In a previous post, I offered suggestions about headline writing when preparing content for financial advisor audiences. That same content—investment commentary, market research, policy updates, and more—is just as valuable to journalists as they frame stories and identify new sources.

Therefore, it’s helpful to keep journalists in mind when crafting content, including headlines—which are critically important to attracting interest.

Each of the suggestions for headlines I offered previously applies to journalists: find a news hook; avoid question marks in a headline; express a view…but keep it short; and, if possible, list a named author along with the headline.

Here’s an additional point to consider: a too-slick or too-cute headline can undermine an article’s perceived credibility. It’s usually best to craft a headline that simply and specifically presents the article’s topic and, if possible, the author’s view.

Always keep in mind that journalists don’t want to be marketed to. Make sure an article’s headline isn’t a flag that says “MARKETING CONTENT FOLLOWS.”

Consider the guidelines Dr. Merlin Mann of Columbia University offers to editors and aspiring editors in writing their own headlines:

  • Must be correct (in fact and implication)
  • Must connect to ordinary readers (be easily understood)
  • Must attract attention (using interesting, active words)
  • Must set (or match) tone of the article
  • Headline warning: Never allow cute, creative headlines to blind you to the need for accuracy. Be alert to headlines that have unintended meanings.

Mickie Kennedy, founder of press release distribution service eReleases, provides advice in “Writing Press Release Headlines for Humans: How to Reel In Real Journalists.” His comments about headlines for press releases are also useful for articles. Like Dr. Mann at Columbia, Kennedy advocates for short and specific headlines and encourages the use of a strong verb, if possible. Kennedy also notes the importance of avoiding jargon and words that make the content sound like a sales pitch.

The bottom line is the same bottom line as always: focus on creating and presenting high-quality content that meets a genuine need for your audience. That’s as true for journalists as it is for any audience.