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You already know this: The headline is, by far, the most important part of any piece of employee communication content. How important? Here are two essential facts:

  • 80% of readers access only the headline
  • Effective headlines increase readership by up to 73%

That means the headline needs to convey the essence of the article (because it may be all an employee reads). At the same time, a headline needs to make an offer that the content that follows will be worthwhile to encourage 20% of employees to keep reading.

To improve your headlines, begin by analyzing consumer media. Those publications and websites are masters of headlines, since their business depends on a reader buying and reading print publications and visiting a website and accessing content.

Here are four lessons you can learn from consumer media on writing compelling headlines:

  1. Get to the point

    If you can do only one thing to improve headlines, I recommend it be this: Summarize the key message of your content. That way, employees who don’t read any further will still get the point.

    Example: Why the military hasn’t stopped sexual abuse (USA Today)

  2. Write for humans

    With all the corporate clutter employees receive, they respond to headlines that sound like people talk.

    Example: Are you normal or nuts? Your quirks, dreams and anxieties explained (Reader’s Digest)

  3. Offer a benefit

    Give employees news they can use: advice that helps them solve a problem or accomplish an objective.

    Example: Beat diabetes. The 15-second test that can save your life (Prevention)

  4. Pose a question

    Phrasing headlines in the form of a question will not only help you win at Jeopardy, it also appeals to readers.

    Example: New Flu Bugs: Too Lethal For A Pandemic? (The Wall Street Journal)

 Ready to write better headlines? Visit a newsstand near you . . . or simply visit leading consumer websites to see how they create compelling headlines.

(And if subject lines are your biggest challenge, see my recent Inc. blog)

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