Writing a great headline is one of the most important factors of getting a press release read. A great headline entices readers and invites them to check out your story.
Anybody who has been in this business for more than a few minutes has seen their share of terrible headlines—headlines that stop you cold and keep you from reading more.
What's the problem with these headlines? Usually one of these six mistakes is at work:
1. Stuffing the headline with keywords
I've discussed the value of search engine optimization in press releases in the past, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a problem with most of the "optimized" press releases I come across. Forcing a keyword into your headline often makes it feel awkward and clunky. Remember that you're writing for people first and search engines second. Over-optimization is the easiest way to alienate your readers.
2. Making the headline way too long
While there are no hard and fast rules about exact headline word length, it is usually pretty clear when a press release headline is way too long. You need to explain the main idea of your story, but you need to do so as quickly as possible and with a lot of punch.
3. Misleading the reader
Nobody likes a liar, and it only takes one lie for you to lose all credibility with reporters and your customers. If you try to mislead people into thinking your story is about something that it's not so you can get more eyeballs on your press release, you'll anger people for wasting their time.
4. Putting it through the hype machine
You're sending out a press release, not an advertisement. Press releases are supposed to be unbiased news stories without hype and unsubstantiated claims. Your headline shouldn't read like the opening of an infomercial.
5. Invoking no curiosity
No matter who you want to read your press release—reporters or consumers—they're all starved for time, and they're not going to read your press release if the headline doesn't grab their interest. You need to engage their imaginations and pique their curiosity so they will read to see what your story is really about.
6. No specificity
If your headline isn't specific, the topic of your story won't be clear. And when that happens, no one will put forth the effort to read and figure it out.
What do you think are the biggest press release headline mistakes?
Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel, where a version of this article originally appeared.