Can Dream Headlines Focus Your Research?


Headlines are critical in corporate communications.

If someone reads nothing else but the headline, will they get the key message? And will the headline compel them to read the story?

A tweet can serve the same function. Can you get your key message across in under 140 characters? Will it engage your followers to click on the related link?

It turns out, there’s another powerful use for headlines and tweets. Alexandra Samuel outlines this in her HBR post How Content Marketers Can Tell Better Stories with Data.

“Start with your dream headline,” Samuel advises. She likes to start by “imagining my dream headlines or tweets: the discoveries that I would love my data to yield.”

Samuel gives the example of looking at child-related security risks. “I hoped to discover the security practices that led to the biggest reduction in online misdeeds,” she wrote, “something like ‘good passwords cut hacks perpetrated by kids by 50%’.”

This informs how she tackles the research. What’s less important is whether the discovery she wants to find is actually supported by the research. Because the method provides focus to the research.

This gives a better ability to discover “data that would yield the best-case outcome.” The headline and the story then evolve based on the most interesting and relevant insights from the data.

My first introduction to Alexandra Samuel was through her series of e-books, which ultimately become Work Smarter with Social Media. These helped me to work better with LinkedIn, Twitter and more.

That’s why I was drawn to Samuel’s articles during my Sunday morning reading of HBR posts on marketing, market research and data. It’s all part of my ongoing, online learning project.

And it speaks to the 5-plus hours of learning that everyone at my employer is encouraged to do to mobilize the future.

We’re all lifelong learners. It’s a gift to be part of a company that creates a learning culture to do just that.

What are you learning today?

Published by

Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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