How to Write Headlines … there are two headlines to every story
March 29, 2010
I’m often asked about what makes a good headline for a media release, article, newspaper or email subject line. The answer is very simple but depends entirely on your perspective.
For example this newspaper headline from a Portuguese based English language paper shouts out “Wettest Winter Ever” and goes on, in a page 4 editorial, to explain that Lisbon has had the wettest winter since records began in 1870.
Wettest Winter Ever is a succinct headline that really encapsulates the whole story (if you think that ever started in 1870). But it a story written from a single perspective … and some would say a negative perspective in that it focuses on the problems associated with the wet weather. The full editorial mentions floods, low temperatures and forecasts of poor weather to come.
Writing a Positive Headline
There is another side to the Wettest Winter Ever story and it tells a completely different story and is very positive. I’ve been going to Portugal several times a year for ten or more years and know it as a beautiful country with lots of sunshine and dry river beds, which means that is is a lot more arid than my part of Europe … England. In recent years it has suffered low rainfall, some very serious forest fires and at the best of times is quite brown and dry.
So imagine my surprise as I drove out of the airport and found a lush, green Eden; a countryside full of flowers, dramatic colour and flowing rivers. The wet winter meant that Portugal was greener than it had been for years. Suddenly the headline was “Greenest Spring Ever“. If you want the long version it is “Wettest Winter Ever Leads to Greenest Spring Ever”
So by changing the stories perspective suddenly the headline and whole storyline changed from a negative story to a positive story. They say every cloud has a silver lining and the wet winter had produced a silver lining .. or should I say a green spring?
So before writing a headline or story think carefully about your message. Look at the story from everyone’s perspective and perhaps hidden inside the first story is a second story and a whole new perspective.
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