The Power of Headlines

Get Your Message Across in the Headline —
It May Be the Only Thing They Read!

By Amy Campbell

The quickest and easiest way to improve the communication power of your newsletter is to write headlines that say something specific. Most readers don't spend more than a few seconds to review their mail and publications, so put the crux of your message up front.
Here's how to pump up the power of your headlines:

1. Include the main point in the headline.

Avoid vague headlines such as "Monthly Meeting Report" and "Year In Review." Be more specific such as: "New Call-back System Boosts Sales by 12 Percent." Don't save the core message for the last paragraph, your readers may never get that far!

2. Use subheads to explain further.

A second headline, or subhead, will help you provide more information up front, and will also help draw the reader into the article. For instance, the sample headline in the paragraph above ("New Call-back System Helps Boost Sales by 12 Percent") might have a subhead like this: "Denver branch's process will be implemented company wide." With this much information up front, even those who don't read on will get the main points.

3. Don't be cute.

Avoid the temptation to try to spice up your newsletter with intriguing headlines such as "Bambi Meets Godzilla" for an article comparing your company's product to the competitor's, or "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Human Resources" for an article about changes in health insurance benefits. With such headlines you risk not drawing in readers who might read on if the article was more appropriately titled: "PhoneMax Beats LotsaChatter in Feature-to-Feature Comparison," or "Health Benefits Reduction Reflects 12% Cost Increase for 1997."

4. Keep it short.

While you want to convey something specific in the headline, don't go overboard — you can't say it all. Keep headlines brief. They should be short enough to read at a passing glance, usually no more than two lines.

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