How to Create a Great Title

Category: Weekly Columns


What makes a good title? What makes a bad one? Is it like the Supreme Court once said about obscenity, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it?” The answer to these questions is a resounding Yes! A title is the first thing that will attract OR repel a potential reader, viewer, buyer. Nothing else matters if that attraction is not there.

I come from a background where I learned a LOT about titles. In the early eighties, I worked at ABC TV in the television movie department. Those were the pre-cable, pre-VCR days when the three major networks ruled the airwaves. In those days, every Sunday night the three networks competed with made-for-television movies.

There were only a few ways to promote these one-night only events: TV Guide ads, on air promos, and the title. A TV series could gain word-of-mouth traction, as could a song, a record album, a movie, or a play. But the TV-Movie was ONE NIGHT, so the title was an essential component of its success.

At ABC, I worked for a master of promotion, Brandon Stoddard. He brought the mini-series form to prominence with Roots, Winds of War, Masada, and so many other amazing events. He also worked his staff over when it came to titles ‘cause he realized their consuming importance. He knew what branding was before that term existed.

We’d have “Title contests” in the TV-movie division. He cared that much. It was fabulous training for me in not only my then career in television, but my current career in Social Media. I had some great teachers along the way, including the late but equally great, Brandon Tartikoff.

Let’s take some famous titles and some not-so-famous ones and consider why they did or didn’t work.

A great example of a lousy title is the recent Disney movie, “John Carter.” Based on an obscure book series, the movie was actually terrific. Sadly, the title was so bad that, in my opinion, that and that alone doomed the movie to failure. That title told us NOTHING.

The opposite was “Star Wars.” In two words, it sold conflict, outer-space, adventure, and science fiction. It didn’t hurt that the movie was break-through. Another great title was “Titanic.” EVERYONE knew about the Titanic. Again, simple and direct, and a great movie to back it up.

Now, let’s look at Social Media and how we title our websites, our Twitter handles, our blogs, and more. I’ve already written about the value and importance of your Twitter name and bio so I will leave that to you to peruse separately.

What is a good website title? Well, since I work in the dad space, let’s think of a good title for a new dad website. I’m giving it away to the first dad blogger that claims it – all I want is devotion for life and attribution somewhere on your website.


Great title for a dad blogger.

Are you sure you’re ready?

Here it is:

The Naked Dad…or, I actually prefer The Naked Daddy.

Why is this a great title, you ask? It has so much going for it that I’ve even thought of using it myself. Heck, it may already be in use and if it is, good for him.

It is a great title because:

1. The word “Naked” is provocative.
2. The word “Naked” has many meanings…it can mean unclothed and it can mean exposed or vulnerable. “Vulnerable” is good for a dad blogger.
3. It’s short and to the point.
4. You’re a dad blogger and it has “dad” in the title.
5. It’s catchy.

Get it? Other great ideas for titles come from popular culture. Use a song title (examples I’ve used: Everybody Hurts, Happy Together, Three Wooden Crosses) for a blog title. You get the juice from its familiarity. Often beginning a title with “How to” or simply having the title be a question is intriguing and piques interest.

Check out my index of material on this website…you will SEE examples of everything I’ve suggested! Don’t be afraid of a provocative word as long as you’re not crossing “the line.” Use words that don’t belong together but sound and read good. Do SEO keyword searches and maybe it can inspire a good title without compromising your content.

I hope this helps. I love coming up with titles so hit me up when you’re stuck sometimes and leave your thoughts below, in the comments section!