8 Most Common Press Release Headline Writing Mistakes

Press releases can be a golden opportunity to publicize your company and/or products effectively, but there are a number of common mistakes newcomers to the world of press release make that can sabotage their best efforts.


The headline is king

One of the main mistakes newcomers make is in relation to writing headlines. Think of the headline as the most important words of the press release you will ever write. Also think of them as ‘front page news’, that is, the lead in to a story so important that it deserves a top spot and lots of people to pay attention to it.

The secrets of a good headline

A good headline can answer one or more of the main questions in relation to any news story:

  • Who is the story about?
  • What happened?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why
  • How?

At the very least it should tell who and what. It will also grab the attention and make people interested enough to want to learn more because it won’t tell the whole story in the headline. A good headline should make them curious and/or eager to read more.

There are a number of common mistakes that writers make when it comes to writing a press release headline. Here are the main ones:

1-Too long

Think of Twitter tweets when you write your headline. Keep it below 140 characters, and if possible, 100 or less.

2-Too boring

It looks the same as lots of other headlines, with no strong ‘hook’ to grab the attention. Compare:

Florida-bound Southwest flight diverted by engine problem

‘ALMOST UNHEARD OF’ – Southwest plane engine falls apart mid-flight

The second one has a hook that makes the news item more sensational and worth reading.

3-Too much hype

Your headline reads more like an ad than it does like a news headline. Compare:

The MIND Diet Recipe Book now available for purchase

The MIND Diet Recipe Book Soars to #1 on the Amazon Kindle Healthy Cooking Bestseller’s List

4-Doesn’t answer the question, “Why should I care?”

Using a similar example to the one above, there are lots of recipe books available in the world. Why should any journalist care about this one? They might be interested in the bestseller status of the MIND diet book, but they will probably care even more about the promised pay-off for someone who buys and uses the book:

The MIND Diet Recipe Book-Eat Your Way to Better Brain Health and Avoid Alzheimer’s

5-Isn’t clever enough

Headline writing needs to soar, not go as flat as a tire. Florida-bound Southwest flight diverted by engine problem is just plain boring compared with:

Southwest engine explodes mid-flight!

If you feel you want to add more detail to keep it close to the original but use a less dull word than diverted, try “forced to make emergency landing.”

6-Tries to be too clever

It’s great to want to show off your writing skills, but sometimes plays on words can become annoying, and clichés are definitely already overused without you writing headlines using them all the time.

Example: Snails slow lettuce production to a crawl in Arizona

This is a play on words, since snails are notoriously slow and crawl. It gives you a clear idea of what has happened, why, and where. It also gives you a very good visual image of a lot of snails infesting a field of lettuce. It might cause some people to groan at the joke, but it is vivid writing that really does capture what’s going on.

Avoid these common mistakes and see what a difference it can make to the attention your press releases get.

Call us today to speak to one of our PR specialists: 1-800-713-7278

Anthony Santiago is Director of Marketing at Newswire. With over a decade of experience in PR, he helps ensure that clients understand the value of brand messaging and reach.

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