The 5 Key Words to Trigger an Emotional Response in Your Readers

The 5 Key Words to Trigger an Emotional Response in Your Readers

There are a lot of ways to craft the perfect headline for your content. We’ve told you about some of them - like evergreen marketing - before, along with ways to make your blogs and multimedia more shareable

But there are also smaller, more subtle nuances you can use to make your content even more appealing to new readers. There are a number of key words that we use every day, for instance, that are sure to trigger emotional responses – and engagement – in your target audience.

Want to know a few? Social media psychology architect Wade Harman offers one scintillating idea: When you’re writing headlines, the most powerful words to draw in readers are “the five Ws.”

What are the 5 Ws? Why should you use them in your next headlines? We’ve got a few ideas to get started. In your next title, be sure to include…


Using the word “who” in your titles is a surefire way to help grab your reader’s attention. It triggers an instant curiosity in your audience – they want to know exactly “who” you’re talking about and why. At the end of the day, social marketing is all about community; including a “who” or two makes your reader want to bring this person into their community. And what’s the best way to do this? Reading your content!


The idea of the 5 Ws is to introduce a question that your reader wants to resolve. “What” is a simple word that makes this happen: It tells your audience that there is a topic or question that is being discussed, and the best place to find the answer is in your content. As Harman puts it, by promising to deliver the “what,” you are indirectly telling your audience that “you’ve got something they need.”


Time is money! Don’t waste time! If you’re not early, you’re late!

All of these clichés are good for one thing: They prove that human beings live or die by the clock. We like to get things done, the sooner the better. By introducing “when” into your headlines, you are creating a time frame for your reader that moves them to quicker action.


“Where” brings to mind questions of location and place, and, with them, the idea of community. Put simply, all of us, as social beings, have a desire to go to where the action is happening. “Where” is also a word that triggers more personal feelings in readers; it creates a sense of belonging that will lead to interaction with your content.


By telling your readers that you know “why” something works or “why” something is happening, you are promising an immediate answer to their question. People are naturally curious; playing to this curiosity – by promising answers or by phrasing your headlines as questions – can lead to shares and may even improve your SEO.

We all want closure, and when you offer a “why” to your readers, you are creating a problem and promising a solution. Who wouldn’t want to solve their problems with a click?

Have any more questions about social marketing or PR? Looking to craft shareable, SEO-optimized content for your business? We'd love to help! Drop a line to Geek to get started today!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).