My Twitter application launches in beta in 7 days =-.

  • Chris Norton says:

    Interesting – I have been working in PR for more than 11 years and I think the role of the headline is changing. This is due to the newswires and the SEO benefits of having a news headline that people will search for. I think as pracitioners we now have to balance the headline (hook) with what will be searched for. If you can combine the two – you are certainly on to a winner. Especially if you are writing a social media news release.
    .-= Chris Norton´s last blog ..My Twitter application launches in beta in 7 days =-.

  • Thank you for a wonderful article. I'll be sending out another press release soon – if I send that out, do I still need to send out press kits? Or would that be redundant?

    • Press kits can be useful or they can be a distraction. I find press kits more useful when your client is smaller (less well known) and their press room is lacking in resources and information. However, for many clients, a strong press room has taken the place of the press kit. Exceptions include physical press kits that might contain things like high-res photos (fashion and art) and music (where you don't mind sharing albums with journalists but don't want the music available for free online).

  • Thank you for a wonderful article. I’ll be sending out another press release soon – if I send that out, do I still need to send out press kits? Or would that be redundant?

    • Press kits can be useful or they can be a distraction. I find press kits more useful when your client is smaller (less well known) and their press room is lacking in resources and information. However, for many clients, a strong press room has taken the place of the press kit. Exceptions include physical press kits that might contain things like high-res photos (fashion and art) and music (where you don’t mind sharing albums with journalists but don’t want the music available for free online).

  • Tia Dobi says:

    Superb. As a direct response copywriter and publicist, I can’t be reminded enough of what Mickie Kennedy teaches us here.

    Simply, the truth well told.

    Thank you for that.

    Tia Dobi, Hypnotic writing and niche marketing that sells more
    Publicist, Social Media Success Summit 2010 w/Guy Kawasaki,Mari Smith & the Dream Team of Social Media
    http://www.smss2010.com

  • Tia Dobi says:

    Superb. As a direct response copywriter and publicist, I can't be reminded enough of what Mickie Kennedy teaches us here.

    Simply, the truth well told.

    Thank you for that.

    Tia Dobi, Hypnotic writing and niche marketing that sells more

    Publicist, Social Media Success Summit 2010 w/Guy Kawasaki,Mari Smith & the Dream Team of Social Media
    http://www.smss2010.com

  • I always struggle with things like this. It seems like such a simple thing but can make a big difference, so I always find myself spending alot of time trying to think up decent Headlines!

  • I always struggle with things like this. It seems like such a simple thing but can make a big difference, so I always find myself spending alot of time trying to think up decent Headlines!

  • leon lewis says:

    Yes, yes, are team writes a lot of articles and i know we should be doing press release. Every where i look people rave about press releases bring them tons of traffic and backlinks im going to talk with are team about starting to create them. nice reminder of what i need to get handled right away.

    LL
    affordable web page design
    .-= leon lewis ´s last blog ..Home =-.

  • leon lewis says:

    Yes, yes, are team writes a lot of articles and i know we should be doing press release. Every where i look people rave about press releases bring them tons of traffic and backlinks im going to talk with are team about starting to create them. nice reminder of what i need to get handled right away.

    LL

    affordable web page design
    .-= leon lewis ´s last blog ..Home =-.

  • Thank you for the great article.

  • Thank you for the great article.

  • audre says:

    I’m glad to find someone advising to write clear vs. clever headlines, especially for the web. It seems to work will with using keyword phrases to optimize press releases.

    Thanks for the informative post!

  • Utkarsh says:

    Well, thanks a lot for this informative post.
    Will definitely help new people like me.

  • Utkarsh says:

    Well, thanks a lot for this informative post.

    Will definitely help new people like me.

  • Leah Dubyk says:

    Press Releases are not supposed to be advertisements but they are all written by the product or service provider and read like advertorials.

    Wouldn’t it be a better practice to have a 3rd party write an unbiased press release or is that what a review is?

    It’s just so difficult not to “sell” when I try and write one – ah, that must be what professional writers are for – I think I got it now!

  • Leah Dubyk says:

    Press Releases are not supposed to be advertisements but they are all written by the product or service provider and read like advertorials.

    Wouldn't it be a better practice to have a 3rd party write an unbiased press release or is that what a review is?

    It's just so difficult not to "sell" when I try and write one – ah, that must be what professional writers are for – I think I got it now!

  • Aziz says:

    This is very great article…
    Web Analytics Hertfordshire

  • Free Press Release says:

    Press releases are a great way to get needed eyes onto your product, service and/or website. But not all press release services are built equal – especially so for free ones. Most free ones are little more than link farms as they will publish anything on their service. So after you adhere to the article's points don't waste the good effort with a poor press release service.

  • Guest says:

    I have been working fine. Great content of your posted article. Waiting for a hope of new work.

  • Tearless says:

    Press releases are quite a successful venture. However, it really just depends on your experience. If you don't do things properly, you'll just be wasting your time without much (or any) benefit at all. These distribution tips are right on. Here are some more promotion ideas you should be consider when writing and distributing press releases.

  • Praverb says:

    The key to writing press releases I believe begins with the audience. Once the audience is targeted then the writer can use these tips.