Powerful headlines can drive readers into a story or — if they fly foul — turn them away. Do you know how to write headlines that hit home?
A headline and subhead (often called the deck) can be the most important words you write. Too often these critical components are an afterthought and can cause you to strike out with readers. That’s why our April 16 webinar focuses on how to write headlines that hit home.
Leon was joined by WordSouth Editorial Director Noble Sprayberry, who manages 23 regional broadband magazines, and Director of Marketing and Business Development Andy Johns, an award-winning newspaper reporter.
To warm up for the webinar, we asked our editorial pitch headline hitters to share favorite headlines that score with readers.
Balance Whimsy with Simplicity
As one of the webinar panelists, we asked Noble to share three favorite headlines he’s seen in our May/June 2021 regional broadband magazines.
- Sample the Spirits of Texas (PDF):, HCTC Connection Magazine, Texas
“Sometimes, a literal approach works really well. Repeating the “S” gives it some lilt. Then, the subhead is clean and simple,” says Noble. “This is a case where the headline is tight, to the point, and doesn’t get in the way of the story.”
- Perfectly Pleasing Peas (PDF): Enjoy a surprisingly flexible legume Shared regional content
“You can have a little fun,” says Noble. “Here, the alliteration of the “p” gives a lightness to the page, which is appropriate for a food story. And playing off legume — a non-standard word for a green pea gives it a nice punch.”
- Have you Herd? (PDF): The Waldo Way dairy pairs reaching and tasty products, Peoples Telephone Cooperative Connection Magazine, Texas
“Standing alone, playing off heard/herd frankly is more cutesy than I usually prefer — this is more a personal flaw than a problem with the headline,” says Noble. “I tend to not do “funny” because it’s so hard to get the tone just right. In this case, though, I think it works. The subhead is very clear, balancing the whimsy of the main headline.”
Keep it Simple
- The Heart of Community (PDF): Postmaster shared the simple joy of a heart rock garden, Columbia Power Electric Co-op, Oregon
- Serving More With Less: Meals on Wheels feeds the hungry as need doubles, Hood River Electric Co-op, Oregon
- Lead with a Whisper: Kristin Reese empowers others in supporting role, Hood River Electric Co-op, Oregon
- A Half-Century of Love (PDF): 50 years later, the farmer still loves his city girl, Tillamook PUD, Oregon
- Too Close for Comfort Unruly trees and power lines: OTEC is on it for your safety, Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative, Oregon
Each of Jennifer’s favorite headlines hit home with short but powerful phrases to share the story.
“Sometimes simple words make you want to read more,” notes Leon.
Say What Matters
WordSouth Assistant Editor Lisa Savage writes for several regional broadband magazines. Some of her favorite headlines include:
- Perfect Palette: Local Woman Teaches Painting Online, WK&T Connection Magazine, Kentucky
- Big Fish in a Small Pond: Silver Bait Worm Farm Supplies worms, fertilizer all over the country, Ben Lomand Connection, Tennessee
- Be All That You Can B (PDF): Body By B utilizes technology for a healthier lifestyle, The NHTC Communicator, Alabama
- It’s Been Life-Changing: Dunlap man received dialysis at home, thanks to BTC’s Fiber Internet, BTC Fiber Connection, Tennessee
“They’re eye-catching in some cases,” explains Lisa.
She often uses alliteration — the same letter or closely connected words — to catch a reader’s eye. She pairs headlines with subheads to explain why each story matters, often tying her features to the benefits of broadband.
“I like it when we can strongly convey in a headline why a story matters, especially if we can connect it to broadband by a direct statement or implication,” explains Lisa.
Avoid generic phrases. Instead, swing for the fences by hitting on the heart of the story with your headline.
You cannot — and should not try — to pack everything into a headline. Use subheads to support the headline with more detail, clarity of purpose.
Subheads are effective under a headline and throughout a feature. Use them to create nuggets of a story or guide readers to key takeaways.
Webinar: Headlines that Hit Home
Remember, the headline is the only part of the story some people read. Register for our April 16 webinar, How to write headlines that hit home.Watch the webinar recording Find future webinars