Writing effective headlines

The cliché is that writing an effective headline is all about grabbing someone’s attention. It’s a shout across the street – not a subtle point made in conversation.

However, it’s important to remember that the most memorable headlines – the ones in the national newspapers that get the most attention – are often the ones that have caused the most offence or outrage.

And that’s not really the kind of attention you’re likely to be looking for.

Headlines, especially in PR, are much more about getting your message across quickly, so the reader (often the journalist deciding whether to cover the story) can decide if the story below the headline is likely to be of interest to them.

And, of course, if you’ve written a good headline, then a time-pressed journalist may well copy and paste it straight into the paper too, so it’s really worth spending a little time getting it right.

So here are our top tips for headline writing in PR:

  • Keep it short and simple – think about the key message of your press release or story and tell it straight in no more than a dozen words – less if possible.
  • Paint a picture – choose specific words instead of generic ones to help put a picture in the reader’s mind. So if the story is about a company’s fundraising activities supporting a local charity, make it specific – such as ‘Supermarket’s trolley dash supports food bank’ or ‘Car fitters take to two wheels for cancer charity’.
  • Avoid clichés, even if they’re true. Some people genuinely are ‘tireless fundraisers’ or ‘kind-hearted volunteers’ but the problem with well-worn phrases like these is that they stop having any kind of emotional punch. Better instead to concentrate on the specifics of their ‘tireless’ or ‘kind-hearted’ good deeds.
  • Appeal to emotions – while the main text of press releases and news stories should stick to the facts and use quotes to express opinions, adjectives can be used to indicate the tone of the story to come and draw the reader in by evoking an emotional response before they’ve got to the main text of the story….
  • … but don’t exaggerate – readers will be annoyed if they’re lured in on the promise of an ‘amazing’ or ‘shocking’ story which turns out to be nothing of the sort.
  • Avoid puns unless they work – there are some classic examples of wordplay used to great effect in the tabloids, but puns can really make the reader cringe if they’re shoe-horned into a phrase they don’t fit. Think of the ugly sisters trying to squeeze a foot into the glass slipper – it’s just a bit embarrassing!
  • Read it back – once you’ve written your headline, re-read the story and then consider whether the headline you’ve come up with reflects the message you’re trying to convey. Typical readers will only spend a few seconds glancing at the headline so think – would it tempt you to read on?


8 Tips To Help Grow Your Blog

Whether you write a personal blog, contribute to a business blog or are thinking of starting one (definitely do it!) – we’ve got eight top tips that’ll help you grow your online presence and audience.

  1. Do more of what makes you happy – ok so we might have stolen this inspirational quote, but it’s pretty apt when it comes to blogging too. If you reckon a blog about trains will be super successful, but you actually hate trains, writing about it will be a bit of a chore and your readers will probably be able to tell. So write about what you love. Chances are there’s an audience out there, and usually, the more niche the better!
  1. Become a regular – as your blog starts to develop, it’s likely that you’ll get readers that return for updates. If you’re posting sporadically and go months without a peep, they probably won’t come back and your traffic will drop. It’s worth noting that search engines will pick up that you’re not regularly updating your content and they’ll push you down in their rankings.
  1. Be social & get involved – create accounts on social media (especially Twitter!) and use them to promote your posts. Whatever you’re blogging about, there’ll usually be a community of similar bloggers that host weekly/monthly hashtagged chats on Twitter.
  1. Remember to alt tag your images – visuals are such a massive aspect of blogs, and without getting too technical, alt tagging your photos can help to make them appear higher on a Google image search.

How to alt tag your snaps

Once you’ve uploaded your image, switch to the html tab and you’ll find this snippet of code:

<img src=”IMAGE LINK HERE” alt=”image description”>

So, if your image is a cat dressed as a dinosaur, your html will look like this

<img src=”IMAGE LINK HERE” alt=”tabby cat in fancy dress costume dressed in dinosaur outfit”>

The more accurate the description, the higher your image will rank on image search, and more people will click through. Win!

  1. Remember to meta – a meta tag is the little bit of text that shows under your website on search engines that tells the user what they’re about to click on. Here’s an example of a website that has used a meta tag, and one that hasn’t:

If these showed up in your search results, you could easily see that the first link will take you to a page where you can hire a van or car, and bag yourself an exclusive offer. Thinking of clicking the second link? It’s a little confusing. Will you see a post on Greece? Something about fruit picking? Who knows…

How to include meta data

The two main blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress, and both now have the option in post settings to include a meta description or ‘post description’.

  1. Title your posts – as you’ll have read in our SEO post, titles are important. They’re a bit of a divided opinion when it comes to blogging, some people are keen to use whacky and interesting titles but this doesn’t tell the reader (or Google!) what you’re post is about on the search engine results pages (SERPS).
  1. Use Google analytics – Google’s analytics platform might sound a bit frightening, but you can choose how in depth you want to go with it. If you install it onto your blog, you can find out handy bits of information like:

– Which blog posts are getting the most traffic

– How long people are staying on your page (bounce rate)

– Traffic source – where people are clicking to find your blog

– Search keywords – what people are typing into Google to find your blog. Prepare to see some odd results though!

  1. Be patient – unless you’re Zoella, your audience isn’t likely to grow by thousands overnight. So point number one rears its head again – if you’re writing about what you love there’s no pressure!