May 15, 2017

Periodicals are the New Copywriting Manual

Periodicals

The Enquirer is the quintessential must read for any copywriter.

Many of the great copywriters, including a personal favorite of mine, Joe Sugarman focused on rag mags like The Enquirer to help them write in the language of the everyman.

Nowadays, we have apps to judge our writing…to let us know if we are creating ads understandable to the average 5th-9th grade reader…

But those apps cannot demonstrate the key ingredient to any great copy…something The Enquirer, Cosmo, and the New York Times (among many other great publications) have truly mastered…

And something I see copywriters struggle with often.

The Headline + The Perfect Lead Paragraph Combination

Now, I’m not talking about what lead for what audience a la Breakthrough Advertising.

I’m talking the one-two punch so fierce the reader MUST READ FURTHER…

Almost 100% of my own writing, other’s copy I critique, and the vast majority of sales copy and content I see could do this far better…

Of all the time I work on my edits…the headline-lead paragraph combo takes the most time.

Notice, I’m not talking the entire lead…I’m talking the first one or two paragraphs of the lead.

Read all the copywriting texts and blogs you wish…gather all the great ads and the best swipes. But DO NOT MISS studying The Enquirer, Cosmo, and The New York Times as great sources of Headline/Lead combos.

Study the combination of the two…how one leads to the other…and how that lead paragraph gives you a synopsis of precisely what you’ll learn in the story…and teases you to keep reading.

Here are a few examples:

From the Enquirer (Dec 26, 2016 – as this is handy right now):

Spaceman John Glenn’s Surprising Dying Regret
John Glenn was a heroic fighter pilot, a two-time astronaut and a U.S. Senator, but the American icon was haunted by a deep regret – he didn’t become President of the United States
.

A good example of telling the whole plot in the first paragraph…while still leaving the reader sort of scratching their head…how did this longing play out in his life? Why didn’t he run? Can we, as humans, ever truly be satisfied with our accomplishments?

Frozen Tots Sue Their Modern Family Mom
Sitcom sexpot Sophia Vergara is tangled in a bizarre legal wrangle – she’s being sued by her own frozen embryos.

I mean, who would not want to read more about frozen embryos bringing their mom to court???

From yesterday’s New York Times:

Where Anti-Tax Fervor Means ‘All Services Will Cease’
ROSEBURG, OR – Some voters in rural Oregon are seeing what happens when taxpayers force government into retreat. Libraries are blacking out. Jails might be next.

As a reader, two things hit me…it is possible to not pay taxes, and prisoners may be let loose all over the land. MUST READ MORE…

You get the drift.

These periodicals survive, even in the age of the internet, because they drag people in with their headlines and their opening paragraphs (and of course the images). As marketers and copywriters, we can look to these articles as articles that work to get readership, rather than looking at various sales letters as samples without necessarily know how well they converted.

Obviously you will still need to learn psychology and technique for writing persuasive sales copy…if that is your thing. And all the psychology and persuasive writing…even the very best offer can’t hit home without the reader becoming sucked in first.

Lindsay of the Leads

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