Reel ‘em in: why you need catchy headlines

Tessa Parry-Wingfield

The Power of Words

Headlines are the bait on your fishing rod. Nobody’s going to bite at a dull, listless summary of your content. Think punchy, catchy descriptions that distil your message and attract your perfect clients or customers.

Whether you’re writing blogs, brochures, ads, articles, websites, newsletters or emails, you need to create headlines that deliver your message in one single bite.

We’ve put together our favourite The Power of Words tips on how to create catchy headlines.

1. Spend more time writing the headline than the text

David Ogilvy, the ‘father of modern advertising’, stated in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man: “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 80 percent of your money.”

That seems to be as true now as it was in 1963 when the book was published. The proportion of social media users sharing content they hadn’t read was sufficient in 2020 to prompt Twitter to try and limit this type of “uninformed” sharing.

As the headline makes the difference between someone actually reading your article, possibly even sharing it (hurrah) or clicking off it before even one word is read, we therefore recommend you spend more time on the headline than the actual text. By quite some margin.

Famously, Ogilvy re-wrote the headline for his 1958 Rolls Royce campaign 104 times before he was satisfied with it. (A reminder of that iconic headline: “At 60 Miles An Hour, The Loudest Noise In The New Rolls-Royce Comes From The Electric Clock”.)

2. Short, succinct, snappy, sharp

Headlines need to be small, but perfectly formed. The best are just 6 words long. Readers scan not only body copy but headlines too. As such, just the first and final 3 words tend to be absorbed. It’s your job to make all those words count!

If you’re not convinced yet, how about this: a study found that emails with a subject line of between 6 and 10 words had the highest open rate.

The basic rule is, the shorter the better. As long as it says everything it needs to and can be understood as a standalone message.

3. It’s got to be news

Remember the ‘new’ in news. What you’re communicating needs to be new information. If it’s already been around the block a few times, you need to find a new angle. Or a twist on an existing story. Finding a compelling news ‘hook’ to make it intriguing will make you stand out from your competitors. It’s time to unleash your inner journalist!

Once you’ve found that angle or hook, distil it down into a snappy headline that gives your readers the nub of the story in one content bite.

4. Make it personal

Statistics show that even for welcome emails after signing up for a newsletter, just over 30% of subscribers don’t open that first email. And the same statistics show that welcome emails are over 3 times more effective than regular ones! Couple that with the knowledge that consumers spend an average of just 10 seconds reading brand emails, and it’s clear that your content needs to work hard to attract your customers’ attention.

Nobody likes mass marketing or cold calls. So make it personal by addressing your client by name, referencing a product or service they’ve recently purchased from you, or simply talking in relatable, personable language. 2021 research by Hubspot found that headline and body copy personalisation significantly improved engagement with emails. And the same is true across all forms of content.

It’s not always appropriate (especially in B2B content) to address clients by their name – but,  it is easy and important to make sure your content is written as if you’re talking directly to them. Solve their problems, don’t sell them your service or product.

5. Emotions sell

As humans, we make the vast majority of our decisions with our hearts rather than our heads. Our emotions make the decisions, then we rationalise our choices afterwards with logic.

It follows then that good copy – and great headlines – should make you feel something. That can be anger, fear, guilt or shame, happiness, belonging, optimism or thrill. Whatever it is, connecting with your customers’ emotions has a big payoff.

Use this knowledge to create headlines that connect with your audience. And write headlines that capture hearts and minds.

6. Make it fun!

Unless you sell funerals, it’s ok to make your comms or marketing material fun and light-hearted. So let your hair down when creating your headlines.

In the words of the father of advertising: “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”- David Ogilvy

When you’ve had fun creating headlines and copy, it shines through. After all, we all prefer to read things that are cheery, not dreary.

7. Create catchy headlines to reel your audiences in

The average time spent reading a blog in 2022 is 37 seconds. And the painful truth is that your headlines are often the only thing your audience will read before they move on. So dedicate time to making sure those few words count. By creating an emotional connection, delivering a snappy message and finding something new to say, your headlines will stand out from the crowd.

Got a favourite example of a catchy headline? We’d love to see it – you can connect with us on LinkedIn or by email (

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