Trying to reach more people? Use non-political headlines.

3 mins read

What gets read? What gets skipped? It all starts with the headline. How do you get your message read by more people across the political spectrum? How do you overcome their lack of interest and short attention spans?

Make your headline intriguing, rather than political. You may not change their minds, but at least you’ve given your message a fight chance of getting read.

Take a look at Who poisoned Jane? to see how this technique is applied.

Write stories designed to engage your readers and draw them into the issue. Make it multimedia, interactive and easy to share.

Draw your readers into the topic

How do you craft your messages to reach across the political divide? Appeal to their curiosity and topics of general interest rather than lead with a political headline. You can always provide more details once they are reading.

It’s the same gift, just wrapped differently. Do not bait-and-switch. Make sure your headline accurately reflects the story.

Who poisoned Jane?” is about the tragic water poisoning in Flint, but you wouldn’t know from the headline It’s intentionally designed to appeal to readers’ curiosity before giving them all the details. The photo of a mother and her baby makes the story more appealing.

Build your story gradually

The story ‘Who poisoned Jane?‘ resembles a crime mystery. The reader is presented with clues and asked to find the culprit. Additional details with images, flyers, maps and videos are provided incrementally. The story has a simple framework:
– The crime
– Clues
– Denials
– Multiple victims
– Investigation
– Prosecution
– Aftermath
Avoid the temptation to give the story away upfront or to add too much information. Keep it short with links to additional information for the curious.

Make your stories interactive

We used a photo by Andrae Ricketts from Unsplash. The website offers ‘Beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. Better than any royalty free or stock photos.’ Pixabay and Pexels are two other good sources for free photos.
The digital story is built on StoryMaps, a free app. Combine text, images, maps and videos into interactive stories that are easy to update and share with just a link. Readers can skim through stories like Who poisoned Jane? in seconds or dive in for more details. This story packages a lot of content as links to:
– References to articles from Mother JonesNPRDaily MailMliveAssociated PressLA TimesClick on Detroit and
– Maps from Mapping Environmental RacismFlint Water CrisisFlint Crisis
– Indictment from Dept. of Attorney General, Michigan

Who poisoned Jane.gif

The Flint Water Crisis

Takeaway: Headlines matter. Get your message read by more people with better headlines and by making your stories interactive.


Image credit: Andrae Ricketts
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