Seen any really bad headlines lately in media releases? Oh boy, some are awful. Excruciatingly awful. You can have the best copy in a media release, but if the headline sucks, well, your entire effort is going nowhere fast. Headlines are the enticement or obstacle for getting more of the story to your audience.

In the media business, press releases get thrown in the blue box faster than you can say “Read me, please!” You have 10 seconds or less to grab attention. Your headline either wins you attention, or fails you big time.

Here’s a five-point checklist for creating headlines that make your audience WANT to read the copy beneath!

  1. Make sure your headline captures the theme of the story in an inspiring way that doesn’t shout DULLSVILLE! It’s amazing how many headlines totally miss the most newsworthy point of a story. And remember, the most important theme isn’t what’s most interesting to you. It’s what should be the most interesting to your readers.
  2. Read your draft headline and ask yourself this tough question: Does it make me yawn? If so, revise. And revise again. Think like your audience every time you review a draft headline. You’re not writing a headline for YOU or your organization!
  3. Use a subhead as complementary secondary headline tool to woo readers into the story. Used in combination, a main headline and subhead can draw readers into a story.
  4. You need to make every headline convey a sense of importance. If your readers gets a sense that this matters to them, they will want to read on.
  5. Too long a headline will cause readers to become lost. Too short a headline may be too vague. Try to keep to 10 words or less. It’s a good technique for forcing yourself to think tight and concise when writing headlines.