Make your pet a celebrity to help promote your small business

Happy Birthday Whoopi

Just as Joan Stewart is The Publicity Hound, I’m tied to my famous cat, Simon Teakettle.

Dubbed “the cat who owns the company” in an article in Business Week and on, his persona has gone through three actual feline incarnations, but the company name, Simon Teakettle Ink, and the website remain constant.

Naming your company and website after a pet can be helpful if you want to avoid the common trap of selecting a name that turns out to be popular with others. Names containing the words dream, communications, writer or any variations of these turn up a vast number of companies and websites in search engines.

Using your own name can be tricky, too. If you Google Barbara Graham, you’ll discover the infamous killer, and only if you use my full name, Barbara Florio Graham, will the sites connected to me show up. But I decided not to use my name for my company or my website for several reasons.

Smart Reasons to Use a Pet’s Name

First, Florio is too easily misspelled. Even when I provide my name to an organization in advance, my badge often turns up with either Floria or Florida.

That brings me to this tip.

Bobbi badgeWhen you’re representing someone else, as the publicity point person, create a badge with your name in large, sans serif type, and the company name below and take it with you everywhere you go. You can often use a company business card that includes their name and logo in a larger badge holder, and place a card behind that with your name, so it shows above the company card.

The second reason why I didn’t want to use my own name for my company was the possibility that I might marry. My partner would want to be considered an equal, not part of Barbara Florio Graham and Associates.

Having a company name also lends credibility, especially to a sole proprietor who may be seen as a lightweight. You want to be taken seriously by the audiences you address, whether in person at an event where you’re handling publicity or serving as the spokesperson. That goes for emails, press releases and other communications too.

Don’t Dilute Your Brand

We’ve all heard about the importance of branding. I see too many entrepreneurs who have adopted different names and websites for different products, books and enterprises, diluting their impact. It’s important to be consistent across your entire platform.

Naming my company Simon Teakettle Ink was the result of my cat being featured on CBC radio so frequently, and on so many network programs that I worried that someone would steal his unique name. Registering it as a company name offered protection, but also allowed me to remain anonymous and let the cat communicate without revealing the name of The Lady Who Shares His Office.

I learned quickly that the radio audience remembered Simon Teakettle more than anyone else who contributed to the programs. One host I hadn’t contacted before even remarked how pleased she was to finally receive a letter from Simon Teakettle.

Human fans are often ignored, but pets are a different story.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…

Any pet can help you widen the reach of your communications. It could be a cat, dog, parrot, ferret or horse. There’s an obvious advantage to using a pet you own now, or a previous pet if you have a large variety of photos. Pet pics can be used in social media posts, but also in other ways you may not have considered.

Simon Teakettle, for example, sends greeting cards to the media. Media personalities can be turned off by cards sent by humans, but when it’s a pet that’s the spokesperson for a company, it’s not only acceptable but memorable.

That’s one way Simon became so well known. We knew we were reaching our target when Simon  received a signed photo from Whoopi Goldberg after sending her the homemade birthday card you see above.

I’ve taken promotion related to Simon Teakettle even further. He has a blog and a fan club, both of which have allowed me to provide links to colleagues, as well as to organizations I support, such as the Great Canadian Theatre Company, where  he even has a seat in the theater, and NEXUS percussion.

Simon Teakettle Ink has his name on the theater wall listing patrons, and sends a new poster each month to the box office to post on their bulletin board. That means theater patrons as well as staff are exposed to Simon’s name and image.

He became so popular with subscribers that the theater company asked him to pose for their 2013 Christmas card. The back of the card credited me with the photo, and gave the website address. It was sent to all of the theater’s contacts, including its board of directors, program advertisers, subscribers and local politicians.

We’re also a patron of the Orpheus Musical Society, where the company name appears in all the programs.  

Tips for Promoting  Your Pet

marketing materialsIf you want to do this, set up link exchanges with those who can cross-promote, and find a common topic you share which will allow you to comment on their Facebook posts or blogs.

Your pet can have its own Facebook page. A Pinterest account is a great way to post photos, each captioned with something you want to promote.

Simon Teakettle has had a calendar since 2011. These are sold, but can also be used as promotional tools. We have laminated bookmarks for Mewsings/Musings, which list the website. Many people will keep a sturdy  bookmark featuring a pet but might discard a flimsy one promoting some other type of book.  

I continue to extend his reach beyond North America.

A friend who writes for several German magazines asked me for an article about Simon’s MEWSical Society and Fan Club to translate and send to a German pet magazine. I was also able to place my award-winning article, Training Your Cat Like a Dog, with the largest pet magazine in India,

His virtual MEWSical Society has members from nine countries, and the exploding fan club has photos of more than 200 cats, 100 dogs, and 18 other species, from 21 countries on five continents. All this drives traffic to the website because we provide reciprocal links.

Promoting other pet sites, including breeders, rescue groups, veterinarians and authors of pet titles, is a win/win.

The Pet’s Point of View…

PowerPoint Slid showing Free Publicity Tip 40--Make  your pet a celebrity that you feature prominently in  your marketing and publicityBut it’s important to make sure the pet has a consistent point of view. From the beginning, Simon Teakettle has promoted responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering. We were also careful not to tell harsh anti-dog jokes, or anecdotes describing bad behavior.

The pet can be a bit naughty, but never mean or nasty. You aren’t creating a comedy routine, but rather a personality people can relate to and trust.

Terzo, aka Simon Teakettle III, writes about birds as sources of delight that he watches from inside, instead of pursuing and tormenting them. Mice, however, are fair game!

If you feature a dog in your blog, don’t let it talk about chasing cats or running after cars! Never sacrifice integrity to humor.

That trust factor is key.

It has allowed me to build a compelling and popular website, only a small portion of which is cat-related. Whatever I’m currently promoting is on the home page, along with links to Simon’s blog and fan club.

What about you? Do you incorporate  your pet into your business? How? Feel free to share links.

Would you dare fact-check a journalist’s article in red pencil and post it online?

In the old days, if a journalist wrote a news article or opinion column that you believed was inaccurate or unfair, you had only three options:

  1. Write a letter to the editor or column responding to it, and hope they print it.
  2. Ask for a face-to-face meeting with an editor and the writer.
  3. Cancel your subscription, an option that does nothing to help your cause. 

Back then, only newspapers, magazines, TV and radio were the media. Today, you are the media too. Your platform might not be as big as theirs, but you have tools to fight back. 

That’s what Walmart demonstrated after Timothy Egan, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote a June 19 opinion column spanking the retailer for low wages, part-time contracts and other sins that have resulted in “public disdain for the company.”

That same day, Walmart responded by fact-checking the entire column in red and posting it on their blog. Here’s part of it:

walmart rebuttal  

Whether you not you agree with the Times column, this is an excellent example of one way to fight back if you feel the media has treated you unfairly. Walmart’s rebuttal had much more reach than the Times column. It was covered by Forbes, Fox News,  Business Insider and a variety of conservative media outlets. 

You Will be Fact-Checked Too

Walmart’s rebuttal was clever and effective. But here’s the danger in a public fact-check. Someone, somewhere, will probably fact-check you, too.  

Mark Gongloff, a columnist for The Huffington Post, responded by Fact-Checking Walmart’s Fact-Check of The New York Times.

And the debate probably won’t stop there.

This is Why You Should be Blogging

If a journalist or blogger treats you unfairly, one of the best places to respond is at your own blog where you have full control of the message. You can then pitch other media outlets and point them to your blog post.

The Walmart-New York Times battle is one more example of why most companies should be blogging. If you want to respond but you don’t have a blog, you’re forced to rely on an expensive press release distribution service.

You can respond on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, but the message will be lost on those noisy platforms.        

What Would You Do?

Would you publicly fact-check a journalist’s or blogger’s article about you? If not, why not? I’d especially love to hear from PR pros and business owners. 

11 things authors must know about book publicity to create a best-seller

 Publishing at Sea cruise logo


Two days ago, I shared 11 book publishing tips I learned from book shepherd Judith Briles, book distribution expert Amy Collins and social media expert Georgia McCabe, who presented with me on the recent Publishing at Sea cruise to the western Caribbean.

Today, I’m sharing 11 things I taught during my own presentations. Here they are, in no particular order:


1. Create a profile and participate on book review and book recommendation sites such as Goodreads.

Millions of readers are on these sites, searching for books to read and looking for their friends’ recommendations. You no longer have to rely only on book reviews from traditional media. Many book review sections in major newspapers and magazines are shrinking, or they have disappeared.

The Goodreads Author Program offers several tools and tips for promoting yourself and your book.  


2. Research journalists and bloggers before you pitch.

This will help you find juicy details about each person you’re pitching, and you can work those details into your pitch. You must send the message, “I know who you are, I know what you need and I’m here to help you.”

In yesterday’s ezine, The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week, I wrote a sample book review pitch. See Item #1, “How to Fix a Lousy Pitch.”

3.  If you want publicity, think beyond traditional media.

Don’t just pitch reporters, editors, freelancers, photographers and broadcasters. Pitch podcasters, ezine editors, bloggers, and experts who host Google Hangouts.


4. Use Google Search, the best replacement for expensive media directories.

Looking for the top mommy bloggers? Search Google for “top 20 mommy bloggers.” Or look for niche blogger directories. (See Item #1).

I also taught authors how to find the name of a blogger’s dog, cat or kid in 60 seconds. 


5. Check out, a live directory of journalists organized by beat, outlet and region.

This site lets you ask them if you can connected. You can also follow them, share a tip, pitch, and send a tweet!


6. Save time blogging by writing about frequently-asked-questions you see in your email.  

When you find yourself answering someone’s question, do a quick cut and paste and use the answer as the basis for a blog post.

You don’t always need to start from scratch. Be aware of all the opportunities to repurpose your content. 


7. Before you pitch anyone, look for clues about them on their social media streams.

Do they tweet? If so, scan their tweets for clues about topics they think are important. Do they welcome pitches on their Facebook page? Many don’t, but some do.  

Do they blog? If so, you’ve struck gold! Leave a comment or two at their blog a few days before you pitch. Here’s an excellent example of how personal details in your pitch is your ticket to publicity.    


8. Submit your book to be reviewed in the Library Journal.

The Library Journal publishes about 8,000 reviews a year of books, ebooks, audiobooks, and videos/DVDs. No textbooks, kids’ books or technical books.

Send your book three to four months before the publication date. See how to submit titles to the LJ Book Review.

Because of the economy and other reasons, libraries are seeing a surge in patrons. Finding your book in a library might be how a reader learns about you.


9. Pitch freelancers who review books.

Freelancers are excellent contacts for you because they write for multiple publications and websites. I love the Society of Professional Journalists Freelancer Directory. It lets you search by city, state or specialty and includes contact information for most of the freelancers.  

A freelancer who reviews your book might use you as a source for the next article an editor buys. 


10.  Guest blog for other high-traffic blogs that reach your target market.

This is a fabulous way to let people outside your circle of fans learn about you. 

Here are 10 famous blogs for guest posting. Pitch these only if your topic is a good fit. You can also offer yourself as a guest blogger, or find guest bloggers, via BloggerLinkup, a free service.


11. It’s OK to be overwhelmed, but don’t let it paralyze you.

Authors on our six-day cruise said we overwhelmed them with fabulous content. We weren’t surprised to hear that because we’re overwhelmed, too, when we attend these kinds of training sessions as audience members.

My advice when you’re overwhelmed: Choose only three things and put them on your to-do list.

Mark them off one by one as you complete them, and choose three more. That’s what I’m doing. The to-do list I brought home with me has more than 50 items on it, most of them things I learned from the other three presenters!

OK, authors and publishers, it’s your turn. Let’s hear about your best book publicity or promotion tip in the Comments section. And don’t forget to share this post with your friends, followers and fans.

Dog Tweets of the Week–How to Convert a Hangout on Air to a Podcast

twitter birdHere are my Top 10 tweets from this past week, great for retweeting! If you missed these, follow The Publicity Hound on Twitter.

How to Convert a Hangout on Air to a Podcast
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Get rid of social media guilt in the new year
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How to use Pinterest in your media kit
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Is Ebook Writing Different than for Printed Books?
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Who to follow in social media for 2014. Are you on the list?
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Give your Twitter marketing for business a boost with 4 tools
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Three Keys to Meaningful Marketing for Service-based Solopreneurs
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6 Tips for Writing Effective Pin Descriptions on Pinterest
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22 Ways to Make Your Pinterest Pins Go Viral
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How to use celebrities to promote like Duck Dynasty
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How much is an email address from Facebook really worth?

Facebook Like button on cash


Here’s a startling statistic that will force you to really think about how much money you’re probably leaving on the table on Facebook.

Studies show that the average Facebook “Like” is worth about $10 a year. Some of those people will buy from you when they see you promoting things, but most won’t.

If that same person who “Likes” you, however, also gives you their name and email address, that fan is worth a whopping $120 a year!

In other words, convince them to opt in on Facebook and they are now worth 11 times more than if they had simply “Liked” you.


Why a Facebook Opt-in Is Worth That Much


Once they opt in, you can email them valuable content like tips and advice on how to solve a business problem and really promote your expertise.

If they’ve been with you for awhile and love your content, chances are far greater that they’ll buy from you if you send them an email promotion instead of asking for the order on Facebook where most people hate blatant promotions.

That’s why selling on Facebook is usually ineffective. You need to get your fans onto an email list. Right now!


Learn How to Gather Email Addresses, Step by Step


Internet marketer Don CrowtherMy friend Don Crowther will give you step-by-step directions on how to do that, for free, when he’s my guest on a webinar from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12. He’ll also teach you how to use Pinterest and your own blog to build a valuable email list of people who will let you market to them over and over again.

Register for the free webinar “Turn Your Social Media Into a List-building Machine.” 

You can access the free step-by-step directions after the webinar.


Do the Math. How Much Money are You Leaving on the Table? 


If an email address you’ve harvested from Facebook is worth $120, multiply that by the number of fans you have. Now do you see why you’re leaving money on the table?

Register for my webinar with Don right now.

Dog Tweets of the Week–101 Tips for Using Instagram for Business

twitter birdHere are my Top 10 tweets from this past week, great for retweeting! If you missed these, follow The Publicity Hound on Twitter.

101 Tips for Using Instagram for Business
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7 simple steps to a stronger, more impressive Google+ hovercard
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How to add Google Authorship to your press release
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5 hot, new ways to promote your event on Twitter
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Video Basics: 5 Tips for Recording Outstanding Video Blogs
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How Many High End Clients Do You Want Next Year?

Ready to make your goals a reality in 2014?  Then it is time to take action now.

What you can learn from the Best Twitter Bios
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13 smart reasons to use captions on your YouTube videos.
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Running a Business Online? You Need To Get Back To Basics
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Get Rid of Your Lousy ‘About’ Page Once and for All
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Dog Tweets of the Week–How To Cultivate a Relationship on Google Plus

twitter birdHere are my Top 10 tweets from this past week, great for retweeting! If you missed these, follow The Publicity Hound on Twitter.

5 ways to use PhotoFunia
The free, fun little tool for inserting a photo of your face, or a short text message, into photos at has a variety of uses for Publicity Hounds. Use these in place of boring stock photos in your blog posts.

How to Prepare for Author Interviews 
You’ve published your book, created publicity buzz, sent out your press release…now what? Are you prepared for what you’ll say when the phone rings and a reporter or editor asks for an interview? As an author, the reality is that whether you contact the media or not, if you’re spending time marketing your work, there’s a good chance someone from the media will call you at some point.

Control the Interview? Dream on!
There are many PR agencies, consultants and media trainers that still advertise that they can teach spokespeople to control an interview. When someone says that to me, I have three words: Have a seat. I’ll be the journalist. You be the spokesperson. At the end of four or five minutes, you tell me how in control you actually felt.

How to Make Your Blog Images Awesome – Even If You Aren’t Picasso
Adding amazing images to your blog is not as difficult as it seems. Even if you are not artistic, you can pimp your blog images with these simple steps.

How To Cultivate a Relationship on Google Plus
Google Plus is a platform above all others. It’s micro-blogging aspects makes the social update stand out to your follower when done in the right way.

Running a Business Online? You Need To Get Back To Basics
For millions of men and women, the Internet has been an unbelievably great way to build a business and generate massive revenues. Additionally, more now than ever before, you can voice your unique perspective and point of view in order to have a greater impact doing your life’s work.

7 Things Your 2014 Publicity Plan Should NOT Include
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Oh No They Didn’t! LinkedIn Profile Pictures Gone Wrong
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5 Lessons We Learned from Bad Mayors
Recently three mayors of large cities, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis, and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, have made grave mistakes leading them to extreme public ridicule. The mistakes were not just women, drugs and racist remarks, but their handling of these issues in the press.

Make a video of your Twitter profile and tweets. Fast, fun, free tool
If you’re on Twitter and you want to give people one more reason to follow you, increase your online visibility and make your online profile look really hip, create a short video of your Twitter feed using It’s a free service that collects your tweets, photos, Vine videos and other content you’ve shared on Twitter and creates a video of less than a minute, accompanied by music.

How to Pitch the Top 50 ‘New Product Review’ Bloggers

four out of five stars review

Whether you’re launching a book or introducing a new app,  plan to spend time researching and pitching bloggers who do product reviews.

Cision has published its list of the Top 50 New Product Review Bloggers, a great starting point. Authors and publishers, add to this list three more bloggers who review books::

But don’t just click on the name of a blog and start pitching. Take the time to research the blogger.

Free Publicity Tip 33--Pitch New product review bloggersHere are 7 important tips.

1. Study the blog.

Read several posts to determine if the blog is a good fit with your product.  You should be able to determine the blogger’s target market fairly quickly. Look for an “About” or “How to Pitch Me” or “Contact” page.

If you can’t find this, do a Google search. For example, I  Googled “how to pitch the mommyhood chronicles which is Number 2 on Cision’s list. I found a very detailed page that explains her Product & Review Policy and her policy for offering giveaways. Skipping this step can cost you a review.

If the blog isn’t a good fit, move on.

2. As you’re reading the blog post, look for personal tidbits about the blogger.

Does she talk about her kids? Does she tell you the name of her dog? Does she mention where she went on vacation? Those are all valuable nuggets that you might be able to work into your pitch.  

See my step-by-step instructions on How to find the name of a blogger’s dog, cat or kid in 60 seconds

3. Write a short, succinct pitch that’s no longer than one screen of type.

Explain the product and the problem it solves. Don’t give all the details, only enough to see if the blogger is interested.

See an example and how Personal details in your pitch is your ticket to publicity.

4. If they’re interested, ship the product.

Don’t send ANYTHING unless you know they want it or you’ll be wasting time and money.

Email them to let them know when you have shipped the sample and ask them to let you know when they receive it.

Keep a detailed list of which bloggers you have pitched, and which ones you’ve shipped to.  

5. If you don’t hear anything, follow up to see if they received the sample.

Things fall through the cracks on this end. That’s why I appreciate it when people follow up. But don’t follow up more than once.

6. Create a Google Alert for the name of your product.

Some bloggers who write reviews won’t necessarily take the time to send you the link. A Google alert will let you know who’s writing about you.

7. Thank the reviewer and share the link.

After the review is  published, send a handwritten thank you note to the reviewer, even if it wasn’t a five-start review.

Also share the link to the review on the social media sites.

What tips can you add to this list? Has your product received decent reviews? If so, share the link here. 

Like this tip? Share this tip with your followers. 

Dog Tweets of the Week–How to make a blog banner–free, fast and easy

twitter birdHere are my Top 10 tweets from this past week, great for retweeting! If you missed these, follow The Publicity Hound on Twitter.

Using hashtags: 7 ways to avoid looking like a dweeb
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How to make a blog banner—free, fast and easy—without an expensive designer.
Want a free and easy way to make your Blogger blog look more original and professional?  Follow this very easy tutorial for using a free program we can all use. Picasa.

How tips lists can get you major stories in top-tier media
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USA Today now most widely circulated newspaper in the U.S.
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Blue Line: The new social network for law enforcement
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Need publicity? Subscribe to HARO and get media leads daily. It’s free
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Is your kid in college? Give ‘em 5 great reasons to start a blog
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7 places to stay off the sauce if reporters are present
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Using Google+ to appear in the top search results—every time
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How nonprofits should handle REALLY bad publicity
All institutions are vulnerable to many kinds of management issues, but the degree of transparency they reveal in investigating and being open about any problems they may have is really critical. Trust begins to be rebuilt more quickly in that way.

Hate writing headlines? Steal one. Lots of copywriters do

Headlines cut from a newspaper and piled atop one another

When you have to write a headline for an article or blog post, and your mind goes blank, don’t always start from scratch.

Do what I and thousands of other writers do. Steal someone else’s headline, remove a word here, add a word there, and make it your own.

One of the best places to find great headlines is on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. You don’t even have to buy the magazine. Just scan all these images of Cosmo covers. If the headlines are too risque for your topic, choose your favorite consumer magazine. 

Example of  a Cosmo headline:

Weird Things Guys Do When You’re Not Around

An expert in home security might steal that headline and change it to:

Sneaky Things Housekeepers Do When You’re Not Around

A consumer advocate might write:

Scary Things Your Supermarket Does When You’re Not Around

You get the idea.

That Cosmo headline is one of several hundred “formula headlines” that many editors and copywriters use. The pros even steal headlines from each other’s publications. You can too, as long as you change a word or two in the one you found and you’re not violating copyright. If in doubt about copyright law, don’t steal it. 

That little trick is one of many I’ll be sharing when I host the webinar “Headline Tips, Tricks, Tools and Templates That Make Readers Click” at noon Eastern Time on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. If the time is bad for you, register anyway because I’m recording it and you’ll get the video replay and all the bonuses.

Register here.

I’ve discovered  some amazing tools that will make your job so easy, they’ll practically write the headlines for you. Wait! One tool I discovered does, indeed, write your headline for you. Not only one headline, but several so you can choose from the best one. This is a lifesaver when you’re up against a deadline or you need to send an email promotion and you need a compelling subject line that will make people open your message .

See you Saturday. And remember, the best blog post, article or email is useless if no one reads it. What makes them read it? The headline.