By Libby Esterle, Senior Account Executive
Back in the day, newsboys relied on the simple and effective phrase “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” to sell papers, in particular, “extra” editions that ran apart from the usual publishing schedule. Running in the streets wearing cute newsboy caps probably helped as well. However, given that very few people receive an actual newspaper anymore (save for my parents) and the sheer amount of messages people receive every single day thanks to digital outreach, it’s imperative to craft headlines that will pull people in.
Since I’ve been writing headlines for years, you’d think that doing so would always come easily and naturally to me—but that isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes I struggle more with the headline than the actual body copy itself. To overcome this particular type of writer’s block, I rely on advice, tips, and tricks garnered throughout my career and wanted to share a couple of those with you here:
Make Your Body (Copy) Work for You.
This is probably some of the earliest advice given to me and it’s simple: start by drafting the bulk of your piece first and then use that copy to help inspire your headline. For instance, if a press release is announcing a new location or a business move, your headline and subhead can, and should be, something simple. It should also include enough details to spark interest and help promote the company without being overly sales-y (keep reading for more on that):
XYZ Company Has Moved to a New Location Downtown
Iconic Cincinnati Business Fixture Now Located at 123 East 8th Street
Just the Facts, Ma’am, or Just for Fun?
Speaking of press releases, all copy in releases — including the headline and subhead — should be factual, detailed, and non-promotional in tone to maintain credibility and align with journalism best practices. On the other hand, headlines and/or subject lines for other pieces such as emails, collateral, articles, etc. offer more flexibility and can be more fun, catchy, witty, and even humorous when appropriate—click here for some more tips.
And finally, sometimes headlines are so absurd they are almost unbelievable and just plain funny, like these.