What do readers want — and what to editors and reporters want to see?
Here are five ways to catch the eye of your audience, whether you’re writing blog posts, press releases or doing a Public Service Announcement campaign.
1) Pull Back the Curtain
Whatever business a public figure is in, it’s a secret world that average people don’t get to see. Hollywood. Big business. Professional sports. Politics.
The life of a professional author or speaker.
People are always interested in learning secrets.
Plus, these aren’t hard to write. You’re in that secret world every day.
What may seem like old hat to you — how a bill really becomes law, what a movie set is actually like, being inside the locker room of the Boston Red Sox — is completely different and exciting to the press and public.
2) Pick a Fight
Peace and happiness is boring. Nobody forks over $14 for a movie ticket to see a 3-D movie about some guy who marries his high-school sweetheart, graduates with honors from college, gets a great job at HappyCo, has three kids, then wins the lottery. The End.
News is about conflict. Storytelling is about conflict. Rhetoric is about conflict and choices.
A lot of times, conventional wisdom is wrong. Say so. Blow up the myths and misconceptions.
3) Revamp Your Products
Not simply to freshen up the look. Use science to make your printed products more attractive and useful, and your web layouts stickier.
everything you do in public relations — except for radio — involves the eyes, this is an important issue. It affects websites, blogs, newsletters, press releases, fact sheets and anything else that your audience will see.
There have always been theories about what’s effective, visually. Today there’s some science to it, with different types of eye-tracking devices.
The conventional wisdom is wrong. Pretty photos don’t rule the day, unless those photos are of people facing the camera while they do something relevant to the story.
Words usually attract the most attention. And the best layout for a printed product, website or blog is an F-shape.
People naturally look at the upper left first, then the middle, then the bottom left. Use that knowledge. Put your most important things in those places. Put sidebars and other material in the bottom right and middle right.
4) Invest in A Killer Headline
The science of eye-tracking also sheds light on headlines.
The first two words of your headline are critical. A lot of readers won’t read more than that.
If you use a blurb or subhed, people often skip over it, so make sure the headline itself, especially the first two words, at least hint at the heart of the story.
Can you sum up your story in two words? Then do it, and make those the first two words of the headline.
5) Make Whatever You’re Saying Incredibly Useful
Whatever you’re telling people, make it relevant to their lives and useful to an average person.
The old saying, “News you can use” has a lot of truth to it.
If you’re pulling back the curtain on pro sports, share some tips and techniques that athletes use to get in shape that average people probably don’t know about.
If you’re writing about what a movie set is really like, see if you can frame the headline and the piece toward tips from actors and directors that everyday people can use.
Maybe you’re writing for a public official who deals with crime, say a county sheriff or prosecutor. Don’t just talk about crime and punishment. Give people 10 tips on how to make their home burglar proof, or seven ways neighbors can work together to make their block safer.