Man bites dog: the secret to writing perfect headlines

Man bites dog: the secret to writing perfect headlines

Nailing the perfect headline is a tricky task for any writer, no matter their subject or intended audience.

We’ve all experienced brain freeze when trying to create a catchy title. Even if you’ve just reeled off hundreds of words of complete brilliance.

When I was completing my journalism studies, one of my teachers always used the same headline example.

‘Man Bites Dog’

Sausage dog looking quizzical

“U wot m8?”

It’s short and unusual for sure. But it also plays with perceptions in a way that makes the reader want to find out more.

But headlines like ‘Man Bites Dog’, ‘Gotcha’, or even ‘Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious’ don’t come along every day.


So with your story the most important step is to put yourself in the shoes of your target reader.

If you’re trying to persuade the reader to continue, trigger words like ‘what, why, when, how’ can be your best friends. They draw readers in by highlighting key messages explained within the article.

Take a popular subject, like Game of Thrones, and look at the top articles. A quick Google search found these examples:

  • Why it’s the right time for ‘Game of Thrones’ to end
  • ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8: What fans should expect
  • How will GoT bosses stop plot leaks in the final season

Statistics and numbers can also be quick way to secure a great headline. Sticking with GoT:

  • Game of Thrones: 14 reasons why Lady Olenna Is the show’s best character
  • Game of Thrones ratings top 16.1m viewers
  • Game of Thrones 20 most shocking moments

Game of Thrones

These informative headlines make statements on their own and tend to be the most shared on social platforms.

But be careful not to trick your readers with a headline that doesn’t accurately describe your content. No one likes clickbait and it will put readers off from returning.

Be honest and craft an attractive headline that will introduce the content your audience is expecting.


Different headlines will work for different platforms. But a short and punchy title is best, so try not to go over 50-60 characters. This will help readers to easily share your content, even on platforms with limits like Twitter.

So consider your audience and give them a reason to click, continue reading and share. But most importantly, be expressive and be original!

Want more tips like this from the team? Check out some of our recent blogs:

It’s time to rethink how you measure the value of PR

It’s time to rethink how you measure the value of PR

Decades ago, the way PR was traditionally measured involved measuring the size of a piece of coverage in a newspaper or magazine and working out the cost in column inches of running an advert in that space in order to define its value.

In today’s world, AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) is simply no longer relevant.

Times have changed and thankfully technology has since come to the rescue. Not only has the internet completely changed our perceptions of the value of PR, there are also many online platforms that can help to establish the true impact delivered by PR.

One of the key arguments against AVE has always been that PR is not advertising and as such should not be directly compared with it. AVE does not care about tone, audience, reach, quality or lasting effects for example. What’s more, how would you even begin measuring the AVE of any impact you have via social media?

So what can we do?

Well, with PR the ‘value’ of coverage can mean many different things. At Essential we have discovered several ways to better understand and report the coverage we achieve than simply working out the AVE.

For starters, we use the CoverageBook platform as a nice visual way to share our coverage with clients and to give them some meaningful data on estimated reach, circulation and social shares. It’s updated in real time as well which means clients can see their social engagement growing.

As well as further reporting on social sharing and mentions, we also track traffic to our clients’ websites as a result of both press coverage and social media as this is a good indicator that the story has attracted interest from the target readership who are keen to learn more from the initial piece of coverage they’ve read. We also feel that obtaining coverage in the most relevant target media, journalist or blogger for a client should be considered as more valuable to the client, especially as the target media outlet may not write about their specific area that frequently.

We also place great importance on our relationships with media outlets and their journalists. We send personal emails with relevant stories rather than spamming them and always respond quickly to their requests for comment or help as we know they’re often chasing a deadline. We also carefully monitor our key journalists’ requests that they put out on social media and via other response platforms and reply to them directly via the same channel whenever we can help them.

Sometimes the value of our PR work is in capturing the attention of a key reporter that to date hasn’t covered the client. We know that a simple mention in one article can open up the door to an interview or feature piece via that same journalist in the future. In the case of freelance journalists, we may be opening many doors as they often write for a number of titles.

You can already see that measuring value is a complex task, but in a digital world these new methods can actually give a clear view of the impact of PR work. Not only that, but these new techniques give you better understanding of how to develop and refine your messaging to ensure future success.

If you feel like you’re not achieving value from your PR efforts or your agency are still giving you AVE metrics then get in touch and let’s talk!

Don’t be infotragic: how to create effective infographics

Don’t be infotragic: how to create effective infographics

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But if some people are to be believed, images are worth an awful lot more than that.

A quick Google search suggests that visuals are processed up to 60,000 times faster than text, with images processed in just 13 milliseconds.

Whether you believe those numbers or not, one thing that most people who deal with data will agree on is that data becomes much easier to interpret when it’s presented visually.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that infographics have become a standard attachment on most marketeers’ tool belts. Putting a PR hat on, infographics are also a great choice when trying to get data heavy messages across – they’re often much better than exec headshots when distributing survey results, for example.


So, you’re ready to turn your data into an infographic. Great! But where do you start? Well, the key point to keep in mind during the creation process is simplicity. You don’t want to overload viewers with a page of complex charts. Keep it simple, keep it focussed and keep your target audience in mind.

Another ‘oldie but goldie’ piece of advice is that less is more. Try to get your key messages across in small chunks that are memorable but easily digestible. You can use more data to back up your points if needed, but simple visuals can tell a big story if presented well.

One question that stumps many would-be infographic creators is how long should an infographic be? This often depends on the message(s) included, but many successful infographics present a visual story – with plot twists along the way. So, if you have unusual or surprising data that will help to engage your audience and lead them to new, valuable information, don’t be afraid to use it.

One crucial point to remember is that if you do intend to create a longer infographic – don’t give everything away in the first sentence!

Infographics are a great way to show off your creativity. If you have an innovative visual metaphor to help get your point across, then go for it. Just make sure to take a step back and ask yourself, ‘would someone with no previous knowledge of this data understand?’. One person’s funky, colourful chart could be another’s confusing, puzzling mess.

With the right visuals and the right tone for your business, infographics can make your data work harder for you and provide some real character. If you have ideas but are struggling to turn them into solid infographics, we’d love to help so  get in touch!