Your headline must be the story in 55 characters or less

Some food for thought. Take a look at this chart of a popular celebrity’s web analytics.

Overview - Google Analytics

Notice that in January of 2011, 7.8% of their traffic was from mobile devices. Notice that as of last week, 33% of their traffic was from mobile devices. That’s a 400% increase in mobile device usage in 2 years. Four times as many people are viewing this celebrity’s website on a mobile device compared to two years ago. Now think about how we use mobile devices. We scan. We surf. We peruse. We do everything on smaller screens. Subject lines in emails have had to get tighter. Website designs have had to become responsive to adapt to mobile usage.

What hasn’t changed? How we in public relations write headlines for media and public outreach. Why is this important? Because in a highly mobile world, the headline is the story. In many media outlets, on many media websites, in many website designs, the headline is all you get. If your news or outreach has a lightweight or irrelevant headline, it’s not even going to get noticed, much less read. If your headline exceeds what a mobile site or browser is going to make readable, it’s not going to get noticed.

Take a look at this sampling of New York Times mobile site headlines:


The New York Times manages to convey enough story (or even the entire story) in their mobile-friendly headlines to get you to tap one of the links to read more. They also manage to do this in an average of 55 characters, plenty of room to be retweeted, shared, or forwarded with a minimum of alteration.

If you surf through the media and entertainment section of MarketWire, you’ll find that the press releases there average about 84 characters per headline, and most of them don’t tell a story at all.

If you want to stand a chance of making an impact on the increasingly larger mobile crowd, make the headline the story and get it inside 55 characters if you can.

Tomorrow, we’ll give some guidance about writing those headlines in an impactful way on a budget of 55 characters.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on January 3, 2013 in Press Release, Public Relations

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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