Headlines are critical. That’s not news. But it’s worth repeating. Without a headline that makes people stop and click, good content won’t be noticed.
I’ve seen blog posts that urge bloggers and other writers to use a formula to create headlines. Something like: “__ tips to do ______ and get _____ .”
I like the way that aims to simplify an important task that can be stressful and difficult. But that advice misses the main point of strong headlines: Those toppers for articles, news releases, or blog posts that are so enticing, readers feel compelled to pause, open, and explore.
Too often it seems, headline writers create their titles for themselves instead of for their audience.
Yes, the authors (or their clients) are the ones excited about the development they are announcing. Or the insight they are sharing.
But if the headline that introduces the post or news release heralds a self-interested angle, it ignores the point of view of the readers. And if it does that, far fewer readers will click on—and open—the link.
That undermines the communication’s effectiveness and its reach.
Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen
When writing a headline, force yourself to get out of the way. Set aside, for a few moments, your
reason for communicating the information. Instead, think of a way to frame the topic from an angle that your audience will care about—from a perspective that will matter to them. Turn the focus onto why they
That’s the lens through which to write a headline that will lure readers. Why? It’s written for them and not for the headline writer (or for the headline writer’s client or employer).
It’s common to see company news releases trumpeting a development or a partnership or breakthrough in a way that makes it relevant only to the company and the partners involved. Instead, whenever possible, the headline should call out the benefits to customers, to vendors, or to employees. That is going to make the news release matter more to the media as well as to customers or vendors or employees—and thus investors.
Another way of thinking about it is this: Headlines shouldn’t state the facts. They should let readers know that if they click on the link, they will find out why the news matters to them or to someone they’re interested in or connected to.
An example …
The headline that drew you into this post
Who really needs to be intrigued by your headline? The answer: Your audience. Sounds kind of simple. Maybe even silly, right?
Well, go through blog posts or news releases or memos, focusing on the headlines only. You’ll see many examples in which the author wrote the headline from the point of view that he or she cares about. (That’s not irrelevant, of course.) But doing so is not going to attract nearly as much interest as if the headline had been aimed squarely at the intended audience.
Grab the attention of readers by telling them with the headline why they should care about the information that’s coming next. What’s in it for them? Why do they need to know? Lure potential readers by giving them the selling points they care about the most.
• Before sending out your next post or memo or news release —or any other writing that you really want to be read—check to make sure the headline would intrigue the most important audiences being targeted by the communication.
• Write it for those readers. A headline written with their interests in mind will get a much better response.
Your audience doesn’t care why you think the news or insight is a big deal. The only thing they care about is why they should care—and spend time reading the memo, post, or release.
The headline must make it perfectly clear that there’s something in it for them if they keep going. Make sure to deliver those goods in the rest of the piece, though. Write clearly
or readers who got sucked in won’t fall for that trick again.
Don’t take my word for this. Do it and watch the analytics for ping backs, reposts, page views, clicks, and shares. I’d love to hear back from you and get your views.
Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Sydney, Australia, before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. A version of this story first appeared on Becky’s blog.