When you write a press release, what do you spend the most amount of time on? Quotes? Trying to cram in every single feature of your service or product…in 600 words?
The things you should be spending the most amount of time on are the headlines, subheads and lead sentences.
Alas, these three sentences are ones most businesses and agencies spend the least amount of time on. That’s because they’re often templated: “Company X, a leading provider of widgets, announces (insert phrase here).”
Don’t write by template. Every situation is different. Every head should be different. Ditto for leads.
Your headlines and leads are often the only sentences busy prospects, customers, reporters and analysts read. They’re also the ones search engines place the most weight on.
Make these sentences engaging. Make them pop. Make them the most important real estate on your press release.
Take this recent headline and subhead/photo caption from PR Newswire:
Energy Focus, Inc. Announces New Line of Energy Efficient LED Parking Garage Fixtures for Existing Buildings.
EFOI’s LED linear Parking Garage fixtures offers an easy retrofit solution for existing buildings.
I don’t know about you, but I likely wouldn’t get to the lead after reading this. Even if I were interested in things like LED parking garage fixtures.
How can we make this headline and subhead pop?
- Lose “announces.” The word is unnecessary. The news is not that you announce something; the news is the thing you are announcing. This word also wastes valuable space. Space that could be put to better use for search engine optimization and busy readers.
- Lose “Inc.” It’s also unnecessary and wastes space. Who searches for “Inc.” on Google? Don’t write like a lawyer…unless you’re writing a lawsuit.
- Lose “fixtures,” “existing” and “retrofit.” They’re also unnecessary. And boring. Use retrofit lower in the copy.
- Eliminate either “garage” or “buildings.” They’re redundant.
- Don’t repeat words.
- Minimize acronyms.
- Watch the grammar–seriously! Especially in a headline, subhead, caption or lead. Fixtures don’t “offers.” They offer.
We now need to add things such as attributes and differentiation. And potentially sexiness.
Light fixtures aren’t exactly sexy. But we can make them stand out from other light fixtures.
Energy Focus LEDs use only half the power of conventional fluorescent fixtures and one-third the power of conventional “metal halide” fixtures. The important thing here is that Energy Focus’ LED lights will save you money. That’s pretty sexy. Especially if you’re the one paying the energy bill. Oh, they’re also better for the environment! Being green is downright sexy nowadays.
So, to write a better head, I need to learn a little about LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. This is from Wikipedia:
“LEDs present many advantages over traditional light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size and faster switching. However, they are relatively expensive and require more precise current and heat management than traditional light sources.”
Apparently, Energy Focus has licked this heat management problem. These lights do not require “expensive heat sinks” and use much of the same hardware used by ugly–and cheap–fluorescent lights. (LEDs, by the way, put out much nicer light.)
So, Energy Focus’ attributes to try to communicate in the head are:
- Lower operational costs
- Higher output
- Cool technology that reduces many problems associated with traditional LEDs
- Easy installation
- More aesthetically-appealing
- Environmental friendliness
Let’s use most or all of these attributes in a headline. Remember, you should also do some SEO research on optimum key phrases to use. We’ll just assume the words I use are optimized.
Energy Focus Launches High-output, Low-cost LED Lighting System
Green technology makes it easy to modernize parking garages
Energy Focus Unveils System to Convert Parking Garages to Efficient LED Lighting
High-output, low-cost breakthrough technology uses 50 percent less energy than traditional fluorescent lighting
How about this one?
Modernizing Old Fluorescent Lighting Systems Just Became Easy
New high-output, low-cost LED breakthrough from Energy Focus now available for parking garages
Often, the more boring the topic, the more time you should spend on the headline. With a little more research into this company, we probably could come up with even more descriptive and engaging heads. But you get the point.
I also hope you see how much thought should go into the top of a press release: If you aren’t spending half your time on the first three or four sentences, you could be wasting your time altogether.