Framing and Headlines

The magic sauce of getting noticed involves clear, crisp and clever framing and headline writing. It's as simple — and hard — as that.Framing an issue and writing a headline require the same skill of knowing how to distill your point in a few, catchy words.

They also share an important distinction — how an issue is framed and how a headline is phrased may make the difference of whether anyone pays attention.

Clever framing and headline writing don't guarantee readership, but they sure help. Poor framing or weak headlines are proven attention-killers.

Framing an issue and writing a headline require skill. But more important, they demand focus and a willingness to discard your first idea for a better one.

Some people just have the knack for summing up an issue or story. For others it takes a village. That doesn't matter. Unlike works of arts, well-framed issues and reader-fetching headlines don't carry signatures or bylines. Their value is in their impact on intended audiences.

Common characteristics of framed issues and good headlines include concise description, crisp wording and a memorable twist of phrase.

One of the best current examples of a reframed issue is shifting from "same-sex marriage" to the "freedom to love." It is hard to find a word to hate in the expression "freedom to love." Moreover, it fits well in a sequence of mentioning free speech and freedom of religion. While more opaque than the literally correct "same-sex marriage," freedom to love carries more emotive value and avoids other charged words such as gay, lesbian or transgender.

Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media, says eight out of 10 people will read a headline, while only two out of 10 will read the story. The only way to close the gap, Clark says, is "magnetic headlines." These are headlines that turn browsers into readers by grabbing attention and piquing interest to learn more.

Tabloids have mastered the art of double-take headlines, such as New York Post offering, "Headless Body in Topless Bar." However, most content isn't that salacious, so you have to work a little harder to find words that work. Maybe something like "Bridge to Nowhere Being Built." Or Time magazine's piece on the multiple roles of women titled "Are You Mom Enough?"

In the everyday hustle and bustle, it is easy to let your creative muscles atrophy. A good opportunity to flex those underused muscles is to frame an issue or write a headline. It could be one of the most productive things you do all day.