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4 tips to writing better headlines

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The following was originally posted on the PRevolution blog on Thursday, May 5.

We hear it all the time. The number one skill PR and marketing pros need to succeed: Writing skills. I’ll take that one step further. In today’s world of 140 character messages, Facebook updates that have shelf-lives of 80 minutes and 24/7 news cycles, what you really need to hone in on is writing uber-compelling and intriguing headlines.

After all, what doesn’t get clicked, doesn’t get converted.

So headlines are the name of the game in today’s wired world. You could write the best post or article ever. Deep thoughts sure to get your prospective customers thinking–and hopefully, converting to a NEW customer. But, if the headline doesn’t speak to them, they’ll never even see it.

So, I might argue headline writing–not just writing–is the most important skill for today’s marketing and PR pro.

The question is: How do we get better at it?

I thought I’d share a few actionable tips to becoming a better social headline writer:

Use multiple “Twitter headlines” for the same blog post. Many subscribe to the theory of sharing your blog posts multiple times per day (morning, noon and night). If you agree with that premise, why not create three distinct headlines (tweets, in this case) each time you share. And, be sure to use a trackable link (bit.ly) so you can see which headline resonated more with your readers and followers. Using this approach, you’ll fine-tune your headline writing skills quite quickly.

Start a photo blog on Posterous. That’s an odd suggestion, Arik. What do photos have to do with headlines? Think about it. By starting a photo blog, you’ll be forced to write headlines that both describe the photo and pique readers’ curiousity. It’s the ultimate headline game–what headline can you write that will entice people enough to click. Again, the Posterous stats will give you instant feedback into what headlines are resonating and which aren’t. You may have noticed, I started a new blog recently focused on shoes. While I don’t plan posting all that often (not the intent), it will force me to write compelling and pithy headlines that will convince folks to click thru.

Write 10 headlines for each blog post. This is an old trick I’ve been doing more lately. By exhausting every possible angle for your posts, you’ll hone your craft and get valuable practice. Another side benefit of this exercise: You’ll most likely stumble upon future blog post ideas in drafting these alternate headlines.

Pay attention to your subject lines. We forgot how much writing we all do via email each day. Just stop and think about it for a second. How many emails to you write each day? If you’re like me, it’s probably north of 50–at least. That’s 50 chances for you to write new headlines. OK, sure, some of those are replies and you don’t want to mess with the subject lines. But, for all those new emails, you should be carefully considering and practicing your headline writing by thinking long and hard about that subject line. Especially, for PR pros, with your pitches. A good subject line can make all the difference between a pitch that gets clicks and one that gets trashed.

What about you? What headline writing tips would you share?

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4 tips to writing better headlines

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