The “TELL” formula draws readers by the headline

News editors have to go through hundreds of news releases every day with two news stories published every minute. So, how do you keep their attention on your news release for a few more moments? I would argue, the headline matters.

The Headline is the reader’s entry point to a release. It should be a brief summary or the highlight of the whole release.

At PR Newswire, we tell your story to the world; and a good news release should always tell the story in the headline. We use the “TELL” formula to determine if your release headline tells a good story.

T: Target Audience

The press release is a connection between a company and its audience. Companies are able to deliver various types of information through their releases, from the launch of new products, attendance at trade shows, or personnel announcements. The audience of the release might be commuters surfing the web on their smartphones, or even industry editors searching for valuable news.

When writing the Headline, three questions should be kept in mind: Who is the target audience of this release? What is the news story about? What key message are you trying to convey?
The Headline needs to be strategically directed at the determined target audience so as to communicate the information appropriately and directly.


Arcade City Activates Hundreds of Philippines Drivers, Responds to LTFRB Shutdown Order

The keywords of the release are clearly stated, “Arcade City”, “Activate”, “Philippines Drivers”, “LTFRB Shutdown Order”.

This headline is catchy for both drivers and passengers. Readers are not only curious about how the company Arcade City activates drivers in the Philippines, but are also more likely to continue reading to see what is going on between the company and LTFRB.

E: Efficiency

Daily readers will spend only a few seconds scanning the release headline, so the core message should be clear and be reader-friendly. This helps to increase the efficiency of delivering information. Additionally, numbers or statistics always speak louder than adjectives.

Here is one example:

Bithumb Has Exceeded $870 million in Daily Trading Volume for the First Time Since the Opening of the Domestic Virtual Currency Market

The word “$870 million” stands out in the headline. This will help readers spare a few more moments to figure out what the $870 million means.

Numbers and statistics in the headline will help industry editors save time and effort in digging out information.

L: Lean

No one likes to read a long, wordy and uninformative headline, least of all news editors. We always suggest clients make the headline no longer than 180 characters (including spaces). Online and mobile reading presents new reading habits and long headlines will not only scare readers away, but will be plain unsightly on a small mobile device screen.

It is important to keep the headline nice and short but to the point.


New Analytics Product Helps Airbnb Hosts Compete with Hotels

This release headline is successful in conveying the message in nine words. It includes the nature of the company’s product – “New Analytics Product” and a hot current topic “Airbnb Hosts” vs. “Hotels”.

This example demonstrates that release headlines do not necessarily need to be sophisticated, but should always mention keywords and highlights.

L: Language

Finally, the last component of the “TELL” formula is to mind the language of the release headline. Here are some detailed explanations:

1. Avoid passive verbs such as “think”, “feel”, “believe”.

These verbs are not based on facts or statement. The headline should be objective and consist of facts based on the release content. This will help make the release look more professional.

2. Try to use active verbs and the active voice.

A good headline is driven by good active verbs. These verbs do not need to be complicated. Simple wording and with strong active voice will give the headline a sense of urgency and draw readers in.

For example:

Dianrong and FinEX Asia Launch Asia’s First Fintech Asset Management Platform

This headline is written in active voice with the structure “Company Launch New Product”. An active verb “launch” is used. The keywords in the headline are the two company names “Dianrong” and “FinEX Asia”, the action verb “Launchrephrasee new product “Fintech Asset Management Platform”.

If we rephrased the headline with passive voice, it would read:

Asia’s First Fintech Asset Management Platform is Launched by Dianrong and FinEX Asia

The name of the product consists half of the headline and both company names are at the end of the headline. Readers are more likely to stop reading at the word “Platform”, as they have already found something catchy in the first half – “Asia’s First”. The rest of the keywords including brand names of the companies may fail to draw readers’ attention.

But looking at the original headline:

Dianrong and FinEX Asia Launch Asia’s First Fintech Asset Management Platform

Readers are likely to continue reading beyond the word “Launch” to find out what kind of product the companies have introduced. They will then be given another treat in the highlight “Asia’s First”, which may further encourage them to finish reading the entire headline, resulting in the key messages successfully delivered to readers via the Headline.

For other tips on writing effective press releases so as to stay relevant in the minds of the media and your wider customer base, read “How to Write High-Quality Press Release Content”.

Author: Haiyu Yu is the Associate Editor of PR Newswire and she is based in Shanghai.

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