8 Steps to the Perfect Title!

It’s all in the title.  That’s what determines whether someone will start reading your latest article or flipping through your recently published book.  I no longer have any doubts about this.

I’ve become so intrigued by this fact that I now look forward to receiving professional journals and magazines in the mail just so I can study the titles!

There’s clearly a science behind titling everything.  Understand it and you can then easily replicate it.

Just as an example, in reviewing two recent business journals, I noticed words like:

  • warfare
  • evolution
  • vs.
  • disruptive
  • survive
  • change
  • leadership
  • sustainability (frequently used)
  • crisis
  • brand (frequently used)
  • one of

I pulled out some more and the same concepts and patterns emerge.  I’ve read what others have had to say on this topic and benefited from their analysis.  I’m ready.

I now have my:

“8 steps to creating the perfect title!”

Step 1: Make a list of (a) the hot topics of the day and (b) universal challenges associated with the human endeavor.

As an example, I listed:

  • sustainability
  • innovation
  • branding
  • creativity
  • managing
  • learning
  • people (talent is also good)
  • time (time-tested is also good)
  • change
  • strategy

Step 2: Combine the various terms to create short phrases.

My examples:

  • Time-tested Branding Strategies
  • Managing Innovation in a Time of Change
  • Creative Learning Strategies for Talent Management
  • Changing Strategy Through Innovation

Step 3: Let’s get quantitative.  Add some numbers!

  • 10 Time-tested Branding Strategies
  • 7 Ways to Manage Innovation in a Time of Change
  • 5 Creative Learning Strategies for Talent Management
  • 3 Key Steps for Changing Strategy Through Innovation

Step 4: So far, so good.  But we’re missing something, so let’s raise the emotional stakes by adding a competitive dimension   Add words like: game, war, win, lose, success, dominate, etc. (And don’t forget the exclamation point!).

  • The Innovation War!
  • How to Succeed in the Creativity Game!
  • 3 Steps to a Dominating Sustainability Strategy!

Step 5: This step is a refinement of Step 4. Looking back at the original list, I see evolution and survive.  Sounds like a Darwinian struggle – survival of the fittest.  Let’s give it a try while working in the other steps and adding a subtitle:

  • The End of All Things: 7 Reasons Why Earth is Doomed (and what you can do about it!)
  • Wars of Sustainability: The Evolving Conflict Between Animals and Plants!

Step 6: Play on fear!  I’ve actually already introduced an example of this step in my prior list of titles.  Here are my other examples:

  • Aftershock!  How Quality Management Sets Your Business Up for Failure!
  • DOOM!  10 Reasons Why Sustainability Strategies Will Ruin Your Cash Flow!
  • No More Profits: Why You Must Get Out Now and How to Do It

Step 7: Make it a manifesto (or something related to radicals or revolutionaries).  The key is to make it sound like YOU are the revolutionary and it’s YOUR manifesto.

  • Keep it Running! A Business Continuity Manifesto
  • Who Said To?  A Change Management Manifesto
  • I Don’t Document Anything! The Next Software Engineering Revolution
  • You Test It!  A Manifesto for the Coming SQA Revolution

Step 8: You always have the option to go counter to the competitive, evolutionary strategy approach by staking out the “non-competitive” position.  This can be risky.  It’s all about zeitgeist and your ability to interpret the spirit of the times.  But there is a niche for it.

My examples:

  • Wait Your Turn: Learning to Manage in a Time of Shortages
  • I Give Up! 12 Ways to Stop Trying and Start Living
  • I Lose, I Win: How Losing Can Actually Position You for Success

Well, those are my steps.  With a little practice, you can be generating best-selling titles in no time!  I wish you the best.

By the way – If it were to turn out that some of my examples have actually been used as titles, I apologize, but it’s purely coincidence.


by Don Appleby, Connect with Don here.
Originally Published on profappleby.com