Content Marketing

3 Easy (and Slightly Radical) Ways a Headline Can Spark Content Marketing

Screenshot of headline in Men's Heath

Professionally written headlines like this one from Men’s Health magazine can inspire your content marketing.

Turn content marketing creation on its proverbial head and generate great content marketing ideas from killer headlines with these easy tricks.

If you asked two professional writers whether you should write your headline before or after you compose your content, you would get three answers and still not be certain. Some might argue (I am usually one of them) that content marketing should start with a story and lead to a headline. But for this article, I’ll explore three ways to come up with a fun headline, which, in turn, could inspire a story for your company’s content marketing.

1. The Magazine Headline Method

Several years ago, writing guru and entrepreneur Brian Clark described what he called “The Cosmo Headline Technique for Content Inspiration.”

The idea is simple enough. Clark would have you pick up the current issue of Cosmopolitan magazine and steal its headlines for your own. In his article about the technique, Clark gave several examples. Here are the Cosmopolitan headlines and the ideas they sparked for Clark.

  • “The 22 Best Relationship Tips Ever” — “My 22 Best Design Tips Ever”
  • “Guys Spill: White Lies They Tell Women All the Time” — “Realtors Revealed: The Little White Lies We Tell Clients (and How to Stop)”
  • “Get Ahead Faster: 12 Brilliant (and Slightly Badass) Ways to Do It” — “Run Faster: 12 Effective (and Slightly Badass) Ways to Just Do It”

With a new Cosmo-inspired headline in hand, Clark would proceed with article creation. You can use a similar approach to generate headlines and then use those headlines to drive your article.

To further the example, I visited Men’s Health magazine’s website and took three headlines and transformed them for online merchants.

Men’s Health: “Why Mark Wahlberg Wakes Up At 4:10 a.m. Every Single Day”

Headline for a fitness equipment retailer: “Why Fit Moms Wake Up at 4:10 a.m. Every Single Day”

Men’s Health: “25 Lower-Body Exercises That Are Better With a Mini Band”

Headline for a kitchen supply store: “25 Low-Calorie Meals That Are Better with Mint”

Men’s Health: “The Best Exercise For Skinny Calves”

Headline for a farm and ranch supply retailer: “The Best Cures for Skinny Calves”

Let the magazine headlines inspire your content. In this example, an article about calves becomes an article about a different sort of calves. <em>Calf photo: Regina on Flickr.</em>

Let the magazine headlines inspire your content. In this example, an article about calves becomes an article about a different sort of calves. Calf photo: Regina on Flickr.

To put this plan in action, pick one of your favorite magazines, grab a few headlines, and convert them for your business. Armed with these headlines, write the articles that make them real.

2. Cheat and Let a Machine Do It

Consider letting a machine come up with ideas for you. There are many tools and online services that will generate headlines for you using a keyword you supply.

Consider using keywords from your company’s website, the names of products, or random words that you can see from wherever you happen to be. At the time of writing, I was snacking on red, seedless grapes. So I used “California Sweet Grapes” as my keyword phrase.

Here are some example headlines and a link to the generator that spawned them.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator:

  • “5 Unexpected Ways California Sweet Grapes Can Give You Better Hair”
  • “The Hunger Games Guide to California Sweet Grapes”
  • “What Mom Never Told You about California Sweet Grapes”

HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator:

  • “10 Quick Tips about Grapes”
  • “What Will California Be Like in 100 Years?”
  • “15 Best Blogs to Follow about Sweet”

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator:

  • “Give Me 10 Minutes, I’ll Give You the Truth about California Sweet Grapes”
  • “How to Turn Your California Sweet Grapes from Blah into Fantastic”
  • “Master the Art of California Sweet Grapes with These 5 Tips”

Here the idea would be to pick a headline you like and create the article it describes.

3. Use an Exquisite Corpse

The exquisite corpse technique may have started as a parlor game. Players would take turns writing on a piece of paper. Each successive contributor would try to carry the story forward.

This technique can be used to create headlines, which can inspire your business’s content marketing.

For example, I wrote the words “How to” on an envelope and handed it to my 16-year-old son. “Write a couple of words,” I said.

He added “build a” and handed the envelope to his 13-year-old brother, who contributed, “big pizza.” Finally, my wife received the envelope and wrote “in a small kitchen.”

The resulting phrase, “How to build a big pizza in a small kitchen,” could make a good headline for an online store selling baking pans, as an example.

Try the exquisite corpse technique with friends, family, or coworkers. Once you have a headline, it will be time to write your story.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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