Sean d’Souza explains how to use the power of ‘new’ and ‘knew’ to write intensely powerful headlines. Hint: ‘new’ is including something new and intriguing; ‘knew’ is using the familiar so you’ll be understood. Read on to learn how to weave them together. (This is part three of an 9-part series on writing perfect headlines by the author of "The Secret Life of Testimonials". Find out more about the book and order "The Secret Life of Testimonials" now. Further 'lessons' will be published over the next seven weeks.)
Will it? Won’t it? That’s the power of curiosity. And once you’ve mastered (or even played around with the earlier two concepts) you’ll now be ready to tweak your headlines just a tiny bit. And yes, mon ami, that tiny bit will send those curiosity levels sky-high. And you’re probably wondering if this curiosity is possible without having to remodel your brain. Yes, it is. And I know that millisecond is up, so let’s get down to the meat of 'curiosity’ - and how you can make your headlines a lot more curious.
Headline-writing for articles is like witchcraft.
You have to know the spells, and chant before you can create awesome headlines, right?
What you really need is a factor of ‘new’. And ‘knew.’
So what do I mean by ‘new’ and ‘knew?’
‘New’ is kinda obvious. If you have something ‘new’ in the headline, then the reader is instantly interested. The curiosity trigger is launched, and the reader wants to know what’s next.
But if your entire headline had a factor of ‘new’ you’d cause anxiety, not curiosity.
And let’s look at a few examples to see what I mean. Let’s go back into the last century to the year, 1999. And being 1999, you’ve heard nothing about the iPod. Or podcasts. Or RSS.
And your headline read: How to create RSS podcasts with the iPod. Aha, it’s all ‘new’ information, if you’re still stuck in 1999, right?
So why did it cause your brain to go waka-waka?
Because it’s all new. And running into all new, is like running into an InDesign Toolbar with five hundred palettes. Or a strange city where you don’t quite know your way round.
Notice what I just did?
I put two scenarios in front of you: 1. InDesign Tool Bar with five hundred palettes. 2. A strange city where you don’t know your way around.
And if you know ‘InDesign’, you’ll have coasted through both the analogies in a few seconds. But even if you didn’t know what the heck ‘InDesign or palettes’ are, the second example of the ‘strange city’ would be something you could quite easily relate to.
The concept of the ‘strange city’ is the factor of ‘knew.’ And ‘knew’ is something you know.
While ‘new’ is something that’s kinda unknown.
So how do we use this magic spell for article headlines?
We mix the ‘new’ and the ‘knew’. Throw a bat wing or two. And some shitake mushrooms. Et voilà, we have a bunch of headlines that looketh like this:
1) Why the ‘Yes-Yes’ Factor Helps You Raise Prices.
2) Is There Too Much Sugar In Your Testimonials?
3) The Critical Importance of Sandwiching Your Articles.
4) How Segues Reduce Friction in Sales.
5) Why Consumption is More Important Than Attraction and Conversion.
You noticed, didn’t you?
There were ‘new’ elements in the copy. And there were ‘knew’ elements. Some things you recognized right away. And others that did drive you to curiosity. The factor of ‘new’ attracted you, but equally important, the ‘knew’ signalled what topic was being covered.
So you can clearly see that the five topics are about:
1) Raising Prices.
3) Something to do with Article-Writing.
4) Reducing Friction in Sales.
5) Something that’s more important than Attraction and Conversion.
When the ‘new’ and the ‘knew’ mix, they create dynamite.
Too much ‘new’ and the headline is intimidating as hell.
Too much ‘knew’ and a yawn, and a siesta come to mind.
But the question will no doubt arise: Do you need to write every headline with ‘new’ and ‘knew?’
And the answer is no. This article isn’t a formula for every article headline. There are other ways to get curiosity. And a smart way to write article headlines is to mix and match.
Headlines with a ‘How To’ factor do really well.
Headlines with questions do really well.
But headlines with ‘new’ and ‘knew’ have a certain magic, and cast a spell.
But use the spell sparingly, ok?
Exercise: Take any headline you’ve written. Drop in a new. Drop in a knew. Stir well.
Sean’s note: So who’d think curiosity was that simple, eh? Well as you can see, it is. You’ve gone from too few thoughts in a headline to too many, and then we’ve tweaked those thoughts to intensify the curiosity. And hey, you’ve done quite well, and you haven’t yet broken into a sweat. Well, we may have done all of the above, but there may still be some waffle in your headline. Waffle? Yes, waffle.
This is part three of an 9-part series on writing perfect headlines by the author of "The Secret Life of Testimonials". Find out more about "The Secret Life of Testimonials" and order your copy now.
Part 1: How to write near-perfect headlines in minutes (Headline writing course part 1)
Part 2: How too many thoughts ruin headlines (Headline writing course part 2)
Part 4: Why being specific is critical for headlines
Part 5: How to avoid pot luck headlines
Part 6: How to construct headlines
Part 7: Testimonials as headlines
Part 8: How to make your email signature a headline - and where to use it