Thousands of press releases make the rounds on computer screens every day - milling around in editorial systems, emails, RSS feeds, and online news portals like a literary Times Square. Whether you post releases to your website or utilize a wire service, the challenge is this: How can you make your content stand out from the crowd?
In my opinion, the headline is the most important aspect of a press release and falls under the “you never get a second chance to make first impression” category. After all, if you can’t persuade someone to open your release they can’t really read it, can they?
A headline should be compelling, it should succinctly state the theme of your release, and it should make someone want to know more. That’s it. The sub headline and body of text should have the honor of going into detail.
So what can you keep in mind when crafting your releases for a company newsroom or for online distribution?
Write a headline that is keyword rich. You know your audience. What terms or phrases will catch their attention and make them want more info? Think “hot buttons.” It is your release vs. everyone else’s.
For online releases, the headline becomes the page title. The headline becomes the press release’s page title in the HTML source code. This is one of the pieces of content that search engines use to index your press release. According to SEOmoz’s most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors, keyword usage in the page title is the #1 positive factor in search engine rankings.
Google only displays the first 63 characters of a headline. I use Google as an example, as they own a majority of search market share. I’m not saying that you should make all headlines 63 characters - just try to front-load your headline with the most valuable part of your headline so the important stuff is visible in search engine results pages (SERPs). Yahoo! shows 120-characters, in case you’re curious.
Headline creation should take you a long time. Between picking key terms that will attract your audience, coming up with a succinct way to describe what your readers can expect from your release, and considering what your readers will see should they stumble across your release in SERPs, you have a project on your hands. In the end, it will be worth it.
Your headline is the first thing people will see, and it is the key to having a release that’s read vs. one that isn’t. It also is someone’s first impression of your release.
Make it a good one.
- Show your headline to a friend, family member, etc. and ask if they find the headline to be compelling and if they can tell what the gist of the release is going to be about. This might not work with "drier" financial release headlines or "Person A Joins Company X" but it helps to get an outside opinion.
- Think like your reader. You know your audience better than anyone else. Change perspectives and look at your release from the shoes of your consumer, partners, or Joe Web Surfer. You might find yourself in edit mode after you do so.