What Else are Headline Analyzers Good For?

There’s nothing like discovering a shiny new tool and then learning that using it doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

No, I’m not talking about those teeth-whitening strips that promise a sparkling smile but don’t fully deliver.

I’m talking about headline analyzers. In my last post I did an experiment to analyze all of the headlines in this blog. The purpose was to see if my headlines were doing a good job of attracting and engaging readers.

Turns out, according to some sources, it may not make a significant difference in how many people actually click through and read the post.

But “making a difference” can have different meanings.

If we’re talking about improving the open rates of a blog post, then using a headline analyzer may not make a difference.

However, there are other ways of making a difference.

For me, using a headline analyzer is a fun way to practice writing 25 headlines for each blog post. This is a best practice to land on an attention-grabbing headline.

Using an analyzer – and my favorite is CoSchedule – is an engaging game to see how I can get the highest score. Then, among the top scores, I look for the headline(s) with positive sentiment, as opposed to negative or neutral sentiment.

Each week as I repurpose a blog post as a LinkedIn article, engagement is increasing with more likes, comments and shares. However, it’s hard to tease out if that’s due to the frequency and consistency of posting, a growing number of connections and audience size, or better quality headlines.

But whether or not headline analyzers have been proven to increase readership or not, the tool is helpful in improving the quality and descriptiveness of my headlines.

That got me thinking.

How else could I use the analyzer tools?

Email subject lines. With every email I write, I ask myself a question: if the recipient reads nothing else but the subject line, will they get my main message?

Also, will that subject line be easily searchable later on, when the person is looking for relevant information?

If writing 25 headlines for each blog post using the headline analyzer helps me write better headlines, couldn’t it help with my email subject lines too?

Clearly, with dozens of emails going out every day, it’s not feasible to analyze every subject line.

But for the more important messages, going to the busiest people? Absolutely.

Speech titles. Today I’ve been working on what I call my TED talk about “How to boost your career through social media.”

Or maybe it will be “How to live your best professional life in social media.” That’s the headline that got the highest score, with an 83 out of 100. The target is a score of 70 or higher.

It’s not a real TED talk at this point. Although it was fun to see my teenage son’s eyes light up when he thought his mom was actually giving a TED talk.

It’s the process of creating a TED talk that is guiding my presentation about social media savvy for corporate professionals.

Over the last few months, I’ve been invited to speak to 3 or 4 groups about how to build their careers through social media. That’s why it’s time to create the actual presentation and synthesize everything I’ve been blogging about for the last year.

TED talks are how people are used to learning about “ideas worth spreading,” so it made sense to me to start with this format. I’m inspired by the TED Talks book, and the talks by Chris Anderson and Nancy Duarte.

Once the talk is crafted in that format, I can adapt it to different audiences and different speaking times.

The “idea worth spreading” is often crystallized in the title of the talk. So why not give the headline analyzer a try?

In addition to trying 25+ different titles, I entered a few existing talk titles in the headline analyzer. Not surprisingly, most of them were above the 70 threshold for a good title.

Slogans and tagline. Then I wondered how a slogan or tagline would fare in a headline analyzer.

I added “how to” to my employer’s consumer brand tagline. I’m happy – but not surprised – to report it scored above the 70 threshold. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

Then there was a variation on the employer brand tagline that a group of us created at a former company. Again, I was happy to discover it was well above the threshold.

When we were narrowing down the tagline from a dozen options, though, it would have been great to test them with a headline analyzer.

What other ways could a headline analyzer be helpful? Book titles didn’t fare well when I tested a few. Maybe I’ll try it for blog post subheads or upcoming tweets.

Most importantly, this tool has prompted me to stretch and try a variety of word combinations. Whether or not the data supports greater readership and engagement, the fact that I’m being more creative is a win in my book.

How are you using headline analyzers beyond their original purpose?

12 Ways to Take a Great Headshot


Everyone needs a great headshot.

Why? Social media profiles. Executive biographies. Email signatures. Conference badge photos.

Having a great headshot helps build your personal brand.

But sometimes being photographed is the last thing we want to do. Here are 12 ways to get a great shot and have fun in the process.

Just do it. Get a new photo taken every few years. I waited 5 years since my last headshot, which was way too long.

My colleague Roger Hyde‘s team had created such a perfect environment years ago, complete with a wind machine, that I was hesitant to do it again.

But thanks to the gentle coaxing of photographer Jessica Sterling, my husband Kevin and I finally took new headshots.

Decide what message you want to convey. What do you want your headshot to say about you? It should amplify your personal brand – what you want to be known for.

I wanted a new photo I could use in a corporate environment. It also needed to work in other contexts in my professional and personal lives.

Pick a great photographer. Ask your colleagues and friends for recommendations. Or use social media to find someone local.

On a tight budget? Find someone who’s starting out or team up with friends who need headshots.

If you’re planning a professional event, bring in a photographer for attendees to get their pics done.

The global youth media company Fullscreen did this at a recent women’s leadership event – brilliant idea!

In my case, I had the good fortune of knowing Jessica Sterling from work, and I was familiar with her visual capability with people and organizations. I personally retained her services, and so it began.

Check out other headshots for inspiration. Look at headshots of people you admire. Check out leaders and standouts in your field. Find images that express what you want to convey. Think about how you’ll express what makes you unique. Share samples and discuss ideas with your photographer.

Personalities shine through in the speaker headshots for the upcoming TEDWomen 2016 conference. I can’t wait to attend this in October and hear from these fascinating women and men.

Have your makeup and hair done. Bring in the professionals!

Whether it’s your own go-to hair and makeup glam squad, or a stop at the Dry Bar for a blowout and Sephora for a makeover, have your hair and makeup done.

Thank you, Emma Willis and Countour Fosse!

Wear solid colors. Solids photograph well and are bolder. Bright colors pop and attract more attention. Too much white can wash you out.

Bring several wardrobe options to your shoot and play around with the pieces. Have different jewelry options.

Blue is my employer’s brand color, so I chose a jewel-toned blue jacket (this is where I mention that opinions are my own). But I also love red, so I brought my favorite Nina McLemore jacket.

Try to smize. While searching for tips on taking a great headshot, supermodel and entrepreneur Tyra Banks rose to the top. Here I learned how to smize. This is all about smiling with your eyes to take a great shot.

Relax and have fun. Cue up your favorite music. Bring a friend who makes you laugh and brings out the best in you. Let your playful side emerge and enjoy all the attention. After all, how often do you get to be center stage for the better part of a day in real life?

Take “behind the scenes” pics. Among the four of us in the studio, we each got some pictures as the shoot was unfolding. These were fun to post on Instagram that day.

Choose the best image to be your personal brand. Look through all the shots on a few different occasions. Mark your favorites. Ask friends for feedback. Think about the brand you want to express. Does your selection capture that essence?

Use your headshot consistently in EVERYTHING. I used to use one photo in “professional” social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and a more casual one in more “personal” social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). I tried to keep the two worlds separate, but the lines continue to blur.

So this time I took Guy Kawasaki‘s advice in The Art of Social Media. I picked one picture to use in everything.

Just as a business brand uses the same logo consistently, your headshot is YOUR brand. You should use the same photo consistently in your social world.

When I made a list of where I’d use my new headshot, it kept growing. Executive bio. Social media profiles. My gmail signature (another nod to Guy Kawasaki for recommending Wise Stamp). College alumni profiles. Google. Yelp. AirBNB. On so on.

My headshot is on my camera roll so I can upload it into event apps and anywhere I might need it.

Take advantage of events that offer headshots. Be camera ready to take a new pic at a variety of events that offer photography.

And don’t forget to smize!

How to Give a Great Speech


“What’s your process for writing a speech?”

That was an unexpected interview question several years ago. An energetic organizational development professional with a Ph.D. at a large corporation sat across the desk from me awaiting my response.

“Process?” I racked my brain as I tried to stave off panic. “I just sit down and do it,” I thought.

Because I’m on the intuitive end of the Myers-Briggs preferences spectrum between intuition and sensing, I prefer patterns and future possibilities to an over-emphasis on process.

However, a response was required.

And here’s my process, whether I’m writing a speech for a C-level leader or myself – like in the photo above that Shel Holtz took of the social media general session at the 2013 IABC World Conference.

As I reflected on how I prepared, I came up with a 12-step process. Here are thoughts on each.

Planning. What are the objectives for the speech? What do you need the audience to think or do differently? Beyond that, assess the format of the speech. Is it a keynote? An interview? A panel? Decide if the selected format will enable you to best meet the objectives. If not, make a change.

Analyzing the audience. Who is the audience? What are their key characteristics? What do they believe and what do you need to change about their beliefs or actions? Consider ways you can make an emotional connection with your audience.

Ideating. Sketch out ideas on paper, ask others for input and set times to “think without thinking,” a concept inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. Consider what you want to accomplish. Then set it aside and go for a walk, take a nap or do other work. The ideas will flow later as your subconscious mind generates them while you walk, sleep or work.

Researching. Create a thesis statement. What are you trying to prove? Or disprove? Then do some research for facts and figures that support your thesis. Bring a critical eye to the online sources you choose. Will they carry enough weight with your audience? Do they add variety? Do they help you present your subject in fresh, unexpected or humorous ways?

Outlining. Create a rough outline from everything you’ve done so far. Start with a compelling opening. A dramatic statement. A startling question. Or a keen observation. Then make sure your information flows in a logical progression. Find the surprise in your material for the ending. Give the audience a “so what” to summarize. And leave them with a strong call to action of what they should do next. Start thinking about accompanying visuals. What photos, images or videos could enhance your message, add humor or bring emotion to your subject?

Writing. Now it’s time to write the first draft of your speech. But first you’ll have to get rid of the inner critic. What works for me is to “write sh**.” Just “write anything” to get words on the page. No judgments about whether they’re good or bad. Just put words on the screen. Because they can be shaped later in the editing process. That’s what I do with this blog. The real art comes in the editing, eliminating and refining.

Refining. Set your draft aside. Ideally for a day. If you’re short on time, even an hour will help. Then look at your draft with a fresh set of eyes. You’ll probably find that it’s better than you thought. And you’ll have some perspective to start editing and refining it. Does the opening grab the audience right from the start? Does the material flow in a logical way? Have you used simple words and short sentences that you would actually use in conversation? Have you triple-checked all of your facts?

Developing visuals. What visuals will enhance your talk and bring your key points to life? Consider your medium. Will you use Prezi, PowerPoint, SlideShare or a SlideDoc? Your visuals aren’t your speaking notes, so don’t cram them with a lot of words. Think about the visuals that can help tell your story. A photo or a video clip, perhaps. Watch TED talks for ideas and inspiration.

Rehearsing. Memorize your speech, or at least the key points, so you can deliver your talk in a friendly and relaxed way. I record myself giving the speech on my iPhone, and then I listen to it during drive time to memorize and refine it. Arrive early and rehearse on the stage where you’ll give the presentation. Know who will introduce you, how you’ll enter the stage and where you’ll stand or sit. Move around the stage – and even among the audience – if you can as you speak. Magic Johnson did this once at a conference I attended. He literally jumped off the stage, walked up and down the aisles, took selfies with audience members and generally spun speaking gold.

Promoting. Promote your speech before before and after you give it. Promotion before will encourage more people to attend. There are the usual ways, such as the conference website, social media channels and news releases. Tap into your own social media, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or others. Make sure the audience knows your Twitter handle and the conference hashtag. Right after your speech, jump into any conversations in social media – to retweet observations that amplify your message, make new connections and extend the reach of your talk. Post a video of part or all of your speech in YouTube.

Presenting. Here’s where feedback on other speeches can help you. Whenever you speak, see if it can be recorded. As painful as it may be, watch the recording. Identify what you did well and what you would improve. Ask others for feedback. Act on it. Sleep well the night before your talk. Eat a good breakfast. Wear something that makes you feel great – especially bold solid colors that will stand out and contrast with the stage. Do the Amy Cuddy Wonder Woman power pose right before you speak. If you’re nervous, remember the audience is rooting for you. Be human and relatable. Pretend you’re having a one-on-one conversation with someone in the audience. Make eye contact. Smile. Breathe. Enjoy.

Getting feedback. Stick around after your talk to answer questions and ask others what they thought. See what the buzz is in social media. Watch the video of your talk. Check out the conference evaluations, if there are any. Just like in your life and your career, strive to get better each time you speak.

Many people have inspired me as I’ve come to love public speaking. I listen to TED talks during drive time – to learn something new, pick up speaking tips and identify thought leaders I may seek as speakers as corporate leadership events.

Chris Anderson who curates TED is writing a book called Talk This Way, out in spring 2016. In the meantime, some of his thinking is crystallized in How to Give a Killer Presentation in Harvard Business Review.

And Nancy Duarte is one of my favorite thought leaders in presenting with panache through storytelling – in her TED talk, LinkedIn blog and website.

This week I spoke about self-awareness to high-potential leaders at my company. Using the process above, I hope I’ve helped inspire colleagues on their development journeys. Based on some of the feedback, I’m hopeful and inspired that I did.