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The Secret Weapon to Capture Your Reader's Attention

By George McKenzie
Posted Monday, August 16, 2004

Did the headline capture your attention? Do you want to find out what the secret weapon is? Will you keep reading?

Whether you want to sell a product to a web surfer through a classified ad or sell a story idea to a reporter through a news release, you have to capture their attention first.

Web surfers are notorious for ... well ... surfing. If you don't grab their interest right away, they're gone.

The same is true with journalists. They usually decide in five seconds if a press release goes in the trash or not.

"How can anyone make a judgment on a story’s newsworthiness in five seconds?" you’re asking.

Answer: the headline.

Truth is, the headline is often the only thing on a release that gets read. If it’s not attention grabbing, the release generally takes a dive into the circular file.

Readers and surfers react just as quickly. You have only a few seconds and the few words of a headline to hook them and reel them in.

So, the secret weapon to capture your reader’s attention is a great headline.

And if you want to learn from the masters of headline writing, just turn on any of the network newscasts.

Think about it. Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather are selling to you all time, and they're doing it through headlines.

Only the headlines are called "teases."

In the language of the newsroom, teases are those quick and often intriguing snippets of information they feed you just before they go to a break. The idea is to make you say to yourself, "Hey, I don't wanna miss that."

And because you don't want to miss that, you'll keep your fingers off the remote through two minutes of commercial babble about antacids, anti-depressants and laxatives.

Teases are aptly named. They're designed to show you a little, but not too much. There's always a question, stated or not, that's left unanswered. Their appeal is in their

Here are some recent examples I've heard...

"It's a musical instrument that can kill you..."

"It's in your home...your blinds, your dishes...and it's poisoning your kids..."

"Who would pay two million dollars for a piano?"

"Will kids getting high keep a drug from going to people who really need it?"

"It's an environmental hazard that threatens every drop of your drinking water..."

I’m sure you get the point. Your news release or ad headline should accomplish the same thing as those teases: make the reader want to keep going to unravel the mystery.

And that's a big step in getting them to buy your pitch. Whether your pitch is an ad for a product directed to consumers or an idea for news coverage directed to someone
in the media.

Hey, it works for Tom, Peter and Dan--it will work for you too.

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