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Headlines: The Gateway to Your Content
Posted on September 22nd 2013
Want to be a copywriting genius? Start with working on your headlines. Headlines are the real gateway to your content. In more than one way a headline controls the fate of the rest of your content. As social content spreads and content marketers develop all sorts of gimmicks in design and advertising, a great copy becomes all the more expensive. Think of ads with terrible copy. It's just another headline gone bad. A tweet that has a terrible construction or is plain boring is a wasted headline. A friend of mine recently pointed out some terrible self promotion Tweets. No offense, guys, but these are just awful:
Comic book titles are always great headlines. “Crisis On Infinite Earths”, “X Men: Days Of The Future Past” or “Batman: The Killing Joke” are all great titles. They invoke an element of mystery and curiosity for readers to start thinking what it could be. It instantly sparks speculations yet it gives a sense of things involved in it. Read on if you want to know how great headlines are written.
Listen to the narrator in your head
People often ask me if their headline looks ok? Mostly when I look at an article headline I look for a voice in it. I want the line to speak for itself. If I can’t feel a Morgan Freeman or a Hugh Grant saying out that line to me I think that in most part the rest of it will be just ‘bollocks’. Not that its actually bollocks but it is a judgemental mind that seeks a punch in the words which must promise that what’s coming next is worth reading. That’s my idea of a headline, don’t you agree to that?
Sharpen your social skills
Well most people want a magic with their content. However its not really a matter of defence against the dark arts. It has to do with your wit. While we are growing up, we all develop social skills. We slowly learn to say things with more complexity. For example, usually a child would request for some water by saying – “I want water”. If the child came from a little more sophisticated family, the request would be – “May I please have some water?”. A slightly descriptive child would state the cause of the request by saying – “I feel thirsty. may I have some water please”. While these are all logical statements meant to be understood, but they all have a different tone to them. They say a lot about you rather than just the request. We usually do not remember the nature of request and somehow process the information regardless of the construction of the sentence but we retain the image of the person making that request. You can say that from utility stand point all the above statements are at the same level. So does that mean they are all saying the same thing? Not really.
Think like you have Attention Deficit
Even things as mundane as asking for water could be made more interesting. A creative request could be – “I will love you the rest of my life if you get me some water to drink” or “Water is life, if you get me water, I’ll owe you my life.” Of-course these are really dramatic versions of a very simple request but we do hear such things from people who are really close. I understand that you might never ask for water in this way but, think about it, wouldn’t you draw more attention for it? While crafting a headline always think of a way that can draw the maximum attention.
Shock and Awe
An old journalistic tactic but works all the time. Saying that “Most household kids suffer from acute thirst: Give the child water right now” – you might end up in a week’s detention but the urgency of the statement is simply stunning. Its about being sensational, yet maintaining the sanity. Protesting, disruptive language could be a good weapon but only if used in moderation. Constant barrage of urgent sounding headlines can make people numb to your message, much like how people start ignoring weather warnings when they had gone on for too long without the actual storm.
Let them piece it together
Remember Stargate the movie in which James Spader deciphers the last symbol required to open the portal to another world? Your headlines should leave enough clues for your readers to unlock the message for themselves. If you give them everything in the headline then you might loose them right there. A riddle like headline could challenge a reader to come back and make sure he/she is not missing something by not reading it through. People like intellect. If your headline incorporates well learned references, people find it easy to build thought around it. Let people discover for themselves what it is all about. Like a child requesting water by saying – “Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink”