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The words that spell success for your media release

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Uncertain about the best words to use in headlines for your media releases?

Certain words are much more likely to get media to pick up a release. In fact, certain words are almost sure to hit the hot buttons of a news editor.

Words like “safe,” “easy,” “secret,” “trick,” and “breaking” in the headline of a media release usually strike a response because they suggest something new and fresh. Same with superlatives like “first,” “most,” “tallest” and “fastest.”

Writing the headline of a media release is like writing a newspaper headline or the subject line of an email - each word is important.

The words in the heading are now even more important than ever because they need to be written for search engines as well.

Words like “green” and “environment” are big at the moment. In the US, another word picked up by news media everywhere due to so many home mortgage problems is “foreclosure.”

Words that lift the response to a media release vary from region to region and industry to industry.

For instance, when basic words like “baby,” “break up,” “heartbreak,” “marriage” and “divorce” are linked in a media release about the entertainment industry with the names of big stars like Michael Bublé, Britney Spears and Tom Hanks, a release is sure to attract media attention.

Technology releases get better mileage if they feature words like “cost breakthrough,” “faster” and “higher capacity.”

Being topical will increase the chances of getting a run. If something big is in the news, a media release that works off the hot topic is likely to get picked up.

Words to avoid?

Avoid clichés like the plague! Words like “solutions,” “leading,” “leading edge,” “state of the art,” “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” world renowned,” “turnkey,” and, even if I dare say it myself, “cutting edge,” disappear into the proverbial waste paper basket.

The New York Times recently published an article wondering how a certain PR pitch and news conference successfully prompted media coverage. The media release headline was: “Toxic Ties to ‘New Shower Curtain Smell’ Evident, According to Latest Laboratory Testing.” The whole thing sounded dodgy, as do many media release headlines.

A visit to always provides instructive material on what to avoid. PR Newswire runs a busy service publishing media releases from subscribers on its website. Many media outlets monitor it and run some of its material.

When I visited the website this week I almost gagged at some of the rubbish being foisted on the world. Some of it is just plain awful! No wonder many media types throw scorn at the PR profession. On PR Newswire’s “Latest Video News” section this week, five out of the first nine media release headlines were (reproduced exactly as shown):


Baskin-Robbins Serves Up Free Soft Serve for Moms-To-Be to Celebrate the Launch of the New Frozen Treat!

Fastest Pizza Makers From Around the World Compete For Title Of ‘world’s Fastest Pizza Maker’

First Press Briefing in the United States Ever To Be Held 180 Feet Above Las Vegas At The Internet Café in The Sky

Valley Of The Sun And Big Apple Heat Up Seventh Annual Old Spice Sweatiest Cities Rankings

So there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly!

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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