David Ogilvy’s writing secrets could be just what you need for better headlines

June 1, 2020

The best way to write a headline is to first take the time and effort to learn about the subject so you gain enough perspective on the key elements of the content. This applies to press releases just as much to advertising and marketing material.

Legendary copywriter and advertising guru, David Ogilvy, did exactly this, as he explained:

  • I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.
  • I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.
  • I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.
  • Before actually writing the copy, I write down every conceivable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.
  • Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement.
  • And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

His technique shows that best results come from doing your homework. It might seem like hard work, but if you are using the release to directly promote a new product or service, as opposed to something minor like announcing a staff appointment, the time and effort you invest in writing a good headline will literally pay off.

Other experts agree. For instance, Ann Handley from Marketing Profs advises:

“Spend as much time writing the headline as you do an entire blog post or social post. Why? Because the headline matters. (Really matters.) (I do this, by the way.)”

Drafting the body copy first will enable you to determine the answers to:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • Why is it relevant (so the audience can answer, “What’s in it for me?”

Obviously, your press release body copy includes answers to the journalistic questions: Who, How, Why, What, When, Where and How much?

Now you can write your headline.

You can promote press releases online in many different ways such as:

  • Posting on your website
  • Sharing via Facebook and Twitter (put social sharing buttons in your release)
  • Leverage images on various social media channels such as Pinterest and Instagram
  • Using video on YouTube
  • Promoting on your blog
  • Promoting via ads on Google, Facebook and Twitter if the subject is big enough.

Photo by neonbrand-3GZNPBLlmWc at Unsplash.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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