The job of the headline is to command attention for a story, photo, or message. As we work to add impact to Mason’s communications, strong headlines will be key. This is the place to be bold and confident, intriguing and provocative.
Our Headline Style
Our preferred headline approach has two parts, for example:
For tonight’s homework, start a small business.
Or a large one.
(This might introduce a piece about the Mason Innovation Lab, a starting place for new ventures.)
Here, the first line sets up a premise, the second adds a twist.
Consider another example:
A great university is a launching pad for dreams.
What’s your destination?
(This might introduce a message about the opportunity for students to shape a program to match their individual goals.)
In this example, we start with a bold declaration and follow it up with a question. By employing direct address, we inject energy and reach out to the reader.
Uses of Headlines
When we hear the term “headline,” we naturally think of the words above an ad or magazine story; however, headlines of the kind we are describing can work in other ways as well.
They can run with photos in a web-page carousel, presenting a series of marketing messages. They can be used as dramatic display copy in an annual report, each occupying an entire page, presented in expressive type.
Two-part statements such as these can also be worked into running copy, as lead-in sentences—hooks to catch attention at the beginning of a section.
More Headline Examples
There are as many headlines in the world as there are stories to tell, and it’s impossible to document them all here. However, the examples below help show the range of approaches that can work.
Some people are voted “most likely to succeed.”
Others just go ahead and do it.
(To introduce a story about successful graduates.)
A great university puts ideas into action.
Want to start something?
(To introduce a story about an entrepreneurial center.)
Forget filling in the blanks.
Let’s answer questions that matter.
(To introduce a story about an applied, real-world class project.)
A great university rewrites the rules.
Let’s put the focus on results.
(To introduce a story about high-earning graduates or other evidence of ROI.)
A great university is a place of many perspectives.
Meet the world on one campus.
(To introduce a story about diversity.)
What’s it sound like when the country’s best pep band gets in a groove?
You’ll have to come find out.
(To introduce a story about the Green Machine.)
For more than 40 years, Mason has written an amazing story of progress.
Our strategic plan outlines the next chapter.
(To introduce a story about plans for progress.)
No doubt, occasions will arise when you won’t have space for a headline in this two-part style. If you are creating a billboard, for instance, you’ll need something shorter. One approach is to trim a two-part line in half. For instance, this line: “A great university is a place of many perspectives. Meet the world on one campus.” Could become just this: “Meet the whole world on one campus.”
Another solution would be to use one of our themelines (page 14) as a headline. For instance, in an ad about diversity, you could choose “The Power of Many Perspectives.”
Headlines in Other Tones
The sample headlines provided above speak with a fairly strong marketing edge. This is intentional, but it will not be right for every project. If you are outlining course requirements or policies in a human resources manual and the goal is simply to be informative, it’s fine to use a simple, informative page title, such as “Electives” or “Planning a Personal Leave.”
Or, if you are writing a proposal and want a section called “Research at Mason,” that’s ok. Keep in mind, though, that there still may be room for an attention-getting first line, for example:
“At Mason, we believe research should answer real-world problems. We put that belief in action every day.” (This is essentially a two-part headline used as a lead-in sentence.)
Think imaginatively about ways of using these headlines and the possibilities will multiply.