Writing headlines has always been a bit of an art form. Putting together copy for an article, blog post or news release can actually be easier than identifying a handful of pithy words that resonate well enough with readers to draw them into the copy itself.
Newspaper editors have an even more challenging job, because not only must the headline reflect the gist of the story, but it has to fit within certain space parameters. And, because the person who writes the headline is not the same person who authored the story, the headline writer has the daunting task of moving quickly from one article to another, seeking to find appropriate words that not only grab attention, but also making them fit.
I never really appreciated the talent it takes to write good headlines until I took an editing class in graduate school.
Part of the course involved doing the design and layout of a mock newspaper. Just when I thought I had the perfect headline for a story, it would end up being a tad long and I’d have to start over again. Of course in addition to having the right length, I had to make sure that the revised headline accurately reflected the article’s content.
When it comes to writing headlines for publicity, you don’t have to be concerned about them fitting in a particular space – that’s up to the newspaper or magazine editor.
The challenge for agencies is writing a headline that draws enough attention and interest to get the reader into the text itself.
I frequently use a headline as my subject line when e-mailing a news release, so it has to be compelling or the e-mail will get trashed without ever being opened.
Now, there’s a free tool that helps you gauge how well your proposed headline connects emotionally with readers. It’s called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, and when you plug in your headline you’ll get a score ranking from 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better your headline.
The headline analyzer will also tell you which emotion – intellectual, empathetic or spiritual – is most impacted in a reader’s mind. The site’s Q&A section explains how this works. (Hint: It’s based on scholarly research.)
Check it out and see how long it takes you to write a headline that attains “most gifted copywriters,” status with an Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score of 50%-75%.
(I landed a score of 38.46% with the headline for this post, putting it in the range of “most professional copywriters.” As I said, headline writing is not an easy art form to master.)