How to write a great headline

Credit where credit is due, this is a blog post from cision.com , it covers a lot of what you need to know about writing a great headline. Headline writers are amount the best paid writers and it is hard not to understand why.

If a headline fails then everything else fails . The headlines job is to attract attention, to stop the person reading the headline in their tracks and then almost compel them to read further.

Again if this fails then all the work on the copy behind the headline has been a waste of time as it will remain unread. The story not told. You can see why there is so much pressure on headline writers to get the job done.

When it comes to getting more people to read your press release, nothing does the job better than a well-written headline. After all, it’s the first thing people see, and if it sucks, they won’t click it to read your release. On the other hand, a killer headline can attract journalists and customers alike to your release, where they can click back to your website. We polled PR and brand experts to get 10 amazing tips you can use to improve your press release headlines.

1. Write as if it Were a Front Page Article

Envision your press release on the front page of a newspaper to determine if it’s newsworthy or not. Does the headline grab attention? If not, it probably needs some work.

Melissa L. James, marketing director at The Curtis Group, takes that idea one step further. She says writing your headlines as they’d look in a newspaper article can “show the reporter the article through his/her readers’ eyes.” This is a great strategy to appeal to journalists who you want to write about your news.

2. Use Active Voice

The style of your writing in the headline is as important as the words you use to attract readers. In general, passive voice takes readers out of the action and makes content less appealing. To engage your audience, use active voice. Brad Hem, account director at The Dialog Lab, also suggests avoiding “be” verbs.

3. Use Appealing Data

“Get to the heart of what your press release is really about in the headline,” Carrie Winans, public relations officer for SmartSign says. It’s important to include the most interesting details there, “always prioritize statistics that prove the story is unique.” So, if your release talks about how you can reduce plaque by 48 percent — then use that statistic in the headline!

4. Use Clever Headlines

Judy Crockett, a retail management consultant, has had great luck using sensational or double-meaning headlines. “I worked with a jeweler that was having trouble earning the respect of his business colleagues. He spent a great deal on marketing and promotion,” she says. “Other business leaders in the downtown area where his store was located commented to each other that the jeweler would be ‘belly up’ with all this promotion. “So, I wrote a press release and sent it to the media with a photo. HEADLINE: ‘Jeweler Goes Belly Up.’ I included a photo of the jeweler lying on the floor of his store — belly up. Text: ‘Jimmy the Jeweler went belly up giving away one too many diamonds. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the store is giving away a one-karat diamond. Simply stop in and guess the “dead weight” of the jeweler.’ The media loved it and ran the story and photo. Several business members cut the press release out and brought it into the store — with a change of attitude.”

5. Paint a Picture

Dave Manzer, managing director of Dave Manzer PR & Marketing, encourages you to use strong language in your headlines. “No, I’m not recommending you use profanity in your headline! But you should choose language that paints a picture,” he says. Consider how you can add sizzle to your headline to get more clicks.

6. Answer the Question

Christian Kendzierski, director of media relations at Mount Saint Mary’s University, says she boils her headline down to what journalists want to know. “I often will give my stories/pitches (or press releases) headlines that either give the writer their first question she or he would ask or give them the answer to their first question … so immediately the headline cuts through the wordage and gets to the meat of the story.”

7. Write the Headline Last

“Don’t waste time trying to pick the perfect headline before you’ve even written the release,” says Cathy K. Hayes, principal/director of Crescendo-Public Relations Turned Up. “Write the story first, and then come up with the headline last,” she says. “This way you see the story as a whole, and you can better identify the most newsworthy title.”

8. Harness the Power of Punctuation

Knowing your punctuation can make you a smarter headline writer. Mandy Bray, chief copywriter at Bohlsen Group, says the colon is great for press release headlines. “You want to include a snappy header, but you can’t leave readers in a state of mystery. Use a colon to transition from artful to exposition in a short space. Example: ‘When Nurses Unite: A call for leadership and advocacy in nursing.’”

9. Apply Alliteration

Christine Blain, senior account executive at SHIFT Communications, says alliteration is a great way to get people to read your press release. “Employing this classic writing technique often results in a catchy headline that’s more likely to pique interest and stay in readers’ minds.”

10. Answer “Who cares?”

The big challenge with your press release is to make sure that people read your headline and care about learning more. Anthony Kirlew, founder and chief strategist at Infinion Marketing, says, in your headline, you need to: “Answer the ‘who cares’ question. Many do not and therefore don’t get the desired exposure.”

Want to get the most out of your next press release? Download our Quick and Easy Guide to Sharing Your Press Release With the World.

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What is a Wire Service in PR

Writing press releases is one thing but they are no good if you do not distribute them so they get published.

You can manually distribute your press releases 1 by 1 if you wish but there is hundreds if not thousands of places that may publish your press release. Doing this 1 by 1 will take forever.  This is especially true if you are distributing them to on-line to support an SEO Strategy . 

Enter Wire services that can fast track the distribution of your press releases. So what is a Wire Services. A wire service is A wire service is a paid service that distributes your press release to thousands of online websites and is available to journalists to easily access.

This is a paid for service so make sure you have written a great press release that will achieve its goals if you use this service.

You have a choice of Wire Services to choose from as follows

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Press releases & SEO

Press releases can make a significant contribution to your Search Engine Optimisation strategy.  Search Engine Optimisation is where you execute strategies to help you content get found in Google search results.

A big part of SEO strategy is to get lots of back-links to your site.  Press releases can help this in two ways

  • News Media sites tend to have lots of credibility with Google so links from them carry a lot of authority with Google
  • There are lots of outlets for press releases so you not only get quality back-links to your site your also get quantity.

keywords Research & Press Releases

You need to ensure you have done your research before writing your press release. Once you know what keywords you are targeting you can then add them to your press release. Next you must link that text to the page on your web site you have optimised for that keyword.

Some places will not allow you to have links in your press release copy, if not all will at the least allow you to link to your web site using your company url or company name. This too is very useful.

Press Release Format

While writing your press release don’t forget it will be viewed on-line, do it as if you are creating a wegb page.  Write short sentences and paragraphs, and use formatting like headings, bold,& italics. Be aware of how it will appear in an e-mail message, or familiarize yourself with the looks of good press releases on wire service websites.

Submit the story to a wire service

Now that your press release is created, you can get it indexed by search engines by submitting it to a wire service. Some wire services include Business WireMarketwireGlobeNewswirePR Newswire, and PRWeb. These services also allow you to browse press releases – observe what formatting and content works best in your eyes.

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When to send out a Press Release

Press releases can be great to help boost your PR but when should you send a press release?

Any time you have something interesting  to share. This can  include:

  • Breaking news : In the current 24 hours news cycle news organisations want to be 1st to cover news when it happens so help them out with a press release.
  • New Product launches: New products often make for good news copy
  • Events: These can offer reporters something timely and interesting to share with their audiences.
  • Partnerships: If you team up with another company to deliver on a project or services the news media may want to know.
  • Sharing research: Original data and  insights are always of interest to the press.
  • Awards: If you don’t blow your own trumpet nobody else will.
  • Hiring new executives: At larger organizations, this can be considered important news.
  • Crisis management: When the you know what hits the fan !, it’s best to get in front of it (before someone else does).

Make sure you have something your audience (and the media’s audience) will care about. This will dramatically increase the odds that your release will earn coverage.

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How to Write a Press Release

Well the answer that question is unless you have experience writing Press releases then do not do it.  🙂

If you still decide to do it yourself then here are 6 golden tips

The six ‘golden rules’

  1. Write your release with your  target audience in mind, not yourself or your boss.
  2. Get to the point, use short, active and factual title. Avoid puns or ‘witty banter’.
  3. Write a first paragraph that would do the job if nothing else was written.
  4. Include quotes from good sources – a couple will do, best from different sources but please, never quote a person as being ‘delighted’, as in ‘We are delighted with this new partnership.’ A journalist will never use quotes that contain the words ‘delighted’, ‘amazed’ or ‘awesome’.
  5. Don’t over do it. Be brief, interesting & useful. A press release should never be more than 400 words long (shorter if possible).
  6. Include ‘notes for editors’ spelling out all the background info, important stats, and the contact details they might need. Make it easy for everyone.

You can see the full article that I got this information from by go to Think Business where you will also be able to get a template for your press releases

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5 Questions to ask a PR agency before hiring them.

Having no PR agency working for you is better than having a bad one or one that does not really understand your needs working for you. So its important to hire the right agency.  Here are some questions you might use in an interview before hiring.

1. What mainstay services does your agency offer?

You would be surprised who many different definitions of PR there is out there. Marking , social media and advertising can often be confused as PR.  So check what exactly is included in any PR package you are looking to buy.

2. Who would be the lead on my account, day to day?

PR agencies can be huge and have hundreds of staff members. Check out our list of top PR companies in the UK to get an idea of their staff member.. Initially when meeting them you will find yourself in front of their most experienced partner. Their experience and expertise can be very comforting and might be the reason you hire that company but will they be the actual person working on your account day to day or will you account be managed by some much less experienced member of staff.

Often if you are just starting out you might find you are been managed by less experienced staff but this might be ok if they are been managed by more experienced staff.  If you are a big brand this is much less likely to happen.

3. Does your agency work with partner or sister agencies?

As stated earlier PR packages can have many different elements to them.  Maybe the PR company you would with outsources some elements of these packages.  This often happens with marketing elements of PR packages such as Adwords , SEO or social media.

There is nothing wrong with this but you should know who they are.  You may consider breaking these down and hire the different companies yourself but if your PR company has an existing relationship with them with clear lines of communication and well established relationships and understanding of who to work together it is probably best to let them manage it.

4. How does my price point affect the strategy?

This is great question to ask,  a £20 product will be marketed much differently than some luxury item that costs £1000. Different media will respond differently to various price points.  Would a low level product justify bringing on an influencer. What social media strategy works best at your price point. Ensure they have good answers to all of these questions. There is no one size fits all solution.

5. How much to spend and how to structure any budget.?

Most agencies work around a monthly retainer fee structure. They may be willing to take on a one off project fee. Regardless , there is normally extra costs beyond the agency’s retainer. Embrace the old adage “you must spend money to make money.” Make sure the budget allocated is enough to get the job done. Enabling your PR firm to spend the necessary time at a computer emailing the press about why your product might be  a game changer for your company.

Will your PR campaign involve photo or video shoots, will you have to attend events. Make sure all of these costs are included when talking budgets.

 

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Top UK PR companies in 2018

Our friends over at the prweek.com have come up with a list of the top 150 PR companies in the UK. You will not be surprised to hear that most of them are based in London.

I have listed here the top 10 from that list. All London based.  You can see from this list their current position  on the list and where they where last year. Next you see their name and turnover and how that turnover has chanced from last year.  Next you can see staff numbers for the last 2 year and again how that has changed.

Finally earnings per employee

1 1 Edelman £60,701,000 £60,160,000 0.90% 497 500 -0.60% £122,135 London
2 3 Weber Shandwick £57,000,000 £47,750,000 19.37% 305 310 -1.61% £186,885 London
3 2 Brunswick £53,700,000 £50,500,000 6.34% 260 273 -4.76% £206,538 London
4 4 Teneo Blue Rubicon * £44,000,000 £40,000,000 10.00% 250 250 0.00% £176,000 London
5 5 Freuds £41,008,816 £37,416,000 9.60% 250 240 4.17% £164,035 London
6 Burson Cohn & Wolfe  £40,300,000 £36,740,000 9.69% 330 315 4.76% £122,121 London
7 6 Hill+Knowlton Strategies  £38,000,000 £36,000,000 5.56% 200 200 0.00% £190,000 London
8 7 FTI Consulting * £36,252,000 £36,000,000 0.70% 187 185 1.08% £193,861 London
9 8 MSL ** (3) £36,000,000 £30,000,000 20.00% N/A N/A N/A N/A London
10 Havas PR * (4) £35,000,000 £35,000,000 0.00% 264 264 0.00% £125,000 London

You can see the full list of 150 companies by clicking here

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