Image for Entice Viewers with Wit, Surprise, Awe and Urgency in Headlines

Good content starts with a great headline. A blah headline can turn off viewers who never bother to check out the rest of your content, regardless how great it is.

The next important element of successful content is a compelling feature image. The headline catches attention. The image provides the hook.

Content worth viewing is worth the time it takes to come up with a compelling headline. There are many effective strategies. Headlines with catchy phrases. Headlines with stunning statistics. Headlines that offer answers.

While the headline catches the eye, a striking image can hold it, hopefully long enough for the viewer to peek at the text. The content needs to be strong enough and well-packaged to keep viewer attention. Sometimes, an image or chart is the content, so it’s important for informative visuals to have eye appeal and easy navigability.

The era of “word people” and “picture people” in the publishing world ended long ago, and probably never should have existed. Today, the value of content is weighed on whether it is viewed. Gaining views is a competitive marketplace in a torrent of content posted on an ever-expanding sea of communication channels. A critical contemporary skill is knowing where in the galaxy of information your intended audience is hanging out, what interests them and how to assemble a satisfying blend of words and pictures.

Producing and skillfully placing killer content is not enough. You also need to market your content. And the headline is the most effective billboard.

Headlines have long played an important role in teeing up stories in newspapers and magazines. Now they have a more mission-critical role for all kinds of content – to lure viewers by wit, surprise, awe or urgency.

Headlines alone have a hard time making an emotional connection with potential viewers. Headlines combined with powerful images can achieve emotional connections, or least enough of an emotional tie to convince viewers to look at a story, chart, video or infographic.

Think of it this way. Your content exists on an island – your website, blog, social media pages, newsletter or email. Headlines and their companion images are the bridge to convey viewers to your islands of content. Since headlines and feature images literally transport viewers to your content, they deserve as much as attention as the content itself.

This is especially true when you place content on new platforms where viewers have even less familiarity with you and you are making essentially a first impression.

The goal of content marketing is to engage your audience. The journey of engagement begins at the headline, continues through a featured image and lands in the core of your content. A lazy or ineffectual headline can stunt the journey before it begins.

Put your best content forward. Write an irresistible headline. Couple it with a fetching image. Let your viewers know you care enough to give them a strong reason to interact with your content.

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm’s PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.