Tag Archives: headlines

Five tips for writing an effective press release

A catchy headline and easy-to-read presentation is often the deciding factor in a press release being read and followed up by a journalist.

Here are five tips for grabbing a journalist’s attention:

1. Limit headlines to 65 characters

This excellent idea was proposed by Chris Lake from Econsultancy who proposed the 65 character rule for headlines for all news stories.

It makes sense if headlines are 65 characters or less for several reasons: for Google search, Google News and for Twitter.

You can read Lake’s full explanation on how to optimise headlines using the 65 character rule at this link.

2. Three reasons to present a story as a list

1. Lists also do well, particularly on social media.

2. They encourage clicks. For example, would you be more likely to be tempted to click on a headline that reads “10 technical Twitter tips for journalists” or “Journalists can set up RSS feeds for tweets”.

3. They are easy to scan and read when in a hurry

3. Use words like “how” and “why”

Writing a post for Poynter earlier this year, Matt Thompson provides 10 questions to help you write better headlines.

He makes some excellent points, including this piece of advice:

Could it benefit from one of these 10 words?

When I’m stuck on a headline, I often refer back to this list of words: Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Each of them has different merits. Many of them reinforce the advice I offer above. “Why” and “how”, for example, help to frame the headline as explanation (“when” and “what” also work well for this). “Top”, “best” and “worst” are natural partners with a numbered headline. Some of them tap into universal desires: We all want access to “secret” knowledge, and we all want to know the “future”. Words like “your” help me to reframe wonky, technical headlines around what they might mean to the user.

4. Consider writing a “how to” guide

“How to” guides work well online. People often search for an answer to problem and the search engine returns a guide as a result.

For example: How to: write the perfect press release for journalists

5. Consider presenting your release as a Q&A

For example: Q&A: Audioboo founder on the riots, Libya and ‘friendly competitor’ SoundCloud or Q&A: MediaCooler, a platform for freelance journalists to upload and sell features

This helps journalists to scan information and jump to points they are interested in.

Advised reading: How to write headlines that work for SEO

Headline mishaps at Johnston Press and Newsquest titles

There’s been headline embarrassment in the past week both for Johnston Press and Newsquest. This headline filler was spotted by Jon Slattery in the Glasgow Evening Times on Friday.

Commenting on Slattery’s post Ol Peculier offers a link to another similar headline mess-up over at JP’s the Scarborough Evening News, posted on Facebook.

The use of the Atex production system at JP has been blamed for similar problems which have occured at titles since integration of the new system, such as cropped, misaligned or even missing pictures and other headline gaffs.

Earlier this year the NUJ wrote to the Press Complaints Commission claiming that a memo from Johnston Press management showed the new Atex rules “removed a number of checks for accuracy and seriously undermined the role of the editor, removing their final responsibility for the content of the paper”.

Update: We originally incorrectly linked the Glasgow Evening Times to Johnston Press, it has now been corrected as a Newsquest title.

If there was an Olympics for headline writing…

This has been doing the rounds a bit in the last couple of days and we certainly aren’t too grown up to join in. The headline speaks for itself, suffice to say the subs at Reuters had a good laugh. The original article about Walter Dix’s victory at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting on Saturday is at this link.

This isn’t the first time US athlete Gay has made it onto the Journalism.co.uk Editors Blog, his surname and a Christian news site stirred up a little humour in 2008…

#lnw: Local Newspaper Week – a week in headlines

As part of Local Newspaper Week (10-16 May 2010), Journalism.co.uk collected images of local newspaper headlines from across the UK. We mapped them here and created a Flickr group where the pictures submitted are shared. Thanks to everyone who took part.

Here’s a slideshow of a week in local news headlines from Cardiff to Sunderland and from dog attacks, fires and job cuts to a change in government:

Nieman Journalism Lab: HuffPo’s A/B headline testing

The Huffington Post is applying A/B testing to some of its headlines, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab.

“Readers are randomly shown one of two headlines for the same story. After five minutes, which is enough time for such a high-traffic site, the version with the most clicks becomes the wood that everyone sees.”

Full post at this link…

Thirty things you might miss in a world without newspapers

1. Material to stuff your Guy Fawkes effigy with on Bonfire Night.

2. Paper mountains at your local recycling depot.

3. Liners for your kitty litter trayers, rabbit hutches etc.

4. The joy of finding and reading other people’s paid-for newspapers on the train/underground/bus.

5. Wrapping for your fish and chips.

6. Material for your papier mâché models.

7. Getting your letterboxes jammed stuck with weekend supplements.

8. Part-time employment for your children.

9. Newsagents. And newsagents whingeing about the newstrade.

10. Ad inserts and catalogues offering 1001 pointless gadgets to solve problems you will never have.

11. The ability to buy soft porn under the not-very-convincing pretence of being interested in the daily news.

12. Cliché-ridden headlines and terrible puns.

13. Insulation when sleeping rough (although cardboard works just as well).

14. Free CDs, DVDs, posters etc that you will never listen to, view or display.

15. Material to protect the floor, soak up spilt tea etc when the builders are in.

16. Something to read when you are on the loo (doesn’t seem quite right to do that with a laptop, although mobile devices are a bit more discreet).

17. Inky, black fingers.

18. Deforestation (although it is equally possible that fewer trees might get planted in managed forests).

19. The unintelligible cry of news vendors on street corners.

20. Having free papers jammed into your stomach at the entrances to underground stations.

21. Training the dog to fetch the paper/attack the paper boy/girl/person in the mornings.

22. Large piles of free newspapers dumped in skips.

23. Skidding on sodden lumps of old newspapers left out in the rain on pavements and roads.

24. For future generations, birthday gifts of a copy of the newspaper that was published on the day they were born.

25. Something to clean the windows with.

26. The environmental impact of printing, delivering and collecting returns (and the loss of related jobs).

27. Trying to read broadsheet newspapers on crowded trains/planes/buses etc

28. The wonderful, if often unintentional, wit of A-boards outside newsagents.

29. A surveillance device for bad spies.

30. Fuel to get the kindling going in your open fire, Aga, woodburning stove, bonfire etc.

But seriously…