Who was the best headline writer ever? I’d have to nominate Vincent Musetto, who was responsible for one of the most spectacular headlines ever to splash across the cover of a tabloid newspaper: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR, which appeared in The New York Post on April 15, 1983.
What do tabloid headlines have to do with employee communication? Everything. Although your CEO would frown upon shady tactics used by the tabloids, their headlines are a great inspiration for how to get people’s attention in this information-overloaded world.
After all, headlines are the most important element of any content. Consider these 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 content (because it may be all an employee reads). At the same time, a headline needs to make an offer that the content will be worthwhile to encourage 20% of employees to keep reading.
Recently, I shared 4 ways to write compelling headlines by studying consumer media.
What can you learn about headlines from tabloids? If Mr. Musetto were still alive (he died in 2015), he’d probably advise you to:
- Be super brief. When you’re dealing with 72-point type, you don’t have a lot of space. So make every character count.
- Choose only powerful words. Every verb needs to pack a punch. Every noun needs to paint a picture. Articles and prepositions? Who needs ‘em!
- Have fun with it. Maybe you can’t go this far: “Germans Wurst at Penalties” or “Weiner’s Rise and Fall”. But a little wordplay is a powerful thing.
By the way, Mr. Musetto’s favorite headline he ever wrote wasn’t the most famous one. The winner in his mind? GRANNY EXECUTED IN HER PINK PAJAMAS. Now that’s a headline.