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Sex, Chocolate and Puppies: What’s in a title?

17 January, 2017 Reading: 3:29 mins

Stepping out the front door, the modern consumer is hit with a deluge of marketing messages, but how do you cut through all that noise asks Victoria Ellis, one of our Senior Account Managers.

Close up of a puppy

I have a vivid memory of someone telling me that sex, chocolate and puppies sell, and that any communication should have at least one of these elements to be successful. I can see some difficulties in tying one of those elements into a press release or article for most of my clients, but it did get me thinking.

What was this person getting at? Well, sex, chocolate and puppies all have mass appeal, and most people who saw a title with one, let alone three of those elements is likely to want to read more. So, its grabbing attention that I take from it.

The number of commercial messages a consumer is exposed to every day is widely disputed, but we’re talking in the tens of thousands and most of these messages go unnoticed. So how do you make sure you are one of the lucky ones?

Expect the unexpected

There is nothing worse than reading a title, or subject line that says it how it is. “Company X August newsletter”, “Company Y adds new brand to its portfolio” or “New CEO appointed to Company Z”. These titles have no creativity, no mystery and unless you have a real interest in the company there’s no reason to click.

Instead when we’re writing a title for an article or a subject line for a newsletter we inject creativity to engage with the audience and ensure it cuts through all the other commercial messages they are exposed to.

Another person once told me that you should spend 75% of your time writing the title of a press release and the rest writing the content. While I don’t think I’ve ever committed that amount of time to a title, it is important. Here I’ve listed some of my own suggestions on how to come up with a creative title.

  1. Think abstract – is there a word or aspect of the article that is particularly attention grabbing, and can you incorporate it within the title? For example, many of you will only be reading this because of ‘Sex, Chocolate and Puppies’.
  2. Ask a question – a question will immediately engage the reader. It will also provoke their opinion, and they will be likely to read on to see if they agree or disagree with your argument.
  3. Use numbers – including numbers in your titles can be a great way to draw the readers eye as it stands out on the page. Depending on the format you could also try adding in symbols or emoji’s as well.
  4. Keep it short and snappy – not only will a long title lose the reader’s attention, but it’ll also be too long to appear in full on Google searches and social media platforms like LinkedIn. Do some research and / or testing to check the number of characters you have to play with.
  5. Topical – if you’ve written a topical article make sure that is communicated in the title, so readers know you’re commenting on something current.

Of course it would be difficult to incorporate all of these tips into one title. However, even using two or three should result in more successful and engaging titles. But one final tip – don’t lie. If your article doesn’t mention sex, chocolate or puppies then don’t use those words to drive engagement. Not only will this frustrate the reader, Google’s algorithms will identify this and penalise an article’s SEO score accordingly.

So what is in a title? It is a fine art, but one that is definitely worth mastering to ensure your audience reads your content.

This article was written by Victoria Ellis, one of our Senior Account Managers. Victoria works predominantly on our B2B PR accounts including Bayer’s Crop Science division and Durbin, a global pharmaceutical logistics company. Prior to joining KISS, Victoria gained a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Manchester.

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