I always get excited when tasked with writing headlines for copywriting projects because it spells one thing…it’s time to shake those creative marbles! It’s a zany job because print real estate is in short supply, so we always have to try to make as little as possible work.
It’s kind of scrappy.
We’re talking about copywriting headlines for ads, landing pages, emails, social media, and stuff you don’t get to write an essay for. This is where people have the attention span of a 6-month-old child.
And we’re dealing with that darn character/word limit for social media and, for traditional print, space constraint.
Buzz word, emotions, timing, situations, zaniness, wit, cleverness, word-meshes, pulls at the heartstrings…you know, the kind of thing other copywriters coin as ‘brilliant’ ten years later.
Roughing It Out During the Covid-19 Pandemic
The thing with writing headlines for copywriting work during a time like this when people are:
- Not into shopping
- Are more worried about running out of canned food and…God forbid…toilet paper
- Concerned about new Coronavirus cases in their communities
- Anxious at every sneeze and cough
- Mostly looking out for news pieces about the development of a Coronavirus vaccine
- Hoping not to be living near a cluster of an outbreak
- Cooking their brains out every single day
- Helping their kids with their homework over Zoom
- Cleaning their homes twice as many times as they used to
- Slashing the budget for unnecessary spending
- Not impressed with clever copy because…you know, what kind of timing is this?
The worst thing is that some writers continue to use clickbait titles for articles to bring in the eyeballs. If you’re not sure what click baits are, it’s the kind of headline that promises you something but is short on delivery.
Like ‘Vaccine Found and You Wouldn’t Believe Where!!!!’ (yes, including those highly unnecessary exclamation marks), or ‘10 Things to do to Keep Your Family Safe at Home’ and then it sells you some pant-suit or something.
It happens, people are desperate for clicks these days. AND…it’s the job of a copywriter to entice you whichever way they can. Even if they were put together with just spit and glue to get it past the jaundiced eyes of readers.
Formulas has Been Worked to Death
If you’re looking for a good way to write headlines for blogs and articles, you might find this article useful – 16 Proven Headline Formulas to Entice your Readers written by an Australian copywriter.
It works, I guess, but it’s nothing new. People are ALSO getting pretty tired of writing and reading such headlines and copy. It went the way of the dodo.
So, the idea now is to go the other way while everyone’s heading for the ‘proven headlines that work’. Go simple. Straight to the point. No beating around the bush. Just knife the cafe.
Although using ‘How to’, ‘Why’, credibility, stats, explanations, curiosity, answers to people’s burning questions, virality, punchlines, and using words like ‘biggest’, ‘guaranteed’, ‘proven’, FOMO-based words, and even variables like ‘you don’t want to miss’, or ‘you won’t believe’, or ‘mistakes’, ‘absolutely’, ‘free’, ‘you’, ‘instantly’, etc still work, please don’t underestimate the power of pissed-off in your readers.
They want answers and honesty at this point, not over-promises, over-the-top copy, and least of all, half-baked content that wasted three precious minutes of their time.
Go with the Masses
This writer calls it as it is – going with the vernacular. I am just as freedom-loving as the next hippie but when writing copy for headlines and ads, it’s now best to go with the masses instead of trying to be too clever. Punching up the volume in your writing is also about finding what’s natural.
The more natural you are now, whether you’re a blogger, content creator, social media manager, or full-fledged copywriter, it’s a litmus test to show how flexible, teachable, and adaptable you are.
Once you’ve decided on the kind of conversation your target audience is interested in, you’ll get better at writing the way they talk. And the right words will swim right up to you. The words may not be clever copy or suit up to your conventional copywriting beliefs, but flipping things around for copywriting is necessary.
Writing with Flows, Structure, and Rhythm
Long-form writing has always been my thing but in this current day and age, it doesn’t seem to be engaging with readers much.
People skim through content within seconds like…you wouldn’t even believe it.
Hours and days poured into the piece and it gets skimmed through in like 2 seconds. That’s shite.
So, here’s how we’re trying to do it.
Decide on the content, structure, and write. That’s it. We’re not stopping the train until it reaches its destination.
Then, it’s about coming up with a working headline with a hook, a subheadline that reels them in, an unmistakably compelling first paragraph which is followed by cleverly phased out paras and headings.
You’ve got to keep them moving through from one paragraph to another. This means predicting when readers need a mental pause. Plonk a subheadline in there or an awesome image.
I think I’ve spent more time balancing out structure and patterns now than I had in the last 20 years of my writing life combined.
Short paragraphs. Short sentences. Short headlines. Short everything. Lots of things end up on the cutting room floor.
It also went against every writing instinct I had in my body. Like a gnawing-itch that can’t be scratched.
Write What People Like to Hear
In the modern age of writing, people are more inclined to read through the whole article, WAYYYY past the headline, if the content of the article isn’t all roses and unicorn fluff. Truth be told, topics surrounding life lessons seem to be doing very well on Medium, one of the top-read sites in the world today.
My ‘How-Tos’ and ‘Tips’ articles underperform while those categorized under ‘Life Experiences’, soared in popularity even when they weren’t curated. They were, unfortunately (for me) the ugly, raw, real, hard, explicit, and full of self-deprecation ones.
The bourgeois ones were left ultimately all alone.
You can read 16 Proven Headline Formulas to Entice Your Readers if you want the low-down on kicking up your writing up a few notches.
Another article you might want to check out is this one by The Write Life, 5 Simple Steps to Write a Headline Your Editor Will Love.
“Engaging the right audience starts with a basic question: How are you going to help someone?”– The Content Strategist
I don’t like to say this as a human being but as a writer, copywriter, and marketer, I have to. Focus on pain points. Emotions. Raging current news. That’s what catches people’s attention.
“There’s enough Covid-19 news out there to circle the earth 10 times and more”, you’re thinking, and you’re right.
Pick the right question, tap into the right emotions, and use the right words at the right time. Ask yourself this as you’re writing.
- What are they feeling?
- What is worrying them?
- What are they looking for when they load up Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or Instagram?
- Who are they thinking about?
- Are there solutions to their dilemmas?
- Can you help them?
Everyone’s pretty much thinking about themselves now when we’re sitting in our living rooms, thinking about where we’re headed as a whole, and trying to make life-changing decisions.
Selling a camera to us now is pretty much futile because it is not at the top of our heads.
But here’s an idea.
Think about it – we’re now facing fear, uncertainty, worry, and death even. Isn’t appreciating every single moment of your lives important now that we’re slowly sliding into the ‘new norm’ (gosh, I hate that word – lol)?
A camera helps us capture important moments in our lives.
So, how about using a headline like ‘One Day…We’ll Smile at Pictures from 2020 Again”.
That’s just a thought-nugget that dropped out of nowhere and you can totally steal that if you’re selling cameras.
But like everyone else, I was also just worried about which hospital or doctor was open during the lockdown and if 7-11 had peanut butter for breakfast tomorrow.
Things don’t look all that good when it comes to finding a vaccine for Covid-19 but I think we’ve got to keep ourselves from being swept out by the tide. Keep swimming and writing, people of the world.
Note: Source of featured image: David Lezcano on Unsplash