Communications: HEADLINES Key Words – “How”

9.11.14 HOWIn this post I discuss the 3rd of the 4 most powerful words, in any language, that research tells us rank highest in power and persuasiveness, the word “How”. These words speak to our basic needs and interests as human beings, no matter our culture.  They are Mother Nature’s words and added to any headline gives it extra zing.

“How” is especially powerful because it signals knowledge is coming.  When used in a headline about a topic we want to know more about or something that we have a problem around, our antenna goes up – tell me more, this may be the knowledge I’m looking for.

This brings me to knowing your audience.  There are 3 types of readers looking to solve a problem:

The DIY-ers – just tell me how, so I can do it myself

The DIWY-ers – I need some expert help with this, please do it with me

The DIFY – there’s no way I’m doing this myself, I want you to do it for me

Realizing that there are different kinds of problem solver is known at some level, but few headline writers consider how the word “How” plays in a headline. The DIY crowd rushes to the siren call of “How”; it’s exactly the right word to use if you are strictly into educating a reader about your topic.

But if the goal of your writing is more business-oriented and you hope to sell your reader something down the road (you are giving away valuable education now to show expertise; hoping to build trust and close the sale later when the trust is established) then avoid using “How” in your headline, since you will be attracting a DIY reader.  When what you really want is the DIWY (who will hire you to help them) or the DIFY (who will see your expertise and turn the problem over to you to solve for them).

We train others in how to treat us, with our words online (and our behavior offline).  With any writing, you need to know a) what you want the piece of writing to do; b) the type of audience you want to attract; and c) the right words to use to achieve both goals.

One of the big jobs of the headline is to get attention and attract the right reader.  Using “how” in a headline is a good draw – but is it drawing the right type of reader?

Next time the topic is: the power of the word NEW – our deep attraction and addiction to novelty.

Comments?  How are you using the word “how”?  Correctly for your purposes, or…

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