You might fear the reaper, but don't fear the headline in employee communication.


I began thinking about headlines last week, when a member of our team asked me to review a concept for an infographic.

“Interesting idea,” I said after reviewing the copy, “But where’s the headline?”

Then yesterday another colleague showed me a draft of a Smart Tips article.

“Cool approach,” was my comment. “But why is headline so unformed?”

Turns out both my colleagues have Headline Phobia. They have no trouble creating a first paragraph (known as the “lede” among would-be newsies) or a terrific body or tags or captions or any other piece of copy. But headlines make them sweat.

As Blue Oyster Cult never sang: Don’t fear the headline. In fact, I agree with Brian Clark at copyblogger who says: Start with the headline when creating content for your employee communication channels.

Why? As Mr. Clark writes, “Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader” in return for his or her valuable time.

“Promises tend to be made before being fulfilled,” adds Mr. Clark. “Writing your content first puts you in the position of having to reverse-engineer your promise.”

In my experience, figuring out your headline gets you heading (get it) in the right direction. Even if you go back and change your headline later, you’ve good a great head start (sorry, couldn’t help myself) to a strong piece.

Fine, you say, but how do you write headlines? Here are two resources:

Copyblogger’s free (you have to register) e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines

Writing guru Ann Wylie’s articles: Numerals in headlines, Write Web heads that attract Google and real readers and Colloquialisms make great headlines.

Don’t be afraid: Headlines can be your friend : )

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