Newspaper headline writing is an art, taught to sub-editors over many years. A great headline can make you smile, think, stop in your tracks.
Your headline is the thing which will be shared on social media. Get it right, and it could be the reason hundreds, or thousands, of people read on.
The reason news media do headlines so well is simple: they write it at the end of the process, not the beginning. They know the story.
In the same vein, your blog headline should never be written until you have typed the last full stop on your post. It should not be written until you have re-read that post at least three times.
Here are the basic rules:
Use short, active words – A punchy headline grabs the attention. Cut out unnecessary words, especially adverbs, in a headline.
It must contain a verb – Making the headline active means using a verb, even if that verb’s ‘is’, or ‘are’.
Use figures – Don’t write them out as words. Studies have also shown that using figures in a headline makes it more attractive to the reader. Round monetary figures up, or down, to the nearest hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, half million.
Make it accurate – Don’t write a sensational but inaccurate headline to suck readers into the post. They’ll feel cheated.
Reflect your content – Throwing in a celebrity name to the headline, for example, without backing that up in the post will backfire on you. Again, your readers will feel cheated.
Don’t use tortuous puns – No matter how tempted you feel, just don’t do it. This isn’t about showing how cleverly you can write, it’s about communicating with your target audience. That kind of pun can be a real turn-off to some readers.
Don’t over-use exclamation marks – In newspapers, we call them ‘screamers’ because they are often over-used to scream out content to the reader. Most of the time, the content really doesn’t deserve an exclamation mark.
Read it aloud – If it sounds convoluted, or ridiculous, delete and start again. If it can’t be said easily, it can’t be read easily.
Will it appeal to your target audience? – Ask yourself how, and why they would read on. Think about their problems, how they like to spend their time when you’re making this decision.
You’ve probably seen a thousand social media posts offering you the perfect formula for blog headline writing. Some of them offer useful tips.
If you’re seeing these social media posts, so are a million other bloggers. It’s all too easy to spot a formula headline.
While those tips are great, don’t follow them slavishly. The other thing to remember is that those formula headlines weren’t written with your target audience in mind. They’re written to appeal to the widest audience possible.
For you, that’s not the aim. Your aim is to speak directly to your ideal customers.
Think about this: your ideal customer is Yvonne, a married small business owner in her 50s whose time is precious, who has two grandchildren and cares about their future. She has an income of between £35,000 and £45,000 a year, likes to travel to Italy and eat out regularly.
Is this headline going to speak to her?: “Discover 50 awesome nightclubs within 50 miles of you”.
You already know the answer, don’t you?
Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimisation is still very important when it comes to writing blog headlines. Your keyword research should help you – which words appeal to your ideal customers? How can you incorporate them in an organic way?
Some headline power words: There are some words which people find innately attractive. “Discover”, “Find”, and “Secrets” arouse our curiosity and make us want to find out more.
“Powerful”, “effective”, and “hacks” make us feel the content we’re about to read is hitting our usefulness sweet spot. So does the word “useful”.
If you have great images, don’t be afraid to use “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, and “stunning”.
If you’re writing in the first person, use “my” to make that clear in the headline – people like personal content.
Too busy to blog yourself? Drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hundreds of independent shops will take part in the UK’s Record Store Day 2016.
This year’s event is set to be the biggest ever seen with more than 200 stores taking part and tens of thousands of music fans attending live events to mark the day.
There will also be 500 limited edition vinyl releases on Saturday from artists like Florence and the Machine, Primal Scream and David Bowie.
A number of the events have a strong Bowie theme to mark the passing of the music legend three months ago.
Record Store Day began in the USA nine years ago and is coordinated by the Entertainment Retailers Association in the UK. This year, the day is staged in partnership with BBC Music.
Recent years have seen a resurgence in vinyl sales, fueled by events like Record Store Day. In 2008, there were just over 75,000 vinyl albums sold in the UK. Sales reached 2.2 million records in 2015. In 2016, LP sales are already up 67% on last year’s figures.
If you’re taking part, make the most of your marketing opportunity.
Use the official hashtag #RSD16 when posting your events on social media and copy in Record Store Day’s official feeds for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That will give your posts a wider audience.
Here’s The Wonderstuff’s Miles Hunt at last year’s event in Swordfish Records:
Plug your events on their sites and your own channels before the day.
Share your images and social media posts throughout the day – people will spot them and decide to come into your store. Retweet and re-post images your customers have taken during your events.
Create a year-round Facebook page for your Record Store Day events and encourage followers to share their stories and images with you. Keep it going so you can use it again in the run-up to next year’s event.
Here are just some of the events on offer:
Rough Trade in East London will be hosting Irish singer- songwriter Glen Hansard, multi-instrumentalist Georgia and Benjamin John Power’s solo project Blanck Massplus.
The Museum of Soho will be screening three Bowie-related documentaries from the BBC Arena archive on Saturday.
In Newport, Gwent, Newport Rises and Newport City Radio have organised a ‘pop up’ vinyl sale in the foyer of Newport Market and a showcase of the best live music in three locations around the city centre. Kriminal Records based in Newport Market is donating records to sell in order to raise money for Maes Ebbw School. The ‘Kriminal Records pop up shop’ will be open in the foyer of Newport Market during the day. Newport City Radio will host local music acts across three sites: at the vinyl sale; at Slipping Jimmy’s bar and grill on High Street; and The Ivy Bush in Clarence Place, from 2pm. Diverse Records on Skinner Street will also have exclusive vinyl releases.
There have been seismic changes in the way news organisations operate over the past few years.
One of the key changes is how the media sources its images.
Few people will have been unaware of the boom in user generated content, and, in particular, the rise of the use of submitted images.
Busy news editors and reporters who have to fill websites and newspaper pages are now sourcing more and more images from social media, alongside emails from businesses and organisations.
Many weekly newspapers have no staff photographer at all, while daily news media organisations rely on a smattering of staff photographers, freelancers, agencies, and submitted pictures.
Most print editions are designed using page templates, and the choice of images to be used can often depend on the available page templates.
The reality is that if you want a photograph to appear in your local media outlet – online or in print – the method most likely to end in a good result for your business is to submit a photograph yourself. With resources spread so thinly, you can’t rely on media having the staff to attend a photocall. They are at the mercy of breaking news.
When virtually everyone has a smartphone with a camera, many of the submitted images the media receives are of a lower quality than would be necessary to have a good display in a newspaper, or on a media website.
The way your business can stand out is by providing good quality images. A good quality photograph could make the difference between your business’ story being a news in brief of 50 words, or a picture story with impact of up to 300 words.
The best way of ensuring your image is suitable for publication is to employ a freelance photographer.
If you think the cost would be prohibitive, think about how much it would cost to take out an advert in your local daily newspaper. A half page – often the size a good photograph is used in a tabloid – could cost hundreds of pounds in one edition.
If you have your own images taken, you could maximise the return on your investment by sending them out to dozens of media outlets and bloggers, should you wish. You could also share them on image-led social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, along with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Google+.
I’ll take a look at some interesting and enlightening statistics about the impact of images on social media later on in this blog.
Don’t forget that if your image appears on news websites, it will also stay in the media organisation’s archive. This is an image which could continue to work for you for some time to come.
Treat finding a freelance photographer like any other job you’d like to outsource: get a number of quotes, take a look at photographers’ past work, and seek recommendations.
Many freelance photographers are former newspaper photographers. They have the knowledge and contacts to help your business make a splash in the media.
When it comes to the sort of images a media outlet is seeking, there are few more qualified to give you some pointers than my former colleague, Steve Phillips.
Steve is a freelance news, sport, PR, and wedding photographer. He worked in the regional press in South Wales for nearly 30 years and was chief photographer at the South Wales Argus for four years and group picture editor at the South Wales Evening Post for 11 years. He is also the chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists Photography Board. Find out more about his work on his website www.stevephillipsphotography.co.uk.
Here are his top tips for ensuring your images get a good show in the media:
Always provide at least an upright (portrait) and a horizontal (landscape) photograph. Page designers or newspaper page templates are often limited to a certain shape of photograph on a page.
Provide a choice of images…newspapers may want to use one picture on the front page which can give your story great coverage, and another or more inside to illustrate the story.
When using a freelance photographer, ask if they have worked on a newspaper and ask for their website address. A freelance who has worked for newspapers will know the best type of pictures to take from any assignment that are likely to get published.
Attach the photographs caption to the photograph using a programme like Photoshop – this saves work for the staff at the newspaper. Ask the photographer you use to caption their images – the best freelancers will automatically do this and will supply the images correctly captioned, attached to the images ready for use.
If applicable, for example when sending out images of a half marathon, provide lots of images cropped ready for website use. Newspapers love to use lots of pictures from events on their websites to increase their page hit rates.
Make sure the caption is accurate with names spelled correctly. If there are less than half a dozen people in a picture, provide full names left to right.
Pictures should be well composed and in focus without too much wasted space. People’s faces should not be obscured.
More creative pictures are more likely to be used. Supply creative images taken from different viewpoints or angles or through objects as well as a safe line-up image.
Make sure you send the images in the correct format. Most newspapers will require jpeg files no more than 2mb in size when compressed. If you send raw or Tiff files they will have to be converted for use which takes time, and may result in your images not being used.
Some weird and wonderful facts about images on social media
Colour – When it comes to Pinterest, red and orange-dominated images have twice as many pins as those dominated by blue, a Curalate analysis of 500,000 Pinterest images showed. Yet, over on Instagram, blue-dominated images perform better. A Curalate analysis of eight million Instagram images showed they received 24 per cent more likes than red-dominated images. Instagram users also like one dominant colour over the use of several colours in a picture – those with one colour gaining 17 per cent more likes. On Pinterest, more colours mean more pins. In fact, 3.25 times more than images with single colours.
Galleries – Facebook just loves image galleries, rather than single images. Analysis by Pagelever showed galleries had 12.9 times more likes than single pages.
Staying power – When it comes to an image post which works the longest for you, Pinterest is king. An image-led post on Pinterest gets half of its engagement three and a half months after initial posting, the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report said. Compare that with 24 minutes for half of the engagement for Twitter posts, and 90 minutes for Facebook posts. Tumblr posts have a “half-life” of seven days.
Shape – It will come as no surprise to those who use Pinterest regularly that vertical (portrait) images do far better than those which are horizontal (landscape). However, those which are too tall and skinny will also suffer. The golden proportion for vertical to horizontal for Pinterest is between 2:3 and 4:5, Curalate’s analysis said. Those pictures receive 60 per cent more repins than those which are very tall and skinny.
We’re still not using images enough on Twitter – Analysis by Socialbakers showed in 2014 that 47 per cent of the top tweets for engagement of the million they sampled had photographs, but only 10 per cent of tweets in total used images.
All images in this blog were taken by Steve Phillips.
For content creation, blogging, and public relations for small businesses, email Maria Williams at email@example.com. Visit her website www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk