What you can learn from headlines that are flat as a pancake

05.03.19 Pancake

Happy Pancake Tuesday!  

From Nutella to sugar and lemon, the team here at MediaHQ have been debating their preferred pancake toppings for weeks. In theme with today’s date, we want to show you examples of headlines that are flat as a pancake and how they can be flipped to ensure you gain that all important media coverage.

Below we have some examples of both good and bad headlines and explain why they do and don’t work.

An example of a poor headline:

Woman wins big on Winning Streak

Why?
It’s boring and far too vague. How much did she win? Where is she based? This headline gives no detail as to what the story is about and you’re almost guaranteed this headline would result in your press release heading straight to the bin.

An example of a good headline:

Galway woman bags €62,000 birthday boom on Winning Streak

Why?

It’s short but tells a story in nine words.

It’s in vivid, simple and active language.

It’s detailed, it tells you where the woman is from and how much she won.

An example of a poor headline:

BMW region capital allowance of £1 million will enable improvements in infrastructure for peripheral areas.

Why?

It’s too long. Great headlines can be spoken in one breath. Use simple language. Headlines need to be succinct, short and snappy.

It’s passive, there are no ‘active’ verbs suggesting movement or action. The headline should provide a basic image of the content of the article.

An example of a good headline:

€10 million Google investment creates 100 jobs for Ballinasloe

Why?

It will appeal to both national and local news.

It’s specific. It tells you how many jobs were created, how much it’s worth and where it’s happening.

It’s in the present tense so it’s newsy.

Exercise

Go to news or blog websites.

You can go to Google News, The New York Times or any website or magazine that contains articles. Physical magazines and newspapers can also be used.

Select 3 awful headlines

Scan through the list of articles and read each headline. Pick 3 headlines that you think are awful. If it makes you want to click into it, it’s probably a good headline so avoid these. Pick the ones that don’t trigger your curiosity.

Write 2 better headlines for each

After you have gathered 3 headlines that you don’t like, go ahead and write 2 better versions for each of them. Use the guidelines you’ve already learned above about writing great headlines. The more practice you get the better your headline writing will become.

When you are writing a headline, remember the obligation is on YOU to attract the reader.

We’ve written a whole eBook on the topic of writing a killer headline, you can download it here