Press Release Headlines: When Short Is Just Right

Feb 2, 2022

A famous saying in my family is, “Our family is SO short, our family tree is a bush.” Ba dum bum.

Seriously, there are certain times when being short and sweet is right on point. Example: press release headlines.

My colleague Brandon Glenn recently wrote a blog about the 2021 State the of Press Release report from PR Newswire (a Cision company). Point 3 specifically states that for headlines, less is more. Cision recommends keeping headlines fewer than 70 characters. Not words…characters (including spaces.) Why? Email applications and Google’s search engine will cut off any text over that amount.

PR Newswire offers editors and journalists the option to subscribe to their wire service based on keywords that interest them. Subscribers are only emailed press releases with the applicable terms. Imagine how frustrating it would be if they missed relevant news because key words weren’t included in the first 70 characters of the title.

We all have a limited amount of time in our day, which is why a list of shortened titles that grab our attention is useful for helping us to decide what we will spend our valuable time reading. A clear example is the daily news feed from Becker’s Hospital Review. Not only do you see headlines comprised of just a few words, for each article you also get a one-paragraph synopsis that provides enough information to help you decide if you should open the article for a deeper dive.

Now I’m going to pick on a press release that fails to be short and sweet. Note that this is not one for our clients, but the release did make me flinch when I ran across it:

“Sandoz launches authorized generic of Narcan® (naloxone hydrochloride) Nasal Spray 4 mg in US to help reverse opioid overdose, expanding access during surge in overdose deaths”

This poor headline is 175 characters. Do we really need the generic name in the headline, as well as the dosage? Again, keep in mind that email platforms and Google will cut off after 70 characters, so all anyone will see is “Sandoz launches authorized generic of Narcan® (naloxone hydrochloride).” Journalists looking for important keywords like “opioid” and “overdose” would not see this release.

If I were writing this headline, I would say, “Sandoz unveils generic Narcan® to help surge in opioid overdose deaths.” My version is exactly 70 characters and succinctly communicates the company’s general message. The rest of the details could then be included in the sub-headline or body of the release.

A headline is meant to catch readers’ attention – and it is important to do it quickly. When it comes to writing a press release headline, remember that a short and sweet 70 characters is the magic number.