A good headline is not just icing on the cake when it in comes to a press release, it is an essential skill that can make all the difference between having the piece read or ignored. On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will carry on to read the rest. This means that your opening words at the top of a page are integral to the effectiveness of the article and will determine whether readers continue. Here are six handy tips to help with writing that all-important opening piece of copy:
1. Keep headlines short and punchy. Your aim is to grab readers’ attention immediately and to arouse their curiosity, getting them to continue reading. Where possible, use words that provoke inquiry, such as ‘secret,’ ‘revealed’ and ‘breakthrough.’ These and similar words will keep their attention.
2. If you have a number of points you want to highlight in your release, you can add these into a sub-headline. A sub-headline should explain more but still arouse curiosity, so telling too much should be avoided.
3. Keep the headline type large and bold, with the sub-headline smaller and regular. You should view the headline and sub-headline as steps; the first being the arresting opening headline that leads onto the sub-headline, the second step taking you from the more informative but still curiosity-arousing headline onto the main text.
4. Brevity in a headline means avoiding definite and indefinite articles (‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’) and conjunctions (‘and’, ‘but’, ‘because’ and ‘so’) where possible. Minimise their use unless they are absolutely needed for clarity.
5. Use words in the headline and sub-headline that have a direct association with the subject matter. For example, if you are writing on behalf of a boat manufacturer who has just brought out a new craft, you could use the opening:
‘Local Boat Builder Creates Splash with New Cabin Cruiser’
Al Rabi Co. set to make waves with Nimrod 35
Or how about this for a new football school opening?:
‘FC Al Arba Kicks-off New Soccer School in Dubai
Club officials play ball with local authorities over kids’ academy
You can see how these examples also obey the previous rules of being brief, punchy and minimising use of superfluous words.
6. As a final tip, you should consider how the headline sounds when read aloud. It should have a certain rhythm, perhaps using alliteration for affect. This is called the ‘doo-dah’ rule. It is only necessary to use this technique in the headline – the sub-headline can employ a more conventional prose. You can see the affect at work in this following headline:
Mirdif Mums hold Morning Makeover
Popular expat ladies group host cosmetic initiative for charity
Happy headline writing!