A press release headline is the most valuable asset on the page. Other than the picture it’s what editors see first and, consequently, a headline should be targeted at editors, not readers (in almost all cases if the editor chooses to run with your press release they will change the headline). If the headline fails to get the editor’s attention, the press release will be deleted and not get read, let alone placed.
When writing a headline, wordplay, gimmicks and witticisms, while tempting, are probably best avoided. Everyone’s idea of what’s funny is different and and an attempt at humour can easily backfire. Furthermore, headlines of this kind rarely translate, so if an international audience is targeted, stick to the facts.
Quite rightly, length matters. Two or three words almost certainly won’t capture the essence of the story, while overlong headlines can’t be read quickly enough. In all cases, ‘tweet’ length (140 characters) should not be exceeded. Remember, when a press release is shared on social network platforms, it’s the headline that’s bang in the spotlight. Although of course ideally we would want a Tweet to be more focussed on the end user, but sometimes we don’t have that choice.
Unlike when press releases were issued in envelopes with a nice photograph, these days it is important to include the company name in the headline from the point of view of both editors and readers, and make sure that you are not including anything in the headline that isn’t covered in the first couple of paragraphs.
In terms of SEO, headlines inform search engines about on-page content. Additionally, many online news distribution service providers use the headline in the title tag on the web page hosting the press release (and by now we all know that the page title is one of the key elements in SEO). But take heed – there’s no need to cram keywords into a headline. This tactic is outdated and modern search engines are adept at recognising natural language.
Also it is sensible not to capitalise headlines as they may look OK on the press release (even if grammatically incorrect) but they certainly look odd if syndicated. Obviously completely CAPITALISED headlines look completely wrong and it has been proven that the eye can read upper and lower case words far more easily that those that are capitalised.
Incorporating figures is another good idea. For instance, statistics about performance data such as ‘100% faster, ‘50% savings’ or ‘25% improved’ all capture attention.
Last but certainly not least, always proofread the headline: no matter how many times the body text is proofed, the headline too often gets overlooked. We suggest the headline should be the last thing you write.
To see how you should be putting your press releases together have a look at our blog post “How to write a perfect press release.”
Or if you want more ideas for headlines and content get “75 ideas for content creation.”
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