“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar” – David Ogilvy.
Society values first impressions. The mantra that they only happen once is drilled into the heads of interviewees, networkers and nervous first daters. In PR, it’s no different. When pitching stories to influencers, your first impression comes from the headline. An informative and exciting headline is like a firm handshake with that key tech journalist, but a poor one is the written equivalent of mumbling and staring at your shoes.
According to a 2015 study, the human attention span has declined to just 8 seconds (worse than goldfish, incidentally). So the earlier you give information, the wider your net is spread over influencers, simply because they haven’t yet been distracted by their phone or a brightly-coloured piece of paper. From experience, busy news teams are looking for an excuse to scroll past every email they receive, so headlines have to pique their interest straight away.
So how can you grab an influencer’s attention (for the right reasons)? Here are three rules to live by:
The fewer words the better
Answering the questions ‘Who’s your client?’, What’s the opportunity?’, and ‘Why is the influencer going to be interested?’ is paramount when you write a pitch. The fewer words you use to convey all three answers, the better, because no-one is reading down to the second paragraph for key details.
Specialised subject lines
In the highly competitive and increasingly saturated marketplace of a journalist’s inbox, the headline of your pitch isn’t actually the first thing they see – it’s the subject line. Subject lines play a big part in your chance of successfully pitching, so take care writing them. Excessive caps are a turn off, exclamation marks unspeakable. Try to condense your pitch’s first line without losing meaning and you can’t go wrong.
Make it snappy
The headline of any pitch should be the last thing you write, rising out of the body of the text and your key message. It’s not easy to create pithy, attention-grabbing headlines that really sell your story, so get the creative process underway before attempting the most valuable line. After you write a pitch, it’s far easier to understand what you most want to promote to influencers. And then your headline is born.
Sticking to these rules gives your pitches a great chance of turning into meaningful coverage. When most people who see a pitch just read the headline, doesn’t it make sense to write the best one you can?