I recently read a fascinating article about the state of the modern news company. It’s the topic de rigueur in the wake of its stunning inability to first take President-elect Trump seriously, then its inability to cover him competently, or its false equivalency problems between the candidates, and now its struggle to keep up with the avalanche of outrage from all corners of the mediaverse. To make matters worse, the proliferation of fake news very likely contributed to Mr. Trump’s victory and has caused seriously introspection among the major tech platforms, most notably Facebook. What do all these things have in common? And what can they teach you about running a successful marketing operation?
Namely, headlines matter now more than ever.
It’s no secret our ever-expanding digital footprints have led to shorter attention spans while making us more prone to distraction . And, with more information at our fingertips than ever before, it’s that much easier to lose focus on what you’re doing to keep scanning your newsfeed for the next interesting headline.
As humans, we yearn for knowledge. Whether it’s to appear or feel smarter than one another or simply a desire to be well-informed, we crave news and information. And, our modern digital lives have been tailor-made to deliver a deluge of information direct like a shot to the arm — direct to the main vein.
As our viewing and reading habits have changed to accommodate the glut of information available, it turns out for every article a news outlet publishes, no matter how many clicks it generates, it generates far more headline reads. Think about it — way more people will see that article on facebook and keep scrolling than will click into the article. But, those scrollers are still reading whatever the headline was. And, for many people, they’ll accept that headline at face value. That’s their news source on that particular story; the takeaway from the article.
The article I linked to in the first sentence of this post makes the case for news companies to take their headlines more seriously. To wrest control of them away from social media optimization teams and keep them editorially accurate and informative for the sake of those countless scrollers. While I don’t necessarily seeing that happening any time soon, I can still sympathize with the thought process. Media companies aren’t going to abandon the huge traffic Facebook pushes to their sites by sterilizing their headlines until Facebook’s algorithm rewards that behavior. But, the correct conclusion the writer draws about the nature of headlines is illuminating for businesses the world over.
How can you take that message and apply it to your business? Well, you have to think of your company and its message in headline form. If you had one sentence to distill the essence of your company into a headline, what would that sentence be? Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answer right away, it’s a really difficult question. How do you take something as complex as an entire company, and make it into a one-sentence headline that could possibly encapsulate everything you do and offer? Like I said, it isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely vital.
In today’s digital age, it’s no longer enough just to have a digital marketing presence. Even companies who have great digital operations now have to go one step further. How do they take all that’s great about them and their digital presence and make it a headline? It takes time and discipline, working with brilliant writers and marketers, patience, etc. But, that level of dedication to honing your message is unquestionably worth it, because far more people will read your headline than will read your “article” (aka scour your website to read everything you have to write about yourselves).
You better make sure that headline sings.