I will be the first to admit that as a blogger I don’t spend as much time editing and critiquing my own materials as I do for company and client materials. So, I actually had to give pause when writing the headline for this entry as it doesn’t seem quite right to just throw a headline up when talking about writing good headlines.
A former colleague sent me a note after reading my last blog entry commenting on bad headlines.
“Before I edited a recent success story, one essentially said <name of big bank> uses <company name> for massive data storage. Seriously, why should anyone care? What’s different, is there a unique quality that made them choose that company or that product, is there a unique situation or problem the storage is solving that might have wider audience appeal? You have to keep it short, but you also need to say enough so someone can identify a problem he or she has or might have or a benefit they’d like to have and therefore have a reason to read the story. People write their white paper or solution brief or success story and the headline is an afterthought – something slapped on at the end, and yet it needs to be every bit as carefully crafted as the piece itself to draw people in without over promising.”
I could feel the years of her frustration in that paragraph. It is always interesting to me how good marketing people think differently. Too often I see mediocre work getting rubber stamped by people. It can be a painful process to get just the right words, but it can be the difference in whether or not the press release actually gets read or written about.
If I was to sum up what NK wrote about a good headline, I would offer these suggestions:
- Imagine the headline that the journalist would write–if you can’t imagine a clever one, neither will he.
- What problem does your product solve? Talk about the benefit in the headline. Don’t tell how fast it is–talk about how going faster will make people more productive.
- Even if your product is a commodity, there must be interesting ways people are using it. Dig deep to give people a reason to want to try it. How are your best customers using the product?
- Leave the ego out of the discussion. Being the owner of the words is not as important as being part of the team that finds the right words.
Looking at my headline above, I think it still needs work. Suggestions?