March 2015 Printips

Engage Readers With... Effective Headlines

When you are writing a marketing communication piece – print ad, sales letter, direct mail piece, brochure, blog entry, press release, newsletter, webinar – where do you start? You may be surprised to learn that experts advise starting at the top by writing the headline.

The headline is your promise to readers, a statement of what they can expect if they continue reading. Promises are first made, and then fulfilled. So make the promise to readers through the headline, and fulfill it in the content.

The importance of headlines is not a new concept. Writing in 1923 in his book Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins said, “We pick out what we wish to read by headlines.” Forty years later, in his 1963 book Confessions of an Advertising Man, advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents of your dollar.” Continuing today, busy people decide what to read on web pages, e-mail, or blogs based the strength of the headline.