Headlines from the headlines

One of my favorite ways to get inspiration for copywriting headlines and email subject lines is to look at the daily news headlines.

Whenever you come across a news headline that interests you, especially if it’s about a topic in a market you sometimes write copy for, make a note of it (if you don’t already have a headlines document in your Google Docs or on your computer, start one).

Each day take a glance at the headlines in Google News, New York Times (especially their most popular articles), Huffington Post (check out this article about their headlines and how they test them) and a news site in your local area.

Obviously you won’t be able to swipe these headlines word for word to use as a copywriting headline. The purpose is to give you inspiration and raw material to work with to tweak into a headline you can use.

It’s common for copywriters to study and swipe successful copywriting headlines but I find it adds freshness to your copywriting to also study the news headlines. Because news headlines tend to be pithy they also can provide inspiration as email subject lines.

I’ll share a few I came across this past week:

“What’s the biggest money mistake you can make?”

This is a curiosity headline from a news site in my local area. With a little tweaking you could turn this into a copywriting headline for copy in the financial/debt management niches. You could use it word for word in an email subject line.

A headline like this also meets the “3 a.m. test” ¬†that Gary Bencivenga talks about: if you woke up a person in your market at 3 a.m. and read them your headline, would it create such a sense of urgency that they would want to hear more or would they roll over and go back to sleep?

“If you had more money than you knew what to do with, would you want more?

A good example of a question headline from the New York Times. If you write copy for financial services or products this would also make for a good email subject line and topic.

“Raising pigs and this baseball thing really go together.”

Another example from the New York Times. I like the use of contrast here. One doesn’t normally associate pig farming with baseball. Making note of a headline like this will remind you to use contrast in your copywriting headlines whenever possible because it’s one of the best ways to provoke curiosity.

“$5 debit card fee got you mad? Time for deposit-only banks.”

This is from Google News and an example of an emotion headline that targets a very specific frustration of the people in your market. It would be very easy to adapt this to a copywriting headline.

Another benefit to this daily exercise is it will help you stay informed as to what’s going on in the world. There have been countless times I’ve come across a factoid or statistic in a news story and used it in email and sales page copy.

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