Hitting The Headlines

 January 23, 2013

For the most important part of any press release, not as much thought goes into the headline as it should. Writers put so much effort into their work that they stop short from advertising their excellence in the most prominent part!

Time is of the essence for most readers so headline skimming is a preferred reading method – if you lose them here, it’s unlikely they will read on much further.  With that in mind, here’ are 12 useful tips to get you the best headlines to bring even more readers to your release!

1. Summarize the story
Give the people what they want! The story right away that is. A headline should provide t a summary of the news angle, story etc. Be descriptive but concise.  In fact, flip it and try writing the headline before the story – this will set out the foundations and allow you to fill in the gaps.

2. Be creative
An intriguing or funny headline is worth its weight in gold. Anything to draw the readers in is critical and as a writer, this is where you can show off your storytellIing abilities. You only get one shot at grabbing their attention so give it your best one.

3. Say no to #hashtags.
If you think you’re killing two birds with one stone by writing a headline for Twitter with a hashtag, think again. A headline with a hashtag is unappealing anywhere apart from Twitter. Besides, Twitter is not the only channel for sharing. Other channels don’t use hashtags to capture topics, so why use one – it signals lazyness and your social media savvy audience will pick up on it immediately.

4. @Name dropping.
While you may love certain celebrities, authors, clients or friends that you are following or connected to – your readers may not know who they are so a @name in the headline is as bad as a #hashtag for precisely the same reasons.

5. Use more than one or two words.
Even if you are writing for a blog or social media – two word headlines are simply unacceptable. Yes the content and writing may be fantastic but it might not be enough to get them to read it. If the reader thinks you could not be bothered to produce a decent headline, then why should they be bothered to read it?

6. Be tasteful – most of the time
SEX! Now I’ve got your attention never do this in a release unless you want your audience to think you are unimaginative and immature. Most writers have a wider vocabulary than the average reader for a reason – so use it and do not resort to cheap thrills or titillation. There are always exceptions that prove the rule but that’s what they are – exceptions.

7. Keep it simple.
While you want more than two or three words in your headline, you don’t want a paragraph either. Any more than three lines and your reader starts to lose interest so keep it short, sweet, simple and to the point.

8. Keep keywords to a minimum.
Never overdo keyword littering in a headline. It stands out like a sore thumb, tech-savvy readers will pick up on it and worse they will then assume that the content to be written for search engine optimization (SEO) juicing, too. Everybody wants to boost their search results but do it the right way or else risk getting a reputation as a spammer.

9. Use active voice
Active is always better than passive – especially when it comes to headlines. Write a how-to headline, or one that includes an action verb. Here’s an example: “How to change your oil in half the time.” Not only does that title tell me I’m going to learn how to do something, it also tells me I can do it efficiently.

10. Ignore first-person pronouns.
It’s them not I when it comes to headlines – unless the audience knows you personally and you are famous. If not, then do without.

11. Don’t sell.
There is plenty of room in a release to extoll the benefits of a product or service – but please not in the headline. Your release will come across like one of those sweaty, used car dealers you see on TV late at night. There’s no easier way to alienate readers than buy screaming BUY! BUY! BUY! at them.

12. Know your audience.
Who is your release aimed at? Women? Mothers? mechanics? writers? No matter who your chosen crowd, choose words and that will appeal to them and their interests. Nobody knows them better than you do – and if you don’t then you should!

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