Strategies+: A Blog for Legal Marketers

Does Your Headline Open the Gate for Your Audience?

Posted by Anne Marie Grewal on Nov 22, 2016 1:02:45 PM

6 Strategies to Lead Readers to Your Content

By: Anne Marie Grewal

Sponsored by the Public Relations SIG

In our information-saturated world, headlines have become the gatekeepers of content. If you offer a weak headline, chances are readers will never get past it to read your potentially brilliant content.

Consider a few factoids from marketers who tested the same content with different headlines:

  • Only about 20 percent of readers read past a headline
  • 80 percent of people who share on social media have not read past a headline
  • Headlines can improve click-through rates as much as 500 percent

Brilliant people can write bad headlines, which is where we as legal marketers can add value to lawyers’ writing. You may have seen these bad headline habits; paragraph-length headlines sprinkled with “acadamese” (closely related to legalese) to deliver ambiguous or negative ideas. 

So how can we help? Several established headline strategies work to entice readers to read, click through and forward your content:

  • Formatting as a listicle or including numbers
  • Asking a question
  • Offering a how-to
  • Including verbs that add dynamism
  • Assigning value to help the reader understand if the idea is positive or negative
  • Playing on readers’ emotions.

Let’s look at these strategies in action. The headline below, which impressively embodies all bad headline habits, can be transformed using each of the established strategies.

A Federal Regulatory Agency has Just Released Complicated and Boring Regulations That Will Affect a Very Specific Subset of Clients Commonly Classified as Broker-Dealers; Contingent Upon the Simultaneous Execution of Several Eventualities

Listicle: 10 Reasons Broker-Dealers Should Welcome the SEC’s New Rules

Question: Will New SEC Rules Benefit Broker-Dealers? A Comprehensive Analysis

How-to: How to Navigate the SEC’s New Broker-Dealer Rules

Verb: New SEC Rules Simplify Transactions for Broker-Dealers

Assign value: New SEC Rules Are Welcome Clarification for Broker-Dealers

Emotion: Broker-Dealers Risk Suspension for Non-Disclosure Under New SEC Rules

Of course, for these strategies to work, you need to know something about your audience. But if you know who you are trying to reach, how much they know about your subject and what they fear or aspire to, you should be able to attract their interest in about 10 words.

Your article’s headline is valuable real estate in your communications, and can be the determining factor in whether your content is read or overlooked. So understanding what works — and what doesn’t — can help your readers value your content, and help your lawyer clients value you.



Anne Marie is the client communications manager in the business development department at Latham & Watkins. Before spending the last decade in legal marketing, she worked in broadcast on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, the Public Broadcasting System and the BBC. Her written work has been published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Time Asia, the International Herald Tribune, the DPA and the AFP. Her first novel, Through These Veins, was published in 2011. Her second novel, Beneath the Same Heaven, is forthcoming. Anne Marie regularly edits Latham Client Alerts and external-facing content.

To learn more on this topic, listen to the recording of the PR SIG-sponsored webinar, “Does Your Headline Matter? Strategies for Capturing Readers,” which is available to LMA members as a complimentary member benefit. For additional articles and resources, join the PR SIG today.

Topics: Client Services, Communications

Recent Posts

Subscribe to Blog RSS

About this Blog


Strategies+ is your online resource to discover exclusive content on the state of the legal marketing profession that goes beyond Strategies magazine, including:

  • Case studies from Your Honor Award winners
  • Weekly trendspotting
  • Guest blogs from legal marketing leaders
  • And much, much more!