How to sell crisp cutlines to clients who want to include too much
“Help us with captions,” wrote Sue Grabowski, president of Grabowski & Co., in our recent member survey. “Our clients luuuuvvvvv to include long names, titles, etc. How can we make the caption shorter but keep the clients happy?”
Sue, I’d start by reminding clients that the real opportunity with a caption is to communicate a key message, not to identify who’s in the picture. Larding your captions up with titles doesn’t help you get the message across.
Also, people read captions because they’re short. If your captions start looking like paragraphs, people will stop reading.
Create a style guide.
I’d create a style guide for each client, limiting the length of captions. I’d think 14 to 21 words — a couple of lines if they’re showing up in print.
If possible, identify people through context: “Kyle Busch, celebrating a win at Chicagoland Speedway, often is booed because of his aggressive approach” is one example from USA Today.
If that doesn’t work, use more generic descriptors like “sales executive” or “board member.”
And steal this tip from The American Geriatrics Society: Write captions at the second-grade reading level. That way, even if the text is written at a higher level, everyone can understand the captions.
You can learn more about captions on RevUpReadership.com:
- Made you look: Captions get 16% more readership than text
- Make sure every picture tells a story: How to write compelling captions
- Add catchlines to your captions: Try this one-two punch
What are you seeking from Rev Up Readership? We’d love to help you find it. Let Ann know.
How can you reach non-readers with words?
“Readers” don’t read. Even highly educated web visitors read fewer than 20% of the words on a page.
Learn how to reach people who spend only two minutes — or even just 10 seconds — with your message at Catch Your Readers, our persuasive-writing workshop, starting April 5.
There, you’ll learn how to put your key messages where your readers’ eyes are. You’ll discover how deliver your key ideas to people who don’t read the paragraphs. And you’ll find out how to draw even reluctant audience members into your message.
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Source: Peter S. Houts, Cecilia C. Doak, Leonard G. Doak, Matthew J. Loscalzo, “The Role of Pictures in Improving Health Communication: A Review of Research on Attention, Comprehension, Recall, and Adherence” (PDF), Patient Education and Counseling, vol. 61, 2006, p.173-190.