As we're all being bombarded with more and more information in less and less time, some experts are now calling this state an "attention-deficit economy".
So how can you cut through the noise with well written headlines - for a media release, email or sales letter.
Here's some tips from Robert Bly:
"The "4 U's" copywriting formula -- which stands for urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful -- can help.
Originally developed by my colleague Michael Masterson for writing more powerful headlines, the 4 U's formula works especially well with e-mail subject lines. I'll share it with you now.
According to this formula, strong subject lines are:
Urgent. Urgency gives the reader a reason to act now instead of later. You can create a sense of urgency in your subject line by incorporating a time element. For instance, "Make $100,000 working from home this year" has a greater sense of urgency than "Make $100,000 working from home." A sense of urgency can also be created with a time-limited special offer, such as a discount or premium if you order by a certain date.
Unique. The powerful subject line either says something new, or if it says something the reader has heard before, says it in a new and fresh way. For example, "Why Japanese women have beautiful skin" was the subject line in an e-mail promoting a Japanese bath kit. This is different than the typical "Save 10% on Japanese Bath Kits."
Ultra-specific. Boardroom is the absolute master of ultra-specific bullets, known as "fascinations," that tease the reader into reading further and ordering the product. Examples: "What never to eat on an airplane," "Bill's it's okay to pay late," and "Best time to file for a tax refund." They use such fascinations in direct mail as envelope teasers and in e-mail as subject lines.
Useful. The strong subject line appeals to the reader's self-interest by offering a benefit. In the subject line "An Invitation to Ski & Save," the benefit is saving money.
When you have written your subject line, ask yourself how strong it is in each of these 4 U's. Use a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = weak, 4 = strong) to rank it in each category."
Source: "How to Write Subject Lines That Get Your Email Opened" by Robert Bly in Copywriting TNTs, Dec 13, 2004 Vol 2, Issue 22.