Write hype-free news release heads instead
On my desk is a New Yorker cartoon where a CEO is talking to his PR executive. He says:
“Here it is, the plain, unvarnished truth. Varnish it.”
Well, I’m advising you to skip the varnish, especially in release headlines.
Four problems with hype
Why skip the varnish?
- Reporters hate it. Bloggers and journalists want us to report the story without the hype.
- Readers hate it. Modifiers distract Web readers, making it harder for them to focus on your message. In one study, replacing modifiers and other hype with objective language increased Web copy usability by 27%.
- Fans and followers hate it. Adjectives and adverbs don’t get shared as often on Facebook as nouns and verbs, viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella learned. According to his analysis, adverbs get shared nearly 3% less often than average; adjectives, nearly 2% less often.
- Google hates it. People search for “athletic shoes with toes,” for instance, not “best-of-breed athletic shoes with toes.” We want “trekking poles,” not “leading trekking pole solutions.” All those buzzwords just get between you and your reader.
The only person who likes the varnish? The vice president of the department who made your award-winning, innovative, best-of-breed solution.
Stop with the chest pounding.
Despite the fact that buzzwords serve nobody but the VP, I still see phrases like these in news release headlines:
- Expands leadership
- Sets major milestone
- In a move that sets the next industry milestone and reinforces its leadership position …
This hyperbole is so essential, it often shows up before the subject and verb — before the actual news — in the headline.
If you find such chest-pounding phrases in your release headline, cut them. Your news release headline should sound journalistic, not full of marketing hype.
Avoid the top 20 buzzwords.
SEO and PR strategist Adam Sherk regularly lists the most overused press release buzzwords in press releases. His top 20:
Some 15% of release headlines contain one or more of these buzzwords, according to Schwartz MSL’s 2011 study of 16,000 Business Wire Releases. That’s up from 14% in 2010.
The worst offenders in 2011:
The solution to the “solution” problem? Focus on what your products and services will do for people. And favor keywords over buzzwords whenever possible.
Don’t even think about it!!!
Nearly 1% of news release headlines contain exclamation points, according to Schwartz’s study. And 10 out of the 16,000 releases included multiple exclamation points.
If your news isn’t exciting enough without the exclamation points, perhaps you should rethink releasing the information altogether.
Just .3% of release headlines included question marks. And that’s a form of punctuation that can actually help engage readers.
Cut Through the Clutter
Want to make every piece you write easier to read and understand?
- Get it off your desk: Invite Ann’s team in to handle a special writing or editing project.
- Polish staff skills: Bring Ann to your organization for a Cut Through the Clutter workshop.
- Boost your own abilities: Work with Ann to cut the clutter in your own copy in one-on-one writing coaching. Or find out about Ann’s next Cut Through the Clutter webinar.
- Learn more: Read Ann’s Cut Through the Clutter manual. And get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
- Join the club: Get the full story in the latest issue of Rev Up Readership. And find dozens of tipsheets on Cutting Through the Clutter at RevUpReadership.com