This week, I experienced a strong Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Also called the frequency illusion, it is when you notice something new, and subsequently see it EVERYWHERE. The thing in question was headlines, particularly the benefits of being able to write strong headlines: I read about them in Tweets, newsletters, and articles.

In my work, I think about headlines a lot, mostly for blog posts and subject lines for my newsletter, but I was exposed to other mediums where writing good headlines is essential:

  • resumes
  • tweets

What is a resume headline?

The sentence at the top of a resume that boils down who you are and what you’ve achieved in a few words? Yep, it’s a headline, and there’s a lot of advice online on how to write a good one.

LinkedIn profiles also have a field for these (learn how to write a professional one).

Whether on LinkedIn or my resume, they’ve always felt weird to me. Meredith Fineman, in Brag Better, says:

Being unafraid to speak articulately about yourself, your life, and your accomplishments not only makes you feel great, but it also leaves a positive and lasting impact on your listener.

It is not about pretending to be someone else, though, more about a “quiet confidence,” as Fineman frames it.

Tweets too?

I know. I had never really thought about it this way, but a thread by Alex Llull put it eloquently:

The punchline, here, is the headline—the promise.

We’ll come back to curiosity later.

Thinking in headlines

This week’s Marketing Examples newsletter focused on Carrie Rose is the co-founder of Rise at Seven, a creative SEO agency:

Missguided is a fashion retailer who started working with Rise [at Seven] last year. Carrie looked at their site for 5 minutes, saw they sold dog jumpers, and knew there was a story there. So she found some similar looking regular jumpers, and wrote the headline: Missguided launch matching jumpers for you and your dog this winter.

It was about getting press for a product or a service, but beyond that, it was really about thinking in headlines. What does that mean? Fundamentally, it’s about finding the story in everything.

We don’t all work in advertising, but as creators, we need to find and connect our audience, and nothing is more powerful than a story to achieve that.

How to write better headlines?

My go-to source for this kind of advice is Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. She has a whole chapter dedicated to headlines, but I’ll share three gems with you:

  1. “Create a curiosity gap.” Bring readers in by telling them just enough.
  2. “Promise what you’re going to deliver.” It works on a resume. It works on a blog post. It works on a press release. This is about trust.
  3. “Place your reader directly into your headline.” It is never about us; it is always about the reader. Show them.

About Thomas Deneuville

Thomas lives in Freeville, NY with his wife and two sons, where he reads, codes, and plays the bagpipe.

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