Sensational headlines are one of the reasons people distrust the media.

A good example is a recent feature story highlighting Bryan Johnson’s efforts to halt and even reverse the aging process through a combination of diet, exercise and drugs.

The story – by veteran Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Ashlee Vance — is everything you would want: deeply reported, anecdote-laden, nuanced, explanatory, dramatic and empathetic.

The headline, however, is none of those things.

Likely written by an editor, it says: “How to be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year.”

The editors know Johnson did not say a) he’s trying to be 18 again or b) that other people should spend $2 million a year following his lead.

Johnson is spending the fortune he acquired selling a tech company to pay for medications and a squad of doctors on a Quioxtic quest. It’s like he’s doing extreme research.

Scores of publications picked up on the angle and wrote their own version. It’s amazing how many used a near-exact version of the original headline.

I know the game because I used to do this for a living. In a previous job a long time ago, I participated in the writing of a headline that said Goldman Sachs Hired Strippers.

The “strippers” in question were financial professionals who took interest-bearing instruments and removed the coupons to create zero-coupon securities. So yeah, Goldman hired strippers.

There are consequences to this sort of thing. A story about a guy spending millions of his own money to tackle one of the greatest scientific challenges facing humanity becomes a joke.

And he faces personal attacks. Johnson tweeted after the story appeared that during the following week he experienced “peak animosity, hate and insults.”

Johnson also tweeted that he has a blueprint that anyone can follow for $1,684.50 a month. Generally, he said people should: a) stop destructive behaviors b) sleep more c) eat well and d) exercise.

Eat, Sleep and Exercise for $1,684 a month is not a headline that drives clicks, however.

Fortunately, Johnson has thick skin.

PR people shake their heads when they see this kind of coverage. Some ask for advice.

I tell them they should not call reporters and solicit coverage.

They should write their own story online.

Make it personal and authentic and compelling and let the journalists find you.

It’s no guarantee, but it gives you a better chance to shape the narrative.