Two Themes On Which Every Good Headline Writer Leans


A good copy editor in the newspaper business is worth his or weight in gold. Among their many talents: Headline writing that captivates and draws us into the stories that follow.

It’s no different in the marketing and PR arena, where so much is riding on our ability to engage. Great headlines do 80% of a marketers work. And yet all too often it seems, they only receive 20% of our attention. And that’s why so many of them are BORING.

The pressure to churn out content to populate the myriad platforms marketers manage these days keeps us focused on body copy, not headlines – or, in the case of e-mail marketing, the all-important subject line. That’s definitely putting the cart before the horse.

So, what constitutes a great headline? In today’s SEO-driven digital world, you might think it’s the one filled with your most important keywords. Not necessarily. Google is too smart for that technique. Besides, that’s why we have lead paragraphs.

Instead, think about words that capture two emotions humans can’t turn away from – drama and intensity. In the news business, that often translates into fear and what some might term as negativity. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s say you’re a bank marketing executive looking to introduce a new savings or loan product that beats the competition hands down. You might want to consider a headline that conveys something like:

Why You May Be Getting a Call from Your Banker Today.

You then follow it with copy that touts the competitive advantages of your particular product and how it creates value. Be playful and build off the headline by saying if the customer isn’t hearing from their banker, they should consider calling you.

Headline writing is an art. Find your creative voice and make it be heard.

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.