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Sanity On Headlines! PR People: Please Read This…PLEASE!

The link, below, leads to an excellent article by a PR professional and is written for PR professionals who want to live up to the “professional” part.

7 Tips for Writing Headlines That Pop in a Journalist’s Inbox

This is by Andrew Hindes, president of  The In-House Writer, a Los Angeles-based PR and marketing copywriting firm. I sincerely can’t wait to get a news release from him.

The following seven points were extracted from a well-written, 848-word article that deserves concentrated attention.

  1. Be concise
  2. Don’t overpromise.
  3. Humor is good—but not at the expense of clarity.
  4. Make sure the tone of the headline matches the story.
  5. Put your client’s name in the headline [WII editor comment: But only once! Good example of bad headline: "Concannon Vineyard Founder James Concannon to Be Inducted Into Irish America Hall of Fame" --  2X is 2much & this headline violates rule #1]
  6. Stick with the third person.
  7. When in doubt, change it.

I would add three more:

  • Delete self-aggrandizing words and phrases. Watching people break their arms while patting themselves on the back is a gruesome sight. This is a good example of bad writing: “Acker Merrall & Condit, the World’s leading wine auctioneer … prestigious, exclusive consignment ….” Spit bucket please!
  •  Find an audience of at least one other person and read the entire release out loud. If it sounds awkward, it is.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPITALIZED headlines. They’re usually harder to read. Plus, they are the typographical equivalent of SHOUTING and in most cases they look like a desperate plea  for attention. Save it for  short subheads and the occasional word capitalized for emphasis. Note how your eye went to the CAPS in the previous sentence.

IF WE CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING THEN THINGS GET ALL UNIFORM, RECTANGULAR AND JUST LOOKS LIKE A BUNCH OF SEMANTIC BOXCARS STRUNG TOGETHER IN A LONG STRING THAT WOULD KEEP TRAFFIC STALLED AT THE CROSSING GATE FOR HOURS JUST LIKE IT WOULD BORE READERS INTO CLICKING SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Plus, because caps are bigger, they occupy more horizontal space that could be used to convey actual information.

PLUS, BECAUSE CAPS ARE BIGGER, THEY OCCUPY MORE HORIZONTAL SPACE THAT COULD BE USED TO CONVEY ACTUAL INFORMATION

Think about pitching by email and what the subject line will look like. Too many caps and the subject gets truncated.

Please remember, I am not just hammering on this because I am a grumpy editor and hard-ass former journalism prof.

While those are true, I have been on your side having served as a managing director for Manning Selvage & Lee, as a VP & Account Supervisor of a major Los Angeles-based tech PR firm and the owner of my own Silicon Valley PR and marketing company.

Never forget: the best PR is good journalism.

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