On October 23, 2001, Apple Computer launched a new product. At the Apple Music Event in Cupertino, CA, Steve Jobs uttered this simple phrase: "iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket." This phrase was so concise and so meaningful, that Jobs could have just stopped his address there and called for questions.
In the fall of 2001, I was still carrying around my clunky Discman. For the 20-year-olds reading this, the Discman was considered cutting-edge. It allowed you to carry around a single cd and play music. If you wanted to switch to another cd, you'd have to carry those in a separate pouch. Yes, lame. If you've ever seen those horrible "NOW That's What I Call Music" compilation cds and wondered who on earth would buy these, I did. If you didn't want to listen to a single cd with one artist, it was the only way to get a mix of songs on the Discman. Getting Ricky Martin's Livin la Vida Loca on a cd, along with a handful of somewhat decent songs, was just the price one paid in 2001. Until the iPod.
When Steve Jobs went to announce the iPod, he didn't focus on the product itself. He didn't focus on the technology advancements that made it possible to store so many songs. He didn't even focus on how much smaller his product was over other portable music devices on the market. He focused on the consumer. A single benefit: "1,000 songs in your pocket."
Most of you are probably thinking that nailing down a headline like that for the iPod was easy. It was an extraordinary product that would sell itself. Most pr and marketing practitioners aren't that lucky. We're not only tasked to pitch the ordinary; we're tasked to make it sound extraordinary.I've written about the "so what factor" in public relations before. We need to ask ourselves this question on a daily (if not hourly basis). I spent a number of years working in high-tech environments writing news announcements for advances to things like mainframes and semiconductors. In both of these industries, the "so what" often took awhile to ferret out from my product groups. Sometimes, admittedly, I never found it.
Often, a pr or marketing practitioner's first line of contact when writing a headline is with the product engineers. While engineers are immediately impressed by things like faster processing speeds or larger storage capacities, those don't make good headlines. A good headline is simple. A good headline addresses an immediate, tangible benefit to its reader.The best headlines are going to offer an immediate benefit.In writing headlines, the two questions you need to ask include:
1) Who will benefit from this product?
2) What is the tangible benefit to those people?
If you can, push aside all the facts, figures and fancy charts from your product groups and engineers and just find that raw benefit. Sometimes the headline will just write itself:
iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket.