The Importance of Digital Headlines in the Billboard Era

By Jessica Clair

Consider a billboard.

Try to picture the ad that immediately comes to your mind. It’s most likely one you pass on a regular basis. It probably has a catchy phrase or an eye-catching image and not much else. For me, I always picture the billboard that I pass every day going home from work. In big, bold letters it says:


Smaller, beneath this, it says:

Along with this smaller phrase are the name and phone number of a local heating and air-conditioning company.

This billboard is an effective advertisement because it catches your attention as you’re zipping past on the highway and engages you enough to read further—it convinces you to engage long enough to also see the important, but seemingly boring, text below it.

Writing anything for the digital sphere is a lot like designing a billboard. Your reader is zipping past with a lot of other noise vying for their attention. Unlike when reading in print, readers in the digital world can rapidly move from place to place, clicking from one thing to the next the minute they get bored.

So why should they care about your advertisement, your company, your blog, social media posting, etc?

The answer is they won’t care at first. You have to draw them in to care by first grabbing them with a fun, catchy, intriguing, confusing, even scandalous title. Think about the links that draw you in when scrolling through your Facebook news feed. BuzzFeed has a knack for catching my eye because they have articles with headlines like “We Can Tell Where You Last Had Sex” or “Here’s How to Get Free Tickets from Ticketmaster.”

These titles work on many levels. They are, first and foremost, eye-catching. Words like “Free” and “Sex” catch our eye because they are things we all in one way or another desire, have ideas about, are curious about, or have an interest in.

They also work well because they are straight forward enough that you instantly know your level of interest in the link, while leaving you questioning enough to still need to click for more information.

If you type the words “your wife is hot” into a Google search, one of the top search suggestions it gives is “your wife is hot billboard.” That means that this phrase is well-known enough in connection to advertising that it beats out countless other phrases that people could be searching.

Your headlines need to do the same.

Why do we write?

By BJ Lewis

I guess I can’t answer the question of why “we” write. I can only speak for myself. I can speculate about the rest of the community from reading, watching, and listening for the last 50 years. It seems to me, there are a lot more writers these days. Based on the fact that the number of writing programs in colleges, writing conferences and blogs have exploded and the ways in which you can publish your work are now unlimited, it seems easy to conclude people want to write and to be heard, but why this interest?

Enter the question “why do I write?” into any search engine and there are plenty of sites willing to answer. Angel Fire has reasons from many writers, and you can add your own to the list.

Creation has always been a human desire. Watch a child at play and you can see they love to create. They build things, they tell stories and their imaginations are in constant motion. Later in life this is still who we are at our core. Sit at the feet of a grandparent and listen while they tell their stories. Everyone has a compelling story to tell. We all want there to be a reason we lived. Our creations become part of our legacy. Our writing is a creation and will be part of that legacy. As kids, our words, whether written or spoken, were usually a result of an active imagination. All these years later, we have more substantive reasons why we write.

lewisWould you like to hear stories from people all over the country? Try Story Corps.

One of the most important reasons in today’s world to be a good writer is we are moving away from face-to-face interactions and depending more on the written word. People would rather dash off a quick e-mail or text than pick up the phone or walk down the hall. Part of this is due to technology which allows us to have teammates in remote locations. I work with people who are 16 times zones ahead of me. No matter where we are, we need to be able to write and communicate effectively and clearly across time zones and cultures. Once you press “send” there’s no way to know how far that message will travel, how many will read it or how long it will last. You should endeavor to make it a good one.

A good site for business writing is Business Writing Blog.

Words have the ability to move the world. We must only bring to mind the words of Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, or Hitler to know how much words can change our world view. Most will never write something as profound as the “I have a dream” speech but we can still influence our world with a well-shaped message. If we write from curiosity to educate ourselves, we will likely educate someone else. The most moving writing is usually the most personal. We are always better when we are passionate about a topic. I have read accounts describing a personal experience which will help the next person having to travel down the same road. Personal memoirs of abuse, death, or some other poignant event in a person’s life always touch me deeply. We are usually at our best when it is a topic we are passionate about. Mark Twain said it best “Write what you know.”

So, why do I write? I write to leave a legacy, to be heard, to share experiences, to communicate, to learn, to feel alive and maybe one day I will change the world.

Why do you write?



Technology, Globalization, and Why We Still Suck at Communication

By Shiraz M. Nelson

Technology is rapidly changing our planet, but how is it affecting our communication? It was only twenty years ago when a phone call or a letter connected business. Today, we can communicate instantly with any person, anywhere. A global digital marketplace is propelling our remote cultures into a global economy. Depending on who you ask, it is happening too fast or not fast enough. Despite the speed at which technology is changing our world, communication has the same old problems with some serious benefits.


Collaboration Happens

With a global economy brought on by a globalization of communication, we saw some very distinct problems in the early 2000’s. Information could travel quickly, meaning business could happen rapidly. But this means that new, global teams had to communicate just as fast as business did. Over the last ten years, we have witnessed technology creating problems of productivity within teams, but almost as soon, enterprising startups and tech moguls alike provided answers.

In the dark ages, it was a telephone, no we have email. In the dark ages, we had a meeting room with stale bagels, now we have numerous virtual meeting spaces and software. To collaborate on a project, we used to send files by courier or mail, now we simply work together in Google Docs – at the same time.

Technology has spawned a world without borders. It can carry information quickly and efficiently to whatever screen needs to see it (and some that don’t). We live in a connected world, where geopolitical borders mean less than they ever have before. But none of this technological innovation can make the user better.

Communication Complaintsmel

Communication has always been and, it seems, will always be the number one complaint from hiring managers about new hires. With all our technology and ingenuity, we still fail to learn basic grammar, speech, and communication basics. But why? The research seems split on the issue so I won’t bother you with the details. Well, besides that teachers seem convinced technology is encouraging students to write quickly and carelessly. But that’s just Pew Research, what do they know?

That’s the thing then. You give all the tech to a student you want, but what you have to give them is knowledge. Technology may make it easier to do that, but that’s it. Essentially, Google is just one big encyclopedia full of 90% lies and made up statistics. Searching through that mass of crap is the role of educators and students alike.

As technology continually shifts us from a face to face business world to an almost entirely written one, the professional writer’s time blossoms. But again, getting paid to write doesn’t mean you write well. Still, many professional writers take pride in their craft. They learn, they practice, they work. They write the stuff that technology just can’t do. We’ll never fully automate business because you can’t teach a computer how to write with passion, elegance, and wit. You’ll always need a professional writer. Next week: “How to Waste 15 Minutes of Your Work Day Without Noticing.”

Technology is a beautiful thing, but it has its drawbacks, the headaches, the frustration, the eye strain, the loss of sleep. And don’t forget tech support.

Why Can’t I Write?

By Lois Willis

Like most writers, I have been writing in some form since I was a kid. I remember writing scripts, short stories, and essays about a myriad of topics. I didn’t need an excuse to write, I just did it. Since I am older and find myself writing under deadlines and often about uninteresting topics, I find it more difficult to write. What gives? Why can’t I write when it is one of the things I like to do most? One reason: procrastination.

“Procrastinator, procrastinator, why do it now, when you can do it later?”

I’m sure you have heard this little ditty and if you’re anything like me, then you have embraced this quirk, even though procrastination can cause be a source of an overwhelming amount of stress. According to Wikipedia, procrastination is defined as “…the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished.” I procrastinate because I work best under tight deadlines. At least that is what I tell myself. But, as I put off writing, the fact that I HAVE to write hangs gloomily over my head. I won’t talk about the psychology behind procrastination; however, I did read this interesting article on why writers are the worst procrastinators.

“I’m a lazy perfectionist.”

Procrastination is nothing to celebrate as it often leads to less than desired results. You can read this article on common reasons why people procrastinate, but the two I connected with most are:

  • I’m a perfectionist—I want everything I write to be perfect, so this high expectation I have placed on myself leads to the opposite result: writing that seems rushed and definitely less than perfect
  • I’m lazy—I hate to admit this, but I can usually think of a zillion more things more entertaining than writing. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time searching for the right picture to go with this post.

I figured out that writing as an adult means something different than it did when I was a teenager. Then, I wrote for the fun of it. Now, writing is my livelihood as well as being a creative outlet. I still have challenges when it comes to tackling different writing assignments in a timely fashion. Tomorrow, I will work on making writing as fun as I remember.