Posts Tagged ‘Press Releases’

Headline Hacks Are the Secret to Massive Media Exposure

April 24, 2017

When I was a network television producer, I was inundated with PR pitches every day. In fact, it is not uncommon for producers and assignment desk decision makers to field over 500 emails or more a day so unless you have written a headline for your pitch that grabs their attention immediately, chances are they’ll hit the delete key and your email story pitch will go right to the trash folder.

This has nothing to do with the value of your story, product or client but if you can’t get reporters or producers to open your email pitch (press release or media alert) based on your headline, even a good story will never get noticed by assignment desks, beat reporters, or producers.

Here are five ways to write headlines that will increase your earned media results:

#1. Stop Writing Headlines to Please Your Client – Write to Please Producers. Too many times, publicists think more like a client than they do the media. They’re client pleasers, not media pleasers. They use “Public Relations 101” Rules to Writing Press Releases taught by college professors (who often have no real world experience). Clients LOVE it. Media just finds the pitch boring.

#2. Start Thinking Like a TV News Promo Writer. In a world where the media needs to instantly grab viewers, listeners, and page views, with exciting headlines, you need to study how they promote their newscast and then follow their lead when it comes to your pitch.

#3. Use Deliberate Vagueness to Create Curiosity. There was a commercial airing in California several years ago that was produced like a pseudo 11-o’clock news station promo. It started with the reporter voiceover announcing, “There’s something lurking in your kitchen that’s very dangerous.”  There were images of a kitchen counter loaded with food and a refrigerator door being opened as shots of various foods were panned inside the fridge.  Then the voiceover continued, “It’s in your refrigerator and it could kill you.  Details at 11.”  The ad was an obvious satire on how news stations over sensationalize promos to grab viewers, but the satire is not too far from reality. This also uses another effective technique using a threat that instills fear so you’re compelled to find the answer. It’s effective, but don’t over do it.

#4. Headline Hack Magazines and Websites to Use Their Formulas. Whenever I’m stuck in a line at the grocery store, I love reading the headlines of magazines and tabloids at the checkout for headline structure inspiration. Hey, don’t judge me. They have amazing examples for writing headlines that make you want to know more so you buy the publication. Same thing happens when you’re surfing any online news outlet. Study the best headlines and hack their formulas. You’ll be amazed at the results.

#5. Grab Interest to Read More Using Lists or Mistakes. Lists and mistakes are always a hit with producers. From the “Five Best Beach Destinations” to the “Three Biggest Mistakes Parents Make with Teenagers,” these are headlines that pique interest and compel newsrooms to open the email.

Finally, think of ways to jazz up your headline and, depending your client’s type of business (and whether or not they are publicly traded), you may need to get the legal team on board, but imagine finding a way to craft headlines that dramatically increase your story getting before the eyes of news room gatekeepers and decision makers to explode your earned P.R. results.

The key to success is grabbing the attention with media decision makers using an intriguing headline (subject line) that screams “open me” and then following through with a story that supports the tease since you don’t want to “click bait” a reporter or producer.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

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The Number One Mistake Pros Make on Press Releases

May 25, 2011

When I was a producer at some major television programs, I would be deluged by press releases.  Unfortunately most of these press releases got thrown in the trash.  Yes, that was the day of hard copies being sent through snail mail or fax, but now, it’s even more difficult to cut through the media clutter.

Getting newsroom attention is not easy.  It’s harder and harder to get producers on the phone to give them your pitch even if you’ve developed those media relationships.  Now, everyone wants you to submit your pitch (aka press release and/or media alert) through email.  That is if they don’t just cut you off completely and put your emails into their spam filters.

There are also many outlets for press release distribution online but in most cases, they’re a waste of time.  Not because the services don’t do the job of distribution and getting your press release into the search engines, but because the press release is the problem.  So what’s the number one mistake even seasoned P.R. pros make on writing press releases?  The press release has a boring headline/slug line with no angle.

The headline is the most important piece of the press release and it needs to be strong enough to grab thejournalist’s attention so that he or she will actually read the rest of the story.

Think about it, what do news room assignment desks, producers and media decision makers see first?  The slug line or headline to your news release or media alert.  You’ve spent hours crafting every word of your press release and getting it approved by your client, but it’s never read because you’ve lost the decision makers before they read word one.   Here’s what I’m talking about. 

I’ve put together some good “bad” examples of headlines that I found at an online press release website:

SFR Company Gets New Home in Utah.

Sally Jane, Author of Crime Thrillers, Promotes Her New Book

R2D2 Company Concentrates on FANUC Echo Robot Sales

(NOTE: The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Here are some good examples of headlines I found at that same online press release website:

Tiny Spacecraft Could Help NASA Find Unmapped Planets

Avoiding the Con in Construction

4AllPromos Saves Lives with Summertime Promotion Products*

(*although this could be better)

Your slug line should sound like a tease for a news cast.  The difference between the two sets of examples?  The good slug lines can almost be turned into a tease for a newscast and say, “details at 11,” whereas the bad slug lines say, “who cares?”  For example, “Tiny spacecrafts could find new planets?  Details at 11,” or “Tune into tomorrow at 6 and we’ll show you how to avoid the “con” in construction.”  Here’s how you might spin a better slug line from one of the bad headlines with something like, “She’s solved two crimes without leaving her office.  How’d she do it?  (Tune tomorrow and find out).”

Now there are definitely news releases that have certain restrictions where the SEC is concerned on financial reporting, but if you’re promoting a product, person, or brand, then start thinking how producers and news editors think.

With that said, do not resort to cheap tactics to make your story seem more interesting than it really is or use a marketing-hypefilled headline that reads like an advertisement instead of a news story.  Always practice good journalism ethics and craft a headline that reflect what the story is truly about.

Finally, if you do half their work for them (i.e. create their tease line or headline so they see how they’ll grab viewers or readers with your story), then you’re on your way to becoming a rock star in P.R.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.