Let’s start with what you’re unlikely to use as an effective headline unless you’re someone who can get away with anything in your organisation or you’re writing for a joke magazine. Do you think they are effective headlines?
- “Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike says”
- “One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers”
- “Psycic predicts world didn’t end yesterday”
- “Police raid gun shop, find weapons”
Moving on from the jokes, the most common element that’s mentioned in the writing of effective press releases is the headline of the release itself. It’s the single thing that sets the scene for your release, grabs the attention (or doesn’t) of the reader to pique their interest and sums up the release in a few words so that the reader can judge the value of reading the release against the time it’ll take.
So, inevitably the headline or title as it’s sometimes called is the most important item that you need to get right when you have a media release that is ready to go out to the public.
Across the items shown in how to write a press release we see the need for an effective press release headline showing up across all of the articles that discuss what you need to spend the time on and get right for the best exposure possible.
What will grab the attention of your target audience?
Overall the user of a “grabber” headline is the common consensus where it’s used to grab the readers attention and pull them in to the story. When aiming for a grabber headline, you really do need to know who your target market is for the release as it needs to be something that will specifically grab the audience you’re looking for.
As an example, you’ll have very different audiences who will react to a headline that touts the amazing benefits of an ageing skin cream in comparison to one that offers the best hacks for the latest Xbox360 game.
There’s no better way to find this out than to complete some (even basic) testing of the headline on a few people that are within your target market. If the press release is aimed at teenagers then you’re going to need to have at least a couple of teenagers see the headline and tell you that it’s something that would interest them through the bombardment of communication they receive on a daily basis.
Can your brand use sensationalism?
Using a sensationalist headline in a media release can have an excellent impact on the readership however it shouldn’t be used in every situation.
You will need to consider whether or not your brand and your readers are comfortable with sensationalism and if your release is actually going to back up whatever claim you’re making with some form of legitimacy beyond just pure hype.
A sensationlist headline can also improve the chance of editorial staff picking it up and deciding to publish it widely as it has more potential to stand out from the crowd of headlines that they see every day in their inbox. This has a lot more potential to work if it’s a particularly slow news day and even more so if the news is related to something else of public interest that is happening at the time, so timing of the PR can be as important as how sensational it is.
If you do use a sensational headline or title, remember to include it in the subject line of the email that’s being sent out to the news desks as that may be all they see to get their attention.
As above, the most important thing with using sensational headlines is the ability to back up the headline with content that’s relevant and actually covers the sensational angle otherwise your own PR could end damaging your brand as it’s seen as pure marketing hype with no substance.
Have you double checked for hidden meanings?
It might sound like a very simplistic thing however there are many cases where a piece of material has gone live to print or online and the press headline could be construed in completely the wrong way. The only real way to check this is to have other people you trust read over the press release and see if they notice anything that you haven’t.
As we talked about above, unless you’re looking to grab the wrong kind of attention the headlines must be well thought out.
All of the thoughts above are ideas that you can use to assess your press release headline however in the end you should be the one who knows both your target market the best so you should be in the best position to see what’s like to grab their attention, whether it’s through sensational marketing or not.