The best example, and the one that will be referred to on more or less every PR course is ‘Man bites Dog’, as opposed, of course, to ‘Dog bites Man’.
The simple lesson in this is that any headline has to grab the attention. Many that we see in the tabloids are clever, or sometimes not so clever, plays on words, in the broad sheets simple facts, and in regional media and trade press factual but with an angle.
When addressing the question of ‘what is a good headline for my press release’, though, a different approach has to be taken.
The headline in a press release has one purpose….to hook a journalist who will be receiving a whole inbox of emails, all from businesses and agencies trying to get their stories picked up, and their brands profiled.
The headline in a newspaper or trade magazine is certainly there to draw your eye but is simply a part of the article. Of course, the tabloid journalists enjoy coming up with their clever plays on words, but these add nothing to the article and are simply an ego trip for the journalist. They certainly have no place as the heading in a press release.
So what are journalists looking for in a press release headline?
There are four rules to following building great headlines:
What do we mean by headline ‘Impact’?
Including recognised names and brands in a headline does two things. Firstly it highlights the release to any journalist with Google alerts set for specific names or words. And secondly it flags that there may well be an angle in the release that already has traction simply because of the ‘word’.
‘Business challenges Government’
Will always get looked at, simply because of the government connotation.
If we build onto this ‘Relevance’, is it just a ‘business’, or is there something more specific about the ‘business’. So if we extend the headline:
‘Female business owner challenges Government’
This brings another perspective to the potential story and will grab more attention still.
Then if we focus the release at those journalists that will grab it, we can add locality. So maybe it could read:
‘Female owned Yorkshire business challenges Government’
This now singles out those who almost certainly are going to take the story, even before they have read it. They are locally based, and keen to promote one of ‘theirs’ in the face of the government machine.
Consider one other rule though. That most journalists will first see the headline on their mobiles, where characters are limited. So keep it succinct and get the hit of the headline right at the start. With that in mind: ‘Government challenged by Yorkshire based female owned business’….and you have a great example of a press release headline.
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