Yes, even with the increased use of social media by PR pros to inform consumers and the public overall about their brands, traditional news releases are still relevant, and by no means dead. And while it's true that the email subject line is often where the first impression is made upon journalists in their inboxes, press release headlines are still extremely important for delivering your key message.
Here are six ways to nail it:
Make it Punchy: A strong, concise headline attracts readers and encourages sharing on social media. A 2012 Hubspot/PR Newswire study recommended a headline of no more than 120 characters. And since search engines only index the first 65 characters of the headline, make sure your most important keyword appears within that range. Using numerals (like the “6” in this article’s title) has also been found to attract more readers.
Avoid Spammy Keywords: Certain words trigger alerts for spam filters. Examples of such words are “free,” “you,” “mortgage” and “order now." Complete lists of most frequently used spam keywords are available online. Excessive punctuation (like capitals and exclamation marks) also trigger spam filters. Not only that, it’s a cheap trick: The pitch might be a matter of urgency for you, but is it really so urgent for your target?
Don't link: Embedding a link to your company website gives readers a convenient way to learn more about the products and services you provide. But save that for the body text. Putting a link in a headline basically encourages readers to go elsewhere, immediately. Search engines are also suspicious of copy with too many links and may even write your release off as Web spam.
Use natural language: Make sure to weave into your copy the words and phrases your audience actually uses when talking about your subject, rather than the industry jargon you use around the office.
Keep it tight: Rather than trying to jam everything about your product or service into the headline, tell one story clearly. If you clutter a headline with a bunch of different themes, readers—and search engines—will have a harder time understanding what it’s about. It’s also unwieldy and unpleasant for journalists and the public to read, so they’re less likely to share it. And you run the risk that someone who’s very interested in a theme buried down in the fifth paragraph stops reading after the first or second paragraph.
Use Your Heads: If you absolutely need more real estate, use a subhead to add more information). Use no more than 200 characters in the summary or subhead.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg