Want to Get Your Story Read? Write a Good Headline

“How many of you have written a really good story only to have an editor throw a headline on it that has no point?” It’s a question that Richard Haddad, digital director of Western News & Information, asked participants in his workshop at the 2012 NFPW Conference.

Without a good headline, your article is not likely to be read. Haddad noted that 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the content. Making that headline compelling is the key to having content read.

In Sunday’s blog, I shared Haddad’s five tips for writing great headlines. Today, I’ll share two additional approaches to headline writing.

Haddad says that when writing headlines, there are six questions we should ask about each headline.

  1. Does your headline offer the reader a promise?
  2. What specifics can you add for more intrigue?
  3. Does it trigger a strong actional emotion?
  4. Can it present a proposition that instantly engages the reader?
  5. Can you include a proposed transaction?
  6. What element of intrigue would drive the prospect into your opening copy?

If the answer is “no” to all of these, it’s best to rewrite the headline.

He also suggests using the “U Approach.” Is the headline useful to the reader? Does it provide a sense of urgency? Does the headline convey the benefit as unique? And finally, is the headline ultra specific? This refers back to avoiding the seven deadly flag words, which add no meaning to the headline.

Since the workshop, I spend considerably longer on my headlines. I usually start with the headline before I write my copy. It’s been a challenge, but the result is that, for the most part, my headlines are stronger.