How to Write the Best Headline for a Press Release

How to Write the Best Headline for a Press Release

One of the most successful tactics when it comes to building high quality links back to your site is to outreach digital PR campaigns. Whether it’s a data led campaign, a regional survey, a map or even a fake product, digital PR campaigns can be a great way to engage with journalists and land links to support your SEO strategy.

Once you’ve got an idea that’s relevant to your brand and bold enough to cut through a busy news agenda, you need to put a press release together which details the campaign and gives the journalist the right content to link back to. 

The first thing a journalist sees when you send through a press release is the headline, so it’s crucial to write the best press release headline you possibly can. You might have the campaign idea of the year with shocking data that’s beautifully written BUT if your headline is weak – it’s highly unlikely a journalist will open it. 

Journalists receive 100s of press releases a day whilst also following breaking news, so to get a journalist to physically open your email and read your press release, you have to grab their attention within seconds – with just one sentence, your headline. 

The Digital PR team at NORTH recently carried out in depth analysis into the press releases we sent over a 12 month period. We analysed:

  • The words and phrases included in a press release headline that have a high open rate 
  • The words and phrases included in a press release headline that have a low open rate
  • The optimum length of time to schedule a follow up
  • The impact of including a regional location in the press release headline

Headline words and phrases with the highest open rate

Our analysis of key nouns in press release headlines with a 60% + open rate showed a number of themes. The most prominent is, expertise, whether it’s a job title, or reference to a study – any reference to expertise has a huge impact on the success of a headline’s open rate. Other key themes include: 

  • The weather
  • The royal family
  • TikTok
  • Sleep 
  • Sex
  • A regional reference i.e a city


Good press release examples:

  • Three ways to spice up TikTok’s viral Parmesan potatoes from a culinary expert.
  • August heatwave: Sleep expert reveals why it’s so hard to sleep in the heat.
  • As the UK’s temperature soar to 40c, Brits can’t get enough of Kate Middleton’s favourite salad.

Words and phrases in press release headlines with the lowest open rate

Our analysis of key nouns in headlines with a 36% and below open rate also showed a number of themes. The most prominent is, revealed. Surprisingly, starting a headline with this word, concludes in a much lower open rate. Other themes include:

  • Starting a headline with a number
  • Asking a question
  • Including the brand
  • No inclusion or reference to expertise or a job role. 
  • Phrases like “how to spot” and “how to avoid” also lower the chances of a headline being opened by journalists. 


Bad press release examples:

  • Do you have a sweet tooth? Here’s how to solve sugar cravings in a healthy way.
  • 50% of women struggle to fall asleep: How to improve your bedtime routine.
  • Revealed: The dopamine superfoods that will kick start your new year.
  • Revealed: The biggest fantasy battles in on-screen history.


How to increase the likelihood of clicks on links within your press release

The click rate is the percentage of journalists who have clicked a link in your email. The links included in your pitch email will most likely be what you want the journalist to include on their site and build links back to. 

Whether or not a link is clicked is hugely important and can impact whether or not a link is included in the article. 

Luckily, increasing the likelihood of a link being clicked is very simple. 


  • INCLUDE EMOJIS Over a 12 month period, The headline which resulted in the most link clicks [45%] included emojis in the subject line. “You Can Now Buy An Aperol Spritz Burger🍹🍔”  another headline which resulted in a high click rate [41%] also included emojis: “A Royal Birthday: Here’s what the Queen’s bedroom would look like based on 2022 trends! 👑🛌”
  • INCLUDE LINK IN FIRST FEW WORDS The most successful tip to increase click rate is to make sure your link is one of the first words in your email pitch. Your email pitch should be short and snappy, but try to always link your brand in your opening sentence. 
  • REFERENCE AN EXPERT IN THE EMAIL PITCH The inclusion of an expert already has a positive impact on the headline, but mentioning an expert ahead of the link is also more likely to result in the link being clicked on. A journalist associates that link with expertise. 
  • REFERENCE THE LINKABLE ASSET IN THE HEADLINE IF IT’S INTERACTIVE You might not always have the resources or budget to create an interactive linkable asset for your campaigns – but if you do, reference it in the press release headline to increase the likelihood of the link being clicked.


For a recent campaign for an education client we used the headline: “New interactive quiz promises to boost students’ learning” this headline didn’t have a high open rate [33%] but of those who opened it, 66% clicked the link – suggesting that journalists were more interested in the link than the campaign.


What to do after you’ve outreached your press release

You’ve finally come up with the best press release headline and outreached to a sparkling media list. But now what?

Follow up emails are crucial. The average open rate of all follow up emails the NORTH team analysed across 12 months was 43%, so just under half of journalists receiving a follow up email opened them.


  • FOUR DAYS IS THE OPTIMUM TIME TO SCHEDULE A FOLLOW UP Analysis of follow up emails with the highest open rate, were scheduled 4.1 days after the original email was sent. 
  • TARGET JOURNALISTS & REFERENCE SIMILAR ARTICLES Analysis of reply rates shows that highly targeted outreach which is personal to the journalist i.e. references one of the following: the publication they write for, their readers and examples of similar articles they’ve written equate to the highest reply rates. A campaign the NORTH team outreached about emotional escape rooms which include very personalised outreach referencing the journalists work had a 14% reply rate [the highest reply rate of all press releases analysed]. Personalising between 10-15 emails for key journalists is likely to lead to a reply.
  • PIVOT Pivoting a campaign should be an essential part of your digital PR strategy, each campaign should ideally get at least two pivots. Especially if a campaign hasn’t performed well. The analysis of pivots is very clear, regional pivots are by far the most successful.
  • REGIONAL PIVOTS Campaign pivots which included a city or region in the headline, had an average open rate of 61% the follow up email open rate was also higher than the yearly average, 49%. This data suggests that all campaigns should have at least one pivot which has a regional focus and hook.


Key takeaways

  1. Follow ups should be schedule for 4 days after first outreach
  2. Include a regional hook in your pivots
  3. Select 10-15 key contacts and send a personalised email
  4. Reference an expert in your headline wherever possible 
  5. Never include a number or ‘revealed’ at start of your headline
  6. Brit’s favourite talking points prove successful in headlines e.g. weather, sleep and Royal family
  7. If you have a super linkable asset, reference it and include emoji in headline


If you’re looking for a hand or want to learn more about digital PR, browse our digital PR services or get in touch, we love a good chat!