We're dissecting Tabloid Magazines and the powerful writing lessons they give such as: What are the 4 U's, and why using them will make your college essay irresistible to read Why writing out tabloids will make your college essay magnetic Build this...
We're dissecting Tabloid Magazines and the powerful writing lessons they give such as:
Thanks for checking out Episode 16 of the College Prep Confidential podcast. Today, we're channeling Tabloid Magazines and the secret behind selling books and publishing products. This secret reveals the title behind today’s episode: Stop College Admissions Officers Dead In Their Tracks With This Tabloid Trick
If you do any sort of writing in your life, you should stop what you're doing and read a book called "First Hundred Million" by E. Haldeman Julius. Julius was a mail order, direct marketing book seller who sold hundreds of millions of books. They called these the Little Blue Books.
The fascinating part of this book comes from the testing Julius and his company did.
Here's an illuminating statistic: How to Break Bad Habits sold 29,000 copies as opposed to How to Form Good Habits which sold only 20,000.
And another: Care of Skin and Hair sold 52,000, yet How to Take Care of Your Mouth and Teeth only 8,000.
What about Gautier's Fleece of Gold... When the title was changed to The Quest for a Blonde Mistress, sales jumped from 6,000 to 50,000! When the title of Oscar Wilde's Pen, Pencil and Poison was changed to The Story of a Notorious Criminal, sales more than tripled!
Think about the implications of this... same book content, same author, same color, same everything, the only change in the title resulted in thousand of sales difference!
Ask any book writer, copywriter, or advertiser, and they'll tell you, the headline, or title of any published work, is responsible for 80% of the readership and response. Because if they don't read past the headline, they don't buy. And they're gone forever.
The purpose of the headline:
The headline has one purpose...to stoke the reader's curiosity or desire to want to read the first sentence. Does it tap the right emotion to drag the reader into reading the first sentence? That is the only purpose of the headline. And if you start holding headlines to this one requirement, you'll transform your headline writing.
I attended a seminar in Orlando, Florida on headline writing, and I heard a great quote about headlines: "Seduce the Heart, Convince the Brain"
Ask yourself this: if I was the reader, would I want to read this? The 2 primary draws from a headline come from curiosity or a direct benefit to the reader. Remember, you aren't writing for you. You're writing for the reader.
When writing, remember, the most important station to tune into is W.I.I.F.M. - which stands for, What's In It For Me? Give the reader something worth reading. and it all starts with the headline. The headline should communicate the WIIFM - either through curiosity or benefits
Let's look at some headline tips and formulas
Mark Ford, multi-milionaire consultant and entrepreneur and author, came up with the 4 U's for a headline. The 4 U's are
for a college essay, you don't need #1 as urgency is built in for a college representative to read your essay. But let's talk about the other 3 U's:
Is your title a cliche? Is it boring? Or is it something they've never seen and heard about before? Bill Bonner, the head of Agora, a billion dollar research firm, with some of the best writers on the planet, talks about the categorical imperative. This is the brain's way of classifying and organizing incoming information. If the brain recognizes a headline or a theme, it says, "Oh, I've seen or read this before. I know where this is going." And then they'll click away, never to return.
But if your headline stokes curiosity, a benefit, or presents information in a new way, the reader will be pulled in to read it.
Will the reader get something out of your essay by reading it? A lesson, a new outlook on life, a new emotion? Offer a benefit, solve a problem, make it useful
Remove platitudes and generalities. The more specific, the more engaging and believable.
If you're writing about a dog, let the reader know their name, their breed, or some specific detail.
If times or dates are involved, tell them when
For places, tell them where. Not just United States. Rather, I took a trip down to Miami, Florida to a restaurant called the Clevlander.
Names, dates, times, places, people, get specific. What do you believe more in the following 2 statements:
The first headline says "about" which is an estimate, and the word "people". The reader asks, what people? And for estimates, remember, estimates have bias, and leave room for interpretation.
The second headline rounds to the nearest hundredth decimal place, and gives a specific age group of people.
How To Get Better At Headlines
Once you learn about headlines, start writing out the best headlines you've read. Anytime you see an article, blog post, or something which grabs your attention, add it to your notes. I keep what's called a swipe file. It's a growing list of great headlines in a Google Doc. As I find more great headlines, I add them to this swipe file.
Next, ever week, I handwrite out, with a pencil and paper, the new headlines. What this does is etch the headline skill into my brain by handwriting, not typing, but handwriting it out. The science behind this is called Haptics. I covered this in 1-2 of our prior episodes. As you handwrite out more great headlines, the skill gets etched into your brain. Like a custom engraving on a trophy.
Study What Works
To get Headline inspiration, study what works. Step 1 is embrace the tabloids such as:
National Enquirer - Tabloids you ask? Yes, because the Enquirer writers are Some of the highest paid writers in the world. While people say they'd NEEEEEEVER read a tabloid magazine, we know they're liars, since National Enquirer flies off the shelves. And it's because of the headlines. As people slide into the checkout line at the grocery store, the titles and hooks have to be good enough to get people to pull out their wallet and add it to their order. And oh, do they ever.
Another site is Buzzfeed, who makes some of the best clickbait articles around.
Cosmopolitan is another
Readers Digest. I recommend subscribing and studying their headlines
Also check out BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a software which helps you analyze content trends. You can filter by topic, and BuzzSumo shows you the articles with the highest engagement. Again, we're working off of 80/20. 80% of the effectiveness of an article/essay comes from the headline. Does the headline draw you in and make you want to know more?
Now let's talk about the psychology behind great headlines and college essays...
To do this, we appeal to the lizard brain. Also called our reptilian brain. There are five core factors that drive the reptilian brain: pain, fear, emotion, ego, and contrast. For college essays, let's review the 5 core drivers of the lizard brain:
Sitting Down To Write Your College Essay Headline
Now that you have the structure and psychology behind powerful headlines, it's time to start writing. Create at least 10 headlines/titles for your college essay. As you write out more headlines, you start to read them. And for every 10, 1-2 will reach out and grab you. I encourage you to show a few of your friends and family the titles. Don't tell or show them anything else. Just show them a list of titles and watch their reaction.
When you hit a winner, people usually say "Wow", or "Tell Me More"
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