With over 2 million blog posts being published on the Internet every day, grabbing the attention of your target audience isn’t going to be a walk in the park. That’s why a well-thought-out headline is the most critical aspect of your press release, irrespective of the magnitude of the actual news.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes as the best headline. Is it the length, the placement of words, the punctuation, the SEO optimization, or the format that can make or break a headline? Of course, there are several aspects to a well-written headline and a great one is the perfect blend of all these factors. Simply put, it is saucy, free of typos and punctuation mistakes, optimized for SEO, and explicitly resonates the context of your press release without giving away too much.
Though difficult, creating compelling headlines for press releases on a regular basis is achievable. Let’s begin by understanding the various factors to consider before creating a well-crafted headline.
Factors to Be Considered before Writing a Headline
The process of creating engaging headlines begins with considering the following factors.
One of the most important factors to consider is the relevance of your headline to the target audience. Delivering what your audience wants is a surefire way to get their attention. So, make sure to look into your target audience’s demographics to understand what kind of headlines they would like.
The next important factor is the goal of your press release. The headline will change depending on what you want to convey to the target audience. Whether you would like to inform them of your new product, media event, management change, or donation to a charity, make it explicitly clear in the title itself. In other words, avoid writing misleading or vague headlines.
In the case of the first headline, the title is vague and incomplete. The second one, however, clearly describes what the press release is going to say.
Publishing Channel or Platform
The type of publishing channel or platform usually determines the length of your title. The character limit for a tweet is 140. However, an average URL takes up to 23 characters, which leaves you with just 116 characters to frame your headline. According to SEO experts, the optimal title length for Facebook is just 40 characters, while the character limit for a post title on LinkedIn is 80-120 words. In short, you should take the publishing channel into account before creating a headline.
The title should provide context for the information you are going to share with your target audience. Nothing puts off readers like titles and paragraphs that are out of sync. Before finalizing your headline, look at it in the context of the rest of the page. The bottom line is, everything from the title to the conclusion of the press release should come together nicely.
When it comes to digital PR, the press release title, as well as the main body, needs to be SEO-friendly to get maximum exposure. Use the target keyword in the best possible manner so that the title is both, search engine-friendly and enticing. However, for better results, try to place the keyword at the beginning of your headline.
Length of the Headline
As mentioned earlier, the optimal length of the headline will vary from platform to platform. However, search engines usually display 50-60 characters of the headline before cutting it off. So, if you don’t want it to get cut off in the search engine results, you’ll be better off keeping the length to less than 60 characters.
Analyze All the Factors
Make sure to analyze all the above factors before finalizing the headline. Don’t be afraid to tweak it until you are happy with the outcome. It is better to come up with 3-4 alternatives so that you can pick the most appealing headline in case the original one isn’t working.
How to Write Effective Headlines?
Now that you have understood the factors to consider before creating engaging headlines, let’s see how to make the actual magic happen.
The correct placement of words is perhaps the most important aspect of creating well-crafted headlines. Even the most powerful words can prove to be useless if they are placed haphazardly in a sentence.
Headline Before: ABC Housing Launches That Big Dream Property Gala in Stapleton
What’s wrong with this one? Well, for starters, it sounds awful; almost as if the writer just grabbed a bunch of random words from his pocket and threw them on paper. That’s why ShareThrough’s headline analyzer gave it a below average score of just 67 out of 100.
Headline After: Grab Your Dream House: ABC Housing Launches the Biggest Property Gala in Stapleton
See, how a simple rearrangement of words can turn a poorly-crafted headline into an exciting and meaningful one? The score is up from 67 to 77.
A press release is an official document published by your business. That’s why you must take extra precaution to follow proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar throughout the press release, starting from the headline.
- Make sure to follow the Chicago Manual of Style as most reporters follow it religiously.
- Avoid using proper names or abbreviations unless they are well-known. Mention a copyrighted or trademarked brand name with proper citations as well.
- Use a colon to combine two sentences and signal a close connection between them.
- You can replace conjunctions such as ‘and’ and ‘but’ with a comma. However, it is better to use the actual word unless the headline is too long.
Power words pique readers’ curiosity and trigger a strong emotional response from them. So, using them in the press release title makes sense. They include words such as “secrets”, “amazing”, “shocking”, “free”, and “guarantee”, among others.
Headline Before: XYZ Presents a Webinar on Marketing Techniques and Tools
Headline After: XYZ Presents a New Webinar on Modern Marketing Techniques and Tools
Which headline do you think will attract more attention? Just adding two power words, “New” and “Modern” resulted in almost 20% increase in headline quality score.
Formats of Headlines
Based on the points discussed so far, the headlines can be classified into several different types as follows.
They are the most common headlines. Usually, there is no use of numbers or questions in these headlines. They are often used to convey your topic to your audience directly.
These headlines usually include a newsworthy story about your product, services, milestones, competitions, gala, or charity events.
This is perhaps one of the most popular types of headlines used in blogs. However, PR pros can also use headlines starting with “How to” to attract readers.
Adding a number to your headline can significantly improve trust and engagement. People are always attracted to concrete facts and numbers.
Why and Reason
This type of headline usually works best when you can tell your readers why they should take a particular action. In other words, they motivate your target audience to try something different or new.
You can include a question relevant to your industry or discuss the issue in your PR. However, avoid using this type of headline unless you can provide a satisfactory answer to the said question.
These headlines can invoke an actionable response from your audience. Usually, they begin with actionable verbs such as “stop”, “don’t”, “fill”, “open”, “go”, and “find”.
Though a press release is an official document, you can use a funny headline. However, avoid making it too funny to be effective.
If you have a product, service or advice that promises to resolve an issue that your audience faces regularly, this is the best way to create a headline.
You can also mention the benefits of your product, service or a new offer in the headline to instantly grab your readers’ attention.
However, before selecting a particular format, you should try at least 3-4 of them to see which works the best. After all, a catchy headline must also be relevant. Here are a couple of examples that will help you understand how to balance the above factors in a headline.
When Dunkin Donuts decided to use ‘Order Ahead’, a new feature of the real-time crowd-sourced traffic and navigation app called Waze, they decided to announce it with this press release. The headline is perhaps the most engaging part of this PR. It piques your interest, wanting you to read the story. The main body of the press release describes how Dunkin customers can use this new feature to place their order in advance and save time along with a mention of the various offers they can avail in a crisp manner. The language maintains a professional tone but, is still engaging.
Fitbit took a different approach to highlight the best features of their products. They used a press release to publish the results of an independent study which shows that Fitbit heart rate tracking devices can accurately track different sleep stages.
Nothing works like sending out a press release comprising hard data to reveal the unique advantages of your product or service. The content mainly focuses on the study and its outcomes so that the press release doesn’t look like a promotional blog post.
When it comes to writing a viral press release, it all boils down to a great headline. In fact, headlines are as important as the main body of a PR. That’s why you should pay more attention to them. Unfortunately, their importance is often overlooked by most PR professionals. However, after reading this post, you will learn to create attention-grabbing headlines and get the media coverage your business deserves. Feel free to share your tips and ideas in the comments section below.
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of PRmention.com.