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How to write the perfect headline for your press release

Don’t know where to start getting much needed media attention for your startup? In this blogpost I will give some quick tips and tricks for writing a press release – from a journalist’s point of view.

In my seven or so years of being a freelance journalist, I’ve seen huge amounts of bullpucky in press releases. And it all starts with the headline. It’s the first things editors and journalists see.

Here’s what happens when they scan your headline: in the blink of an eye, the journalist knows whether your release is worth reading. If not: delete.

Headline first

When reading about PR for startups, one thing in particular bothers me. It’s the articles that say you should write your headline after you wrote the whole text.

And that’s a big mistake.

It’s how a journalist or a blogger or a writer would write a text. You on the other hand, have a startup. You want coverage. You want to get your message out. So you need to get the journalist’s attention with the first thing they see. Make writing the headline a priority.

So, how to get their attention? Is it by writing something funny? Something cool? Take a look at the following examples:

Revolutionary Startup SuperAwesomeBroTech Reveals Its Exciting New Way Of Sending Social Selfies To The Mobile Cloud And Make The World A Better Place


Startup helps to keep your selfies private

The Granny Test

Unfortunately, I still see headlines like the first one every day. Pointing out what’s wrong is not that hard: it’s too long and it’s stuffed with buzzwords, PR adjectives and crap (still, during workshops, I’m surprised on how many people think a headline is supposed to be just like that).

But most important? Your grandma thinks you’re speaking alien when you say this to her. That’s why you never want her to see PRNewswire. Also, YOU should stay away from this abomination of a website.

The Granny Test will never let you down. Here’s how to do it: Try to write as easy as possible. Narrow it down. Think of what the heck you’re doing in the first place. Would your grandma understand?

And that, my dear startup friends, is the perfect headline. Easy, isn’t it? Also great for elevator pitches!

I’m not saying journalists are grandmothers, but when scanning a headline, they sure want to know in one second what your startup does. So you might as well make it easy for them. Also, you know journalists are allergic to buzzwords, so please, please stop using them.

In conclusion, here’s, one more time, the complete list on how to write the perfect headline:

Good luck!

Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

Lorenz van Gool
Lorenz is co-editor-in-chief of StartupJuncture. As a freelance editor and journalist, he writes about startups, innovation and (e)-business. Loves to report from conferences. Really likes cleantech and journalism startups. You can ask him anything about dinosaurs. Twitter: @lorenzroman

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