Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why headlines (or subject lines) matter and where to find "free" money!

By: Steve Scaffidi, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Read these two very different headlines. An Earth-like planet found in a habitable zone! Hot cakes are actually not selling well at all. Now admittedly these two actual news headlines don't have much in common. One announces what could be one of the most amazing space discoveries of all time, while the other flips a popular saying on its head to relate a challenge in the food and restaurant industry. Which one grabs your attention?

You could certainly argue that the discovery of a planet that could host alien life light years away from Earth warrants not only one exclamation point, but perhaps two or three. But is the headline interesting enough to make you want to click on the link and read more about the discovery? I would argue no. I've seen these stories before, and frankly, most never turn out to be much of anything. Now perhaps if the headline writer had put it this way: "Far away planet could host life?" I might be inclined to give it a closer look.

Who doesn't like hot cakes? And using a fresh spin on the "selling like hotcakes" analogy makes me-as an avid consumer of both flapjacks and waffles-want to know more. What's causing this lag in popularity for one of my favorite breakfast menu items? And will this threaten my morning routine? Now that's just me, maybe my neighbor sitting next to me at the local coffee shop has much different tastes, and wouldn't give it a second look. That's the challenge for a headline writer. 

Humor works in many ways, and successful writers of news stories, press releases, or even tweets and facebook posts understand that most readers like to be entertained, and grabbing their attention is certainly the most obvious point of a well-written headline. In the rapidly increasing pace of mobile technologies and smartphones you get a few seconds to make your case. Is the story worth clicking on or not? 

Building a successful headline or subject line isn't easy and with over a million folks working in public relations, most news reporters or editors have seen everything in the way of clever ways to get a story noticed. It's an art form, and probably more important than any text you could put in a news release, since most people don't spend much time reading all the way through them. Whether your headline shocks, amuses, piques or informs, spend some time crafting the best possible attention-grabber you can. It could pay off in real measurable interest in what you're "selling." 

And for that "free" money, check the washer and dryer. That's the only place I ever find any extra cash lying around!
What's the best subject line or headline you've ever written?

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