Please stop… using these headlines in your news releases

We’re kicking off this new series on the blog called “Please Stop,” which is intended to point out some of the things that not-so-great PR people do that give the rest of us a bad rap. This week, our focus is on news releases – specifically, headlines of news releases.

One of the most important aspects of our job is media relations, and at Obsidian, we take our relationship with – and reputation among – reporters very seriously. We take the time to study what they write about, how they write and what seems to capture their interest and attention so that we don’t junk up their inboxes with stuff that’s sure to end up in the trash.

We know reporters get thousands of emails each day, and not only can that be treacherous to wade through, but we also bet it can be downright boring. Can you imagine opening one news release after another – all with the same standard headline: “So-and-so promoted at the Who Cares Company,” “Whatever Industries to host Average Annual Event” or “Lackluster Enterprises announces Uninteresting News Item”? I bet this is what they can begin to look like to reporters at the end of the day.  

Well, why not catch them off guard – and thus, capture their attention – by adding a little creativity in your headlines? Yes, there are standard expectations for word usage in news releases – no fluff, please – but we are wordsmiths by trade, so try replacing a standard word or two with an ingenious substitute.

Here are some examples:

Tired: City Museum to host ‘Ancient Egypt’ exhibit this summer

Eye-catching: City Museum unwraps Egyptian mummies exhibit this summer

Boring: 4th Annual Opera Festival Returns April 1 to Local Playhouse

Tantalizing: Love, lust and murder headline 4th Annual Opera Festival at Local Playhouse

Blah, Blah, Blah: Local Zoo Receives Grant for Snake Conservation Research

Oh, that’s interesting!: Local Zoo launches new study to understand snake die-offs

It’s easy to do, honestly. There are a just a few guidelines to follow. Let’s start with a couple “Don’ts.”

Continuing that thought, here are some other ways to weave in a little creativity:

These are just a few pointers, but the overall takeaway is to look at your headlines and think of them as an opportunity to sell the story to the media in as few words as possible. The greatest compliment a reporter can give you is to actually use your headline in publishing the announcement. I love it when that happens!