Win or Lose, Frame Your Headlines To Get More Action

Which headline do you think would get more response

  1. “It’s time to get a mammogram”
  2. “Set a good example for your daughter and get peace of mind. Get a mammogram.”

The answer is number two. Why? Because it uses “framing” to help your target audience to clearly understand what they would gain by taking action. Framing is a behavioral economics concept that can be used to improve the results of your benefits communications. Headlines can also be framed as a loss. For example, a loss-frame would be, “Are you really going to pass up the $500 Premier Co will give you when you enroll in the high-deductible health plan?” According to an article in Benefits Quarterly, a publication of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, you can use either gain or loss framing to your advantage. However, certain circumstances work better with one versus the other.

The article states, “Research has shown that gain frames work better in the health and wellness area to drive prevention (e.g. using sunscreen) and treatment (e.g. taking prescribed medication). On the other hand, loss frames seem to work better to motivate detection behaviors (e.g. screening).” In fact, in the mammogram example cited above, research indicates a headline like, “Your family needs you now…and later. Get a mammogram.” may work even better.

Some employers may shy away from using a loss frame, but when you consider that employees must take more accountability and actions for their health and retirement planning, you might want to consider a two-pronged approach. Use both gain and loss frames for your headlines during your campaign so your target audience can see both the potential gain and loss in a particular situation. If a person isn’t motivated by the gain, the loss just might prompt action.

The article suggests the next time you are writing a headline, consider the following:

  • What will people gain if they do this — financially, socially, emotionally or physically?
  • What will people lose if they don’t do this?
  • Will promoting the gains work better in this situation, with these people, or would highlighting losses work better?
  • How should I craft the message to actively suggest or promote either gains or losses?

I have a couple additional tips to add:

  • Make your headline relatable to your audience.
  • Use action verbs.
  • Be very clear about the action you want them to take.

Try using framing in your next campaign and track the results. Win or lose, you’ll start to discover which type of headlines get more action.