How to write headlines
Published on July 23rd, 2012 by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
Robert Garrova, one of our Los Angeles editors, shows us how to write a headline that’s fun, eye-catching and, yes, SEO-friendly.
With everyone from experienced journalists to high school kids getting a deluge of news and information from feeds and email on their PCs, tablets, and even smartphones, the modern press release has to grab attention more than ever. But with massive amounts of information lighting up the web and flooding journalists’ inboxes, how do you get your press release to permeate the first layer and sink in its roots? A well written and strategized headline always helps. Here are five tips:
Keep the Context
While “Clothing Company Has New Eco-Friendly Line” may seem like a headline ready for publication in a fashion blog or the style section, you have to remember it hasn’t actually gotten there yet. Broad, general headlines like the above usually tend to get lost in the background. Uber-busy journalists are the ones who pick up your release and expand the reach of your content, and they are much more likely to spend time reading a release that gets right to the point of who, what, where, …well, you know. So, always keep the company name in your headline. Here’s a great one: American Giant Launches Line of Polo Shirts
The exception to always having the company name in the headline? Since a features press release is usually more for content marketing and will oftentimes serve as the unaltered, finished story that appears in search engines, news feeds and social media sites, the headline of a features release can be distributed without a company name and read a bit more vaguely. But features releases are a whole different blog post.
An effective headline should always reflect the content present in the rest of the press release too. When you write your headline, ask yourself: of the main news points that I am covering, which one would I tell my best friend about first?
Make It Active
In order to draw readers in, headlines should always incorporate active verbs. News never sleeps, so you want to keep your headline free of the past tense. For example: “Introduces” instead of “Introduced” / “Announces” rather than “Announced”
Keep It Real
It’s true the digital headline has to catch impatient eyes, but exclamatory headlines never get a good reaction from journalists and bloggers. Bold type yellow journalism headlines of old may have kept newspapers visible from across the street and helped them sell, but journalists and other readers of the modern press release aren’t interested in sensationalist headlines. Dropping the exclamation point and keeping your headline grounded will get it the serious attention it deserves.
If you find that your release has something truly bold to announce, maybe a surprising survey finding, an unbelievable statistic, or a scientific breakthrough, most readers will immediately ask: “Says who?” In this case, attributing statements right from the beginning — in the headline — will keep your announcement credible.
Is It Social?
If you do want your press release shared across the social web, take into consideration how easily journalists — and anyone else for that matter — can expand it across their network. A concise headline will help your content gain exposure in an atmosphere where attention spans are sometimes short. Putting the source or company name and SEO keywords in the headline will also increase its visibility and searchability across search engines and social media sites. Try to keep your headline under 140 characters to ensure readers can tweet it.
Have a Lot to Say?
If 140 characters just aren’t enough, expand on your main points in a subheadline. But remember to only use one subheadline, as search engines and most websites usually drop the second or third subheadlines.
Writing a headline that sticks in an age of information overload definitely requires more than just larger font. But if you use a little strategy when writing your headline, you can push your release to the top of its subject matter and journalists’ to-do lists. What’s more, the same search engines that make a daunting amount of information available will become a useful tool for getting your story found. We hope the tips above help you get started.