Anyone who has worked with me knows that I have a slight obsession with headlines. This goes back to my early days in marketing, writing PR headlines and Direct Marketing copy. It was critical to ensure that the headline was strong enough in its own right to lead to engagement. The result being the news release was picked up by a journalist or the mailer opened by the recipient.
Headlines are the often, forgotten aspect of content creation. However, they are one of the keys to success in content marketing. Their purpose is to give a summary of what the content is about to encourage a reader to find out more. They serve to highlight the need that the content will satisfy.
In our current digital era, headlines are increasingly important. The combination of shrinking attention spans combined with the increasing volume of messages we are currently served is a challenging environment to try to gain attention. In digital terms the principles of headline writing can be applied to the short tweet, the social media post, the email subject headline and all those other initial digital touchpoints which are attempting to get someone to click.
While many spend time on the content (which is hidden), they forget to do the same when creating the headline. Do you ever read a newsletter that arrives in your inbox entitled “Autumn Newsletter”? I didn’t think so!
Here’s a few tips to help you make the headline the hero of your content.
IDENTIFY THE TOPIC
Immediately let the person you are talking to know what you are talking about. This is your one chance to engage your audience so make the headline about them. What’s in it for them? Select one of the key benefits and highlight the advantage to them of this, using active language. Use specific numbers or dates in your headline, if you have them, as this helps build trust. It is perceived there is a science behind numbers, they are predictable and reliable and humans dislike uncertainty. Give your audience a good reason to read more by making it relevant to them and showing how it can help them. Use “how to”, “tips”, “hints”, “list” to show there is a benefit to them in continuing.
GRAB THE ATTENTION
You need to make your headline relevant but also appeal to your audience’s natural curiosity. However, curiosity is a strange thing as it does require a little bit of initial knowledge. Human nature does not allow us to be curious about something that we know absolutely nothing about. But once we gain a little knowledge our curiosity is naturally aroused and we start looking to learn more. This gap in our knowledge is the “curiosity gap” as coined by George Loewenstein i.e. the gap between what we know and what we want to know. This can be very successfully exploited when writing headlines and along with the approach above, asking a question can often be a good method to use.
Who hasn’t heard the phrase “click bait”? This is what you don’t want your headline to be known for, simply a sensationalised over-promise to encourage clicks. Always be honest and genuine, keep your brand values to the forefront. If you write a misleading headline which gets a lot of clicks and your audience then find that the content is not relevant to the headline you will damage your reputation. Your job is to summarise the truth of the story while making it compelling to the read to learn more. Remember that if you can get your key message across in your headline even if a person does not read any further then part of your job is done. Awareness has been created. To quote David Ogilvy, “On average 5 times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy”. There’s lots of useful tools and templates to help making headline writing easier. As ever practice really is the best plan. Keep it simple, make it easy to understand and talk to your audience. Spend time getting your headline right and where possible test them out. The results may surprise you.
Get in touch with us at Shortbytes Marketing Solutions if you need any help with your content creation and management.