How To Write Press Release Headlines People Actually Read

Posted by Pamela Keniston


Learn how to write a perfect headline that builds a bridge to getting your press release read and noticed!

Learn how to write a perfect headline that builds a bridge to getting your content read and noticed!

Every day, more than 1,000 press releases are distributed. There's one little problem. No one reads them. Yet, one small fix can make a big difference. That small fix is creating a headline that people actually want to read.

According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people read headline copy. However, only 2 will proceed to read the body. This highlights the need for attention-grabbing headline. Ready to create an unsinkable headline? 


The Perfect Formula for Potent Press Release Headlines 

There are a few tried and true ingredients to make your headline a success. A pinch of each of these tips will go a long way to getting your headline (and release) noticed. 

 1. Make it Short and Sweet

 Long headlines get truncated in many readers and search engines. Plus, readers and search engines aren't the only ones who get bored with long titles. An engaging headline that hooks readers provides an immediate scope of the release's content.

 The most important information that you want to convey should be placed near the top of the release and under a bold heading. This makes it easy for readers to scan your piece and eliminates any overwhelm. 

Try this: Keep it to a hundred characters or less for optimal text appeal. 


People need to look at your headline and get an immediate idea for what your release is all about Tweet: People want to look at your headline and get an immediate idea for what your release is all about @wendymarx TO TWEET

 2.  Make it Twitter Friendly

This concept falls in line with keeping it short. However, your social media audience is ever more conscious and appreciative of tight wording. When you create your headline, make sure it will be easy to promote on social media. 


Even with Twitter's extended character limit, the best press release headlines -- and the ones that get the most results -- are short and succinct. This encourages readers to share and add their own comment to your headline, increasing your visibility.

3. Make it Powerful

Using passive voice can be... well.... kind of... weak. You get the idea.

The truth is: Using passive voice weakens your message (That's better, right?).  Active voice writing is much more powerful and makes you sound like a leader.

Impressive numbers are another great way to boost your press release's power.

For example, XYZ Startup Secures $100 Million to Create New Jobs in Tough Economy carries more weight than simply XYZ Startup Promises to Create New Jobs for Local Economy.

Hard stats and figures give your press release authority. Simple words like "huge" and "a lot" have power, but are relative. What is big to you might be minuscule in comparison to another company. If you have numbers, such as amounts, dollars, or percentages that show the scale of your news, use them.

4. Make it Emotional 

Even the most hard-core executive has an emotional side. It's just plain human nature. And those emotions are what move people to react to your press release.

Tap into your readers’ psyches by creating headlines that elicit emotions such as humor, anger, and curiosity. 

Choose language that paints a picture for your audience, and makes an impact. Never use profanity, but convey a strong, clear message.

For example, XYZ's New Software Makes Your Money Safer Than Ever Before is better than XYZ Rolls Out New Software to Improve Banking Protocols. The former headline creates personal value and stirs up feelings of confidence and curiosity.

5. Make it the Last Thing You Do

Some may argue this point saying your headline sets the tone for your release. However, after you create your release, you'll have a better overall picture of the message you want to present and the feeling you want to create.

Make your headline the last thing you create and you'll see how to better incorporate your thoughts into one well-honed headline.

Create several variations of your headline and select your final choice based on responses from team members, keeping in mind company goals and values. 

6. Make it Trendy

Use keywords in your headline that are popular on social networks. In other words, be aware of the terminology that is commonly used. If you often use the term B2B Public Relations, but hashtags on Twitter are using B2B PR, then make sure you use the more common version in your headline. 

If possible, tie your news to a popular personality in the industry or a hot current event. This makes your news more trendy by association. For example, if you're announcing an upcoming industry conference, see if you can get an industry expert as a speaker. Highlighting the expert's special appearance at your event will garner needed attention. 

That said, keep an eye on what’s trending in your industry. As this article from Buzzsumo points out, simply copying a B2C formula for a headline will not translate in the B2B sphere.

7. Make It Something You'd Want to Know About

It may seem self-evident, but you want to write a headline that you find interesting to read. It can be all too easy to get caught up in just putting information out there without stopping to think of whether or not it would catch your eye if you were the reader. 

Test out several headlines on audiences both in and out of the industry to see what resonates. If there's any expression of confusion or boredom, take it back to the drawing board to spice it up. 

<<Click Here to Download Your FREE Press Release Template>> 

8. Make it SEO-Friendly

Remember that although you are writing for people, you're also writing for search engines. Place keywords not only within your release and in subheadings, but also prominently in your headline.

Place your keyword(s) within the first 65 characters, or 1 to 3 words for optimal effect. When you pay to publish your press release on a syndication site, such as PR Newswire, the quality of your headline's SEO will play a critical role in its visibility.

Search engines also favor human-friendly language. So, skip the over-sensational language in favor of simple words and phrases that people use every day. 

9. Make it Pass the Test with Flying Colors

Use a headline analyzer, such as the one CoSchedule offers. It isn’t a sure win against headline failure, but it helps you to get your footing. Enter your headline, and you'll see how to improve on your working title. 

For instance, if I plug in How to Write Press Release Titles, I get a score of 65 and a grade of C-. Yep, it's a yawn. It tanks for common words, powerful words, or uncommon words. It scored a lowly 33% on an emotional level. You want a balance among all four groups: common words, powerful words, uncommon words and emotional words.

However, if I try How to Write Press Releases That People Read,  bingo. I score 68 and a grade of A+ for my word balance. Not bad. A score around 70 or above is considered excellent.

Need a little inspiration to get your creative juices flowering? Consider using a press release headline generator, such as this one. Simply input your keywords, and it will configure several headline options for you. Granted, it's not an exact science, but it gives you a starting point. 




Can You Spot the Headline Fails?

 Now it’s time for a little fun. Here are a few examples of headline fails and how we would fix them. 

“Honda, Nissan, and Toyota Commit to Greener Future for Cars.”

 Now, granted this one isn't awful. But it doesn't say anything exciting -- or new. Don't we already know that car companies are making things greener? 

“New Dell Teaching and Learning Academy Focuses on Educator’s Instructional Needs and Personalized Learning.”

What's wrong with this one, other than that it has the excitement of a washing machine repair manual? Well, it makes it sound like Dell is doing something philanthropic, when in reality, the news is that Dell is teaching people how to use its product.

“How can I find the right home to move to and what’s the trick to getting an offer accepted? Four essential steps to bagging that dream bigger property.”

Where to start with this one? First, it's way too long, and the title isn't even capitalized. And, "That Dream Bigger Property?" Am we being encouraged to dream bigger, or is the property itself bigger? 

How could these have been improved upon? Well, let's try a few variations:

1. How Honda, Nissan, and Toyota Are Uniting to Create a More Eco-Friendly World

2. Dell's Teaching and Learning Academy Makes Using its Products a Snap

3. 4 Steps to Secure Your Dream Property


Now, for a few stellar examples of press release titles we can all learn from:

Google and Amazon are spearheading a quiet gadget revolution, and it's going to put pressure on Apple most of all

What we love about this headline: It incorporates the names of big players, as well as stirs up curiosity for what Google and Amazon have up their sleeves. 

United Airlines Wants to Fuel Jets with Your Leftover Dinner

What we love about this headline: It certainly piques the interest, as well as tickles the funny bone. Plus, this is great PR for a company that functions in an industry (and brand) receiving constant scrutiny. Good going, United!

Forget Soccer. Can US Beat Japan in a Giant Robot Battle? (+Video)

What we love about this headline: This headline plays off a trending topic (soccer) and features multi-media — a must for nearly every press release nowadays.

The Rest of the Story

Writing a kick-butt headline is truly one of the best things you'll do to get your release noticed. However, for every thoughtless headline, there is an equally staggering number of thoughtless press releases that follow suit. How can you be sure that yours isn't one of them?

If you're interested in learning more about how to write a press release that gets real attention, check out our guide: How to Write a Press Release That Attracts AttentionInside, you'll discover five ways to create captivating press releases, plus how to use press releases to drive traffic and leads.  

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Jan 31, 2018

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx