Jul 19, 2016

How to Write Concise and Compelling Press Release Headlines

Press Release Writing Tips for Shorter HeadlinesWriting a short press release headline that packs an informative punch isn’t easy. It may be tempting to describe your story in full right out of the gate, but lengthy headlines can overwhelm readers and compromise their interest.

If your readers don’t make it past your headline, they won’t be clicking your call to action.

Short headlines are preferable for a number of reasons. Concise headlines are easier to comprehend when scanning through a newsfeed and are better formatted for mobile devices.

Moreover, the shorter your headline, the better the chances your release will be shared and read in full by your audience. Our SlideShare How to Write Press Releases notes two rules of thumb for headline length: 

  • Keep it under 110 characters so that it’s easily tweetable
  • Include the most important information in the first 65 characters (including spaces), which is the approximate length for Google displays/indexing

This may sound simple enough, but your headline can double in length when trying to accommodate brand guidelines. Company names, product mentions, and other information quickly add up.

The next time you’re writing a press release, consider these five tips and examples to help keep your headline short, sweet and to the point.

1. Utilize subheadlines.

Long, convoluted headlines are more difficult to understand, and your message could be lost on readers if there are too many details. Focus on being succinct and utilize subheads to add context.

Headline Before: XYZ Corporation, a Technology Company, Partners with Leading Consumer Electronics Brand ABC at ConsumerTech 2016 to Launch Wireless Earbuds

Headline After: XYZ Corp. and ABC Brand Debut Wireless Earbuds
New Subheadline: Visit XYZ in booth 720 at ConsumerTech 2016

The reader still sees the main points of the story with fewer words and tighter language.


2. Omit nonessential words.

Review your headline for any words that can be cut, such as adjectives, articles (a, an, the), or even entire clauses. Replace conjunctions with punctuation, and your audience can still skim the headline without losing its meaning.

Headline Before: XYZ Corporation Shares the Very Best Family Travel Destinations of the Summer and Tips for Traveling with Children

Headline After: The Best Summer Travel Destinations for Families
New Subheadline: XYZ Shares Tips for Traveling with Kids

Eliminating unnecessary descriptors cuts down on clutter; even replacing ‘children’ with ‘kids’ saves valuable characters.

3. Consider word length.

By substituting in well-known abbreviations (Corp. for Corporation, vs. for versus), acronyms (ET for Eastern Time, IPO for Initial Public Offering), numbers (300 for Three Hundred) and symbols ($, %, etc.), you can save precious characters and still convey a clear message.

Headline Before: The Ten Best Places to Eat for Less Than Ten Dollars in Los Angeles According to XYZ Corporation

Headline After: XYZ Corp. Ranks 10 Best Places to Eat for Less Than $10 in LA

Keep in mind that too many acronyms and abbreviations can cause confusion; use them where most appropriate and be sure that they are readily understandable and familiar.

4. Minimize the hype.

Search engines now favor “human-friendly content” that uses natural language with minimal jargon. Don’t be tempted to overstuff your headline with too many keywords, clever idioms and slang. Don’t be too vague, either.

Headline Before: Social Media is a Piece of Cake for Small Biz Owners Using XYZ’s Marketing Platform

Headline After: XYZ Offers Simple Social Media Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

5. Test what works.

Try including a variety of information (both quality and quantity) in your press release headlines. For instance, if you are writing for a niche audience, using specialized language and industry terms could improve engagement. Look at your reporting and analyze the types of headlines that drive the most interest from your audience. Then adjust accordingly as you move forward.

Make every word count when considering the length of your headline. If you want to hook readers with your press release’s compelling story, you need to give them a reason to click.

Download The Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist for more tips that will help you write and distribute content that resonates with your audience.

Author Erica Crist is a Senior Customer Content Specialist based in Cleveland. PR Newswire’s Customer Content Services team is available 24/7 to counsel brands on content distribution. Follow her on Twitter at @VPOEventZone. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn.

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

­ Anthony Santiago 11:46 EDT on Jul 21, 2016

Hi Erica,

Thanks for the useful post. Looks like in example #2, as long as source attribution is clear in sub-headline, it should be ok for submission. Is that correct?

­ Amanda Hicken @ PR Newswire 13:43 EDT on Jul 22, 2016

Hi, Anthony! That’s a great question – thank you for asking it.

In example #2, it’s ok to include source attribution in the sub-headline. However, if a company wanted to include the source in the headline, here's another approach:

Headline: XYZ Names Best Summer Travel Destinations for Families
Subheadline: 5 Tips for Traveling with Kids This Summer

Although we generally don't require source attribution in headlines, it depends on the situation (what type of content is being sent out, the goal of the content, whom it's about, etc.).

For example, if the source is a bigger company whose name carries with it a lot of visibility, we might recommend they include it in the headline. But if the space in the headline can be better utilized with other strong keywords, then the source might be mentioned in the subheadline.

There are exceptions where headline source attribution is required, which is one reason why our Customer Content Services team reviews every press release we receive. Glenn Frates, our Regional Vice President of the Customer Content Services group, provided the following example: If a source company is making a claim about another company directly in the headline (or when the headline reads as if coming from that 'other' company), the headline would need excellent source attribution.

Outside of situations like this, finding the perfect-for-you headline comes from trying different approaches and taking a look at the reporting for each of your press releases.

If you’re interested in tips on using press release reporting to optimize your content, here are two related pieces: http://prn.to/1QRwvII and http://prn.to/1PPI6Kr.

I hope this information helps!

-Amanda Hicken, Senior Manager of Strategic Content at PR Newswire

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­ Wayne English 13:21 EDT on Aug 6, 2016


Excellent work on, How to Write Concise and Compelling Press Release Headlines. I promoted it in my social media campaign.
Thank your for writing this. It’s good to find solid professional information as there is much published that offers little or nothing. Well done.

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