Helen Gurley Brown died this week.
In the early 1960s, Gurley Brown was one of the highest-paid advertising copywriters in the US. In 1962, she wrote Sex and the Single Girl, which became a bestselling book.
In 1965, she was hired by Cosmopolitan magazine. At that time, the publication was barely afloat. Gurley Brown helped turn it around, and continued on as editor for another 32 years, until 1997.
One of the secrets to Cosmopolitan’s success are the outrageous headlines that fill each cover, competing for space with gorgeous women in provocative poses.
This formula took Cosmopolitan from a failing publication to a worldwide phenomenon, with 64 international editions.
What does headline writing have to do with small business?
It turns out that the magazine rack is one of the best places to find inspiration for how to write headlines that make people want to visit your content marketing.
And the best magazines to look at are the ones that live or die by whether you pick them up on a whim.
All it takes is some imagination and creative re-writing to turn that slightly naughty — or completely outrageous — magazine headline into a blockbuster headline for your business.
Headline frenzy: 9 ideas you’ll drool over
In honor of Helen, here are some headline re-write examples straight from the covers of Cosmopolitan magazine:
Get the Life You Want: It’s Way Easier Than You Think becomes
Get the Sales You Want: It’s Way Faster Than You Think
(for a CRM software company’s landing page)
329 Beauty Tricks: We Tried Them. They Work! becomes
329 Whiter Smile Tricks. We Approve Them Because They Work!
(for a dental practice booklet)
Gut Feelings You Should Never Ignore becomes
Analytics Numbers You Should Never Ignore
(for an SEO firm’s blog post)
Why Love Makes Sane Women Stupid becomes
Why Stress Makes Sane People Foolish
(for a massage therapist’s brochure)
4 Risks You’re Not Taking Seriously Enough becomes
4 Customer Signals You Need to Notice Now
(for an in-house sales publication)
10 Subliminal Tricks That Make People Adore You becomes
10 Subliminal Techniques to Get Yourself Hired
(for a temporary agency website)
Firm Up Your Beach Body Fast: Seven Days to Gorgeous becomes
Transform Your Business Fast: Seven Weeks to Profits
(for a business coach’s blog)
7 Things Guys Talk About When You’re Not There becomes
7 Things Your Customer Complains About When You’re Not There
(for a sales training manual)
Fashion Frenzy: 245 Shoes and Bags to Drool Over becomes
(see subhead above this section!)
Open your eyes to the headline ideas around you
Look at magazine racks, high-traffic websites, and social media posts that are getting lots of action.
What can you take from the structure of those headlines? How can you swap out some of the words to make them your own?
Spend time on this, and remember — the best headlines invite, make a bold promise, and create curiosity. It’s a tall order, but inspiration is all around you!
Many thanks to khawkins04 on Flickr for the image in this post.