The Do’s and Don’ts of Headline Writing

headline writing

The aim of a press release is to promote something specific and grab a journalist’s attention so they seek you out for more information. It needs to be simple, easy-to-read and quickly understood by the reader. The headline is critically important. It must immediately engage a journalist enough to want to read on. If it doesn’t, your story could end up in the bin.

At Action PR, we write a lot of press releases. Here’s our list of the Dos and Don’ts of headline writing.


Reflect the tone of the press release in the headline. If the release contains news of a more sombre nature, then make sure this is mirrored in the headline. The opposite is true, that if the press release is about a good, positive news story then you have a little more creative license to make the headline fun.

Understand your audience. Journalists are busy people with tight copy deadlines who receive hundreds (if not thousands) of emails per day. Make sure the headline is not long, keep it concise with a couple of bits of key information.

Include the most important detail of the press release. The headline might be the only thing a journalist reads so make sure it includes the most important details. If they’re interested, they’ll read on for more information.

Include a brand name if it is a household name. If you’re lucky enough to work on a popular brand that everyone has heard of, this is very likely to catch the interest of journalists.

Use numbers or stats. If your story is number or stat related, and the numbers are newsworthy, then put these in the headline.

Use subheadings with further, relevant information. Subheadings are a great way of highlighting a key stat or piece of information that might require a little more explanation. If you want to include the information at the top of the press release, but think it would make the headline itself too long, then use a subheading. Eyes are drawn to headings and this helps make people read on.


Rely on clickbait. If you write a headline that is designed to grab attention, but the actual press release information is only loosely related, you will quickly lose credibility. Whilst it is important to make the headline attention-grabbing, do not go overboard. Journalists will quickly lose interest and stop opening your press releases if the headlines are over-the-top. Repeat offenders may also be blacklisted from journalist inboxes and you’ve lost all chances of reaching that contact again.

Assume knowledge. Avoid acronyms or business jargon in your headline. You might have a nice story to tell, or that your client is doing a lovely activation; but assuming knowledge can immediately cause people to lose interest.

Overly complicate things. Keep it simple, don’t use 20 words when 10 will do. Be succinct and get to the point. No one enjoys reading waffle, so keep it simple and say what you want to say quickly.

With these tips in mind, keep your headline interesting, short, punchy and engaging and you will have a much higher chance of journalists actually reading it.

Need help writing a press release? Get in touch. We can help.

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