Why is it that writers labor for hours over a story, only to chase readers away with boring, say-nothing headlines?
Consider this title from an insurance company publication:
Regional structure and focus strengthened
Other than a vague reference to “structure,” the headline plays a guessing game with employees, who couldn’t possibly know what the story is about. It also violates my No. 1 rule of good headline writing: It fails to sell the benefits of the story. Headlines should answer the questions: Why should I care? Why should I spend my time reading this article? How have you, the writer, helped me do my job?
In my Advanced Writing and Editing seminars, I like to compare headline writing to advertising. Your story is the product. The reader is the consumer. The headline is the marketing copy.
Readers today are skimmers and scanners. They race through our publications, skipping through headlines to see what grabs their interest. When confronted with dull and vague titles, they simply turn the page. They reject the product.
So how do you seduce readers with a headline that sells benefits? How do you sell the sizzle? Here are a few rules: