10-point checklist for effective headlines

Press ads and direct mail have to fight hard for attention against other ads and mail shots. There's plenty about to distract the hoped-for reader. That's why strong headlines are so important. They may consist of one word or extend to a couple of sentences, but if they don't grab the reader's mind, heart or gut, you've wasted your advertising money.

Here's a quick checklist to help you get more bang for your bucks!

1. Does your headline promise a benefit or reward for reading or responding to the communication? Does it answer the question "what's in it for me (the reader)?'

2. Is your headline clear and direct? Does it get its point across simply and quickly?

3. Is your headline as specific as it can be? ('Lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks' is better than 'Lose weight fast.')

4. Does your headline reach out and grab attention with a strong sales message, stated in a fresh, new way? Will people say 'Wow, I never thought of it (product/service) like that?'

5. Does your headline relate logically to the product? Can your product/service deliver what the headline promises?

6. Do your headline and visual work together to form a total selling concept?

7. Does your headline arouse positive curiosity, lure the reader into your copy?

8. Does your headline select its audience? Does it clearly understand who it's talking to?

9. Does your headline have meaning, even if nobody reads your copy?

10. Is your headline positive? For example, 'Contains no fat' is weaker than '100% fat free'.

Val Valentine, advertising and direct mail copywriter

Copyright 2005 Val Valentine

Val Valentine is a B2C and B2B advertising and direct mail copywriter based in the Midlands, UK. With over 25 yearsí experience, she also writes commercials for TV and Radio, brochures, sales letters, articles, web content and has broad experience of strategic brand planning and development. You can reach her at +44 (0) 1684 772 021 or +44 (0 )7802 959 009. For further information, please visit www.valvalentine.co.uk

Ways of starting a sales letter
I've received probably thousands of sales letters... Read more
10-point checklist for effective headlines
Press ads and direct mail have to fight hard for attention against other ads and mail shots... Read more
Why do 80% of small business owners fail?
Is it finance? Is it red tape? Is it that the competition's too tough? Is it crippling legislation? Read more
How to Write a Press Release
Editors often read hundreds of releases every day. Typically, they have only seconds to review each one... Read more
What makes good copy?
It's not as easy as many people think. Here are a few guidelines to help you along. Read more
Direct mail isn't called junk mail for nothing
There are no guarantees in this business, but here are a few tips so you can give it your best shot. Read more
Would you credit it? Why not all debt is bad.
The British owe £1 trillion to banks, building societies and other lenders, according to economic forecasters. Read more
How to make sure your children grow up credit wise.
You've taught them about money, but have you taught them about credit? Read more
Food for thought
For decades, it was great sport to knock British cooking... Read more