Recently on my Facebook page I posted this headline from a REAL press release: 

Black Dick for Hire/Private Eye: Black private investigator emerges from the shadows to provide investigative consulting to discerning clientele.

I wanted to know what my friends thought about the headline.  Was it clever, smart, offensive or obscene? Was it the kind of advertising and/or marketing strategy that would make them want to learn more about this individual and his business?  The majority said it grabbed their attention but they also found it to be obscene.  A few people went as far as to say they wouldn’t consider doing business with this particular investigator based on the way he promotes himself.

If you read further into the press release you find that “Black Dick” refers to  Dick Pierre A. McLean, who is a black private eye.  Perhaps he was using a play on names, modeling himself after the comic strip character Dick Tracy.  But when you add the word Black in front of Dick, it gives it an entirely different meaning whether intended or not. 

As a media trainer and someone who helps people self-promote, I do believe how we label (or brand) ourselves will determine how we are perceived by the public (our potential clients and customers). 

Here are some suggestions on how you can shine in a press release headline:

Cut the hype:  Don’t treat your press release like an advertisement for your products and services.

Make sure the headline is accurate:  Don’t try to trick editors into reading your press release by misleading them in your headline. A misleading headline might grab their attention for a moment, but will quickly get tossed if they discover the headline has nothing to do with the overall content in the release.  This will cause you to lose credibility.  

Follow the K.I.S.S. Rule:  Keep it short and simple.  You should be able to say what you want to say on one page.  

Sex does not always sell:  Incorporating sexual innuendos into your press release headline may not be the smartest way to promote yourself or your business if the reference has absolutely nothing to do with the overall content of your release.  

Last but not least, ALWAYS be mindful of how you present yourself.