Although often regarded as an afterthought, it more than pays to nut out a great headline.

Your article’s shopfront, those few well-muscled words have to shoulder an awful lot of heavy lifting.

Today – because gaining earned media is part of any well designed content strategy – we’re going to  focus on how to write headlines for press releases.

Here’s how the pros write headings

News reporters receive lots (and lots) of media releases each day.

Grabbing their attention can be difficult. When it comes to headlines, here are a few golden rules:  headline needs to sum up the story, it needs to be accurate – and it also needs to grab their attention.


  • The headline needs to sum up the story
  • It needs to be accurate

Along the way:

  • Keep it brief (five to 10 or so words) and in the present tense, highlight what’s new or innovative, and avoid repeating words including “for” and “to”
  • Even though your article might relate to an event that has already happened, it’s important you write the headline in the present tense. “News” is by its very definition new, and the present tense emphasises that your information is still current
  • While the heading should always focus on the main angle of the story, it should not simply repeat the first paragraph
  • A “kicker” headline or subheading immediately below the main heading can sometimes be used to create extra emphasis or context
Explorers looking at cave drawings and one saying, "All great content but maybe if somebody had bothered to chuck on a few hashtags or a snappy heading it wouldn't have been lost for 30,000 years."

Get creative

Scan a newspaper and you’ll soon a wide variety of headline treatments.

Not in all cases, but typically the headlines of stories in the “News” section of a paper carry a serious tone. Compare these the headlines on human interest or “colour” pieces which often feature alliteration, puns and idioms – as these examples illustrate. 

Headline of "Miles of Smiles at Festival" and "Success is no quickstep"
Headline of "Land of Hop and Glory: Fields of red and green extol bunnies

Idioms are a great stand-by when injecting creativity into headings – not just for media releases but for EDMs and website slogans.

Identify phrases or expressions – even words from well-known songs or movies – that fit your article’s theme.

A colourful story about coffee for example could draw on well-known phrases around beans, brew,  grind, grounds, blend and roast or shot.

If you think a little more laterally, you might even be able to substitute words: “latte” for “let”, “lot” or “late”; brew for “do”, and so on.

Time to get to it and give your best “shot”!

Over to you

 Need help to get the words right? Book a planning session and shift up your goals.

Guest Author: Darren Grant

Guest Author: Darren Grant

Founder of Smart Arty Content

An experienced media and PR specialist – and professional cartoonist (the cartoons are by him) – Darren is also most notably a self-professed lifelong cycling tragic. By day, he works on a wide array of interesting projects. By evening, he’s most often on the garage bike trainer in the vain hope of resurrecting the glory days of youth.