Headlines change lives.
If you think I’m being dramatic, consider this: You could have the most interesting news in the world, but the world will pass it by if your press release has a boring headline.
Check out the difference between these two headlines:
1. A magnificent new treatment is being used in medicine for some awesome things!
2. Mayo Clinic doctors pioneer first cancer cure
Curing cancer is a big deal, but if you hide it behind headline No. 1, journalists won’t realize what they’re reading. The cure will stay hidden, and millions of people could suffer.
Maybe your press releases’ results aren’t quite that dramatic, but you get my point. A headline should succinctly tell a journalist what she’s about to read. It should also pique her or his interest, make her or him want to read more.
Here are some tips for writing headlines for real journalists:
1. Keep it short. Headlines should convey your message in 60-80 characters. If you can’t do that, you haven’t refined your hook enough. Tip: Use strong verbs, like “pioneer” in example No. 2 above.
2. Be specific. This headline is too general: “2015 best year yet.” Why is it the best year? This title may catch a journalist’s eye because she’s wondering what the heck you’re talking about, but it isn’t a great headline.
3. Avoid braggadocio. Words like “awesome” and “magnificent” in example No. 1 above add nothing to a press release. They make the press release look like a sales pitch. Stick to the facts.
4. Be interesting. Pinpoint the most interesting aspect of your news and highlight it in your headline. “Rex Corp hires new CEO” isn’t interesting. “Rex Corp promotes janitor to CEO” is.
5. Use interesting data. Data, numbers, records and percentages catch a journalist’s eye. Include them in headlines when you can. Consider these headlines:
“Medford Humane Society leads region in cat rescue”
“Medford Humane Society rescues record 5,423 cats this year”
6. Avoid jargon. What does “10 KPWs decimate local podapoda crop #1,089” mean? Remember, you’re writing for someone who likely has no knowledge of your industry. Keep your headline accessible. Try: “Mutant insects destroy 50% of local organic food supply.”
7. Send it to the right journalist. Write your headline for the right journalist. “New upgrade makes Kronobots 50% faster” may be big news in the Kronobot industry, but the editor of your local newspaper will likely have no clue what you’re talking about and trash your press release. Send niche news to niche journalists.