How to write headlines to improve internal communication

 

If you can make one change to improve employee communication channels this year, do this: Abolish dull, news-oriented headlines. You know the headlines I’m talking about—they’re stiff, corporate and not very human:

  • U.S. Sales Leadership Announces Organizational Changes
  • XYZ Product Exceeds Expectations for Sales in Asia
  • New Initiative to Improve Time to Market for Products in Development

While it’s true that you need to share company news like this, it’s also true that these headlines are too much like press releases to appeal to employees’ self-interest. There’s no WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). It’s hard for employees to see why reading the article will benefit them.

So your resolution should be this: Whenever you can, write headlines that help employees solve a problem or improve the way they do something. (Of course, that means the content that follows the headline needs to deliver on the promise; we’ll work on that soon.)

For inspiration, I turn to a consumer publication, Better Homes & Gardens. Knowing how people love to get organized in January, BHG created a series of features on “favorite clutter-cutting tricks and storage ideas.”

Here are 3 ways to learn from BHG and improve your internal communication headlines:

  1. Start with the audience’s needs. BHG is clear about the problems its readers want to solve—eliminate clutter and organize their stuff. So editors write headlines like: “Storage Mistakes You Make (& How to Fix Them!)” and “Declutter Like a Pro.”
  2. Emphasize the outcome. What will employees accomplish by reading this article? BHG makes sure that outcome is emphasized in headlines like “Max Out Your Bath’s Storage Potential” and “Smart Solutions for Awkward Items.”
  3. Be as specific as possible. This is no time for vague concepts. Great how-to headlines are specific: “5 Easy Steps to Organize ANYTHING” and “9 Better-Than-Bought Storage Baskets.”

Keep in mind that the majority of employees use the headline to make their decision about whether to open an email, click through to a link or read an intranet article. If your content has a weak headline, it simply won’t be read.

So, if you don’t change anything else this year, change the headline.

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