Lessons from McKinsey’s Top 10 Newsletter Titles

Posted April 2nd @ 6:17 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

The titles featured in McKinsey & Company's Top Ten Topics, First Quarter, 2014, teaches the importance of always choosing the right content marketing titles.I immediately opened McKinsey & Company’s latest email newsletter;  its subject line, Top Ten Articles So Far–made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I don’t think I was alone…

It’s hard to resist a short, news-oriented title that arouses curiosity

The success of the subject line reflects the importance of choosing the right titles for all of your articles, blog posts, books, emails, podcasts, presentations, white papers, and videos.

Lessons from the Top Ten titles

Being a “title junkie” at heart, the effectiveness of the email’s subject line inspired me to go further and analyze the Top Ten titles for further lessons.

Here are the titles, and some initial observations. Note: I purposely didn’t read the teasers before sharing my impressions, so I could focus on just the titles.

  1. Why leadership-development programs fail. High curiosity value; assumes that most leadership development programs fail. Visually interesting in that the first and last words are significantly shorter than the long words in the middle.
  2. What could happen in China in 2014? Engages by asking a hypothetical question. Title gains credibility because it doesn’t predict what, ultimately, cannot be predicted.
  3. Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. “Big data” identifies the topic, “next frontier” sounds interesting, remaining words emphasize the relevance to the readers.
  4. Next frontiers for lean. Another “frontier.” I’m intrigued by how the lack of modifiers around “lean” reinforces the topic.
  5. Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails. Engages you by challenging your attitudes around e-mails, i.e., assumes that someone is telling you to stop sending emails, encourages you to read on so you can evaluate e-mail pros and cons.
  6. Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy. Engages by building on a familiar term, but couples it to newsworthy-word “advances,” then relates topic to reader’s concerns on several levels.
  7. The benefits—and limits—of decision models. Interesting approach to a pros and cons evaluation, with the topic appearing at the end of the title.
  8. Next-shoring: A CEO’s guide. Targets a current topic, but aspirational in that it targets the highest position in a firm’s organization chart.
  9. Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence. Engages with a pun based on a familiar business book, but continues the “from/to” or “journey” idea. “Path” promises by step-by-step approach,  and “excellence” resonates with another familiar business book title.
  10. Tapping the power of hidden influencers.  “Tapping” illustrates a familiar title technique, using a gerund, (or verb used as a noun) to communicate taking action. “Power” is always desirable, while “hidden influencers” is not only a timely phrase, it, too, resonates with a classic marketing book, Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders.

Why it pays to study successful titles

Ultimately, the real value of compilations of popular articles, like McKinsey’s Top Ten Newsletter Titles, is not what others say about them, but in encouraging you to train yourself to analyze the hundreds of titles you encounter every day.

The ability to craft compelling titles is crucial in today’s world of information overload and short attention spans. Cultivating your ability to identify and use the key characteristic of effective titles will help you create better titles and subject lines for your messages–wherever they appear. Learn more about choosing titles in #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-sized Tips for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles and share your takeaways from the Top Ten titles below, as comments.

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