Writing headlines and story titles is tough work, but if you spend ~10 minutes brainstorming a story title, you will come up with a better, more engaging title for your story that will draw in more listeners or even purchasers to your piece.
First, let’s talk about BAD titles and why they might not be helping us.
- Very Long
Example: Joe Bob and Marty Frank – musicians – in Conversation: Talk about their favorite music – newshole version
Simply put, very long titles look bad and often times they are hard to read on mobile devices. Keep your titles short and catchy.
There may be an urge to name your title something sort of vague and artsy. Having a title that you think is cool (like for example, a cool quote from your story) doesn’t always do your story justice. It doesn’t help us understand what we’re about to listen to or why we should take the time to listen to it. Give your listeners a reason to give your story a shot.
- Part of a series/no title
If you have a weekly series you may not feel the need to come up with individual episode titles. There are are many stories on PRX that have titles like ”Episode 202.” You want people to listen to your story, but with a title like that you have given them no reason to.
Let’s move on to GOOD titles and what makes them work.
You probably read this a dozen or so times a day, but just to reiterate: Facebook and Twitter have changed the way people are consuming media. You have just a few characters to get people to click on something you’ve shared. Make them count.
Put yourself in the shoes of an editor at a blog that writes about podcasts. Or an editor at a major public radio station who might air your story and share it on the web to their huge list of Facebook followers. Rather than quickly coming up with something on the spot, think about what will make people want to share your story. What makes it compelling to lots of people?
Now get to work!
Try this exercise which we gleaned from the folks at Upworthy, a site for viral content. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Now, try to write as many headlines as you can. Shoot for 25. At first, you’re going to write a lot of really crap headlines, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep writing until 10 minutes have passed or you’ve reached 25 titles. It will feel like running through mud and then miraculously you’ll realize you reached the heart of your story and you’ve come up with a pretty awesome title.
More headline writing resources for you to check out:
- Upworthy’s Secret Sauce to virality. This is pure gold. Flip through these slides (like the images above) to see why people share things and what you can do to make your work more likely to be shared by lots of people.
- Buffer’s guide to How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines.
- More tips on writing “pearls of clarity” for your titles, headlines, and subject lines.