How To Write Unusual Headlines For Your Personal Brand

How To Write Unusual Headlines For Your Personal Brand

There have been many seismic shifts in the content landscape. Yet, one constant remains: the power of a compelling headline.

A headline is more than just a collection of words; it’s the first impression, the promise of value, the lure. The craft of headline creation is about turning the mundane into the magnetic.

With the vast array of content today, crafting an unusual, attention-grabbing headline for your personal brand is not just an art but a necessity.

In my four decades as a Content/Brand Strategist, I’ve had a unique vantage point, seeing how great writers spin their headline magic. I’ll share insights on how to make your headlines stand out in an ocean of the ordinary.

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Why personal brands must have out-of-the-ordinary headlines

In today’s digital age, personal brands are confronted with the monumental task of piercing through the overwhelming chatter of the online realm. Their headline, the initial handshake with the audience, plays a pivotal role.

For these brands, which epitomize a unique individuality or vision, ordinary headlines equate to a whisper amidst a cacophony. This underscores the necessity for extraordinary headlines.

However, it’s a fallacy to equate ‘extraordinary’ with ‘sensational’. Unusual headlines are not about sensationalism, but about encapsulating the authentic essence of a brand in a way that piques genuine interest. T

hey should intrigue, stir curiosity, and beckon the audience to engage further. In the split-second world of digital impressions, ordinary blends in, but extraordinary stands tall, ensuring that the brand’s voice is not just heard, but remembered.

8 key pieces of advice on writing competition-beating headlines

Drawing upon my four decades as a Content/Brand Strategist with a penchant for the unconventional, I unveil eight cornerstone guidelines to elevate your personal brand’s headline game.

Step outside conventional confines, lay the foundation for a standout digital persona, and challenge the norm. Embark, redefine, and distinguish yourself in an ocean of uniformity.

8 key pieces of advice on writing competition-beating headlines (Infographic)

1. Understanding the power of uniqueness

In the expansive realm of personal branding, the power of uniqueness cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to crafting headlines. As the initial touchpoint, headlines must transcend the mundane to instantly capture attention, and being unique is the golden key.

Amidst a deluge of content, a headline with a distinct voice offers a refreshing oasis, prompting readers to delve deeper. Beyond mere differentiation, uniqueness in headlines underscores authenticity, signaling a brand’s commitment to originality and its courage to tread uncharted paths.

While many might conform to tried-and-tested patterns, the audacious few who embrace uniqueness find their voice echoing longer and louder. In a world where personal brands vie incessantly for attention, it’s not the loudest shout but the most unique whisper that commands genuine intrigue.

As you navigate your personal branding journey, remember: it’s your singular uniqueness that will set your headlines — and by extension, your brand — apart.


  • Evaluate your brand voice: Take a moment to reflect on the core values and essence of your personal brand. Ensure your headlines encapsulate this essence, bringing a touch of your unique persona to the forefront.
  • Dare to differ: While it’s tempting to mirror successful brands or trending formats, challenge yourself to think outside the box. Go beyond the familiar and experiment with unconventional phrasing or concepts.
  • Consistent authenticity: Maintain a genuine tone in your headlines. Authenticity resonates, so avoid sensationalism just for the sake of standing out.
  • Analyze and adapt: Regularly review the engagement metrics of your headlines. Identify which unique elements resonate most with your audience and refine your approach accordingly.
  • Continuous learning: Stay updated with industry trends, but also expose yourself to diverse fields and cultures. This amalgamation of insights can offer fresh perspectives to infuse uniqueness into your headlines.

2. The anatomy of a very effective headline

In the quest to craft unusual headlines for your personal brand, understanding the anatomy of an effective headline is paramount. Such a headline, at its core, is a harmonious blend of uniqueness and clarity.

It encapsulates the essence of the content succinctly while offering a fresh perspective, setting the stage for the reader’s ensuing journey. This pivotal touchpoint must evoke curiosity, urging readers to explore further, yet remain grounded in authenticity, reflecting your brand’s distinct identity.

The words chosen should resonate with the intended audience’s aspirations or pain points, establishing immediate relevance. Meanwhile, a sprinkle of unpredictability ensures the headline stands out in a digital landscape often saturated with sameness.

In essence, an effective headline for your personal brand doesn’t merely inform; it intrigues, invites, and instills a promise of value, all while underscoring your brand’s unique stance in the vast digital expanse.


  • Clarity is king: Despite its uniqueness, ensure your headline is clear and directly speaks to the content’s essence, sidestepping any potential confusion.
  • Engage emotionally: Aim for an emotional chord with your readers. Whether sparking curiosity, excitement, or affirmation, let your headlines resonate deeply.
  • Stay authentic: As you strive for originality, root your headlines in the genuine nature of your content and your personal brand’s ethos.
  • Value proposition: Every headline should subtly convey a promise or value to the reader. Make sure this value proposition aligns with your brand’s offerings and the content’s core message.
  • Rhythmic resonance: Pay attention to the rhythm and flow of your headline. A catchy, memorable rhythm can make your headline stand out and be more easily recalled by readers.

3. Cultivating the art of being unexpected 

In the world of personal branding, where predictability often reigns, cultivating the art of being unexpected is a game-changer. When applied to headlines, this unpredictability becomes a magnet, pulling readers towards content with an irresistible allure.

While the digital landscape is littered with formulaic headlines, those that dare to diverge, surprise, and defy expectations often shine the brightest. It isn’t about being arbitrary or contrived but about introducing elements that pleasantly surprise.

For a personal brand, an unexpected headline could mirror a fresh perspective, a twist on a common topic, or a bold stance on prevailing issues. This ‘art of the unexpected’ not only distinguishes your brand from the masses but also fosters deeper engagement, as readers are intrigued to uncover the story behind the unconventional headline.

Embracing this art is a strategic move, setting the stage for a brand that consistently intrigues, delights, and stands apart.


  • Challenge the norm: Regularly assess popular headline trends in your niche. Think about how you can pivot or subvert these norms to create something refreshingly unexpected.
  • Brainstorm fearlessly: Allow creativity to flow without immediate judgment. Often, the most unexpected ideas emerge when constraints are temporarily removed. Later, refine these ideas to align with your brand.
  • Seek external inspiration: Delve into different genres, cultures, or fields outside your immediate domain. The contrasts can spark unique angles and headline approaches not commonly seen in your industry.
  • Be authentic in your surprise: The unexpected element should feel organic and not forced. It should be a genuine reflection of the content’s essence or your brand’s unique perspective.
  • Feedback is gold: After publishing, gauge reader reactions to your unexpected headlines. Positive surprises can be signature traits, while negative feedback can guide more refined unpredictability in the future.

4. Tapping deep into the reader's emotions 

In the realm of personal branding, emotion is a powerful catalyst. When crafting headlines, tapping deep into a reader’s emotions can elevate engagement to unprecedented heights.

An emotive headline doesn’t just inform—it captivates, moving the reader on a visceral level. Whether it evokes joy, nostalgia, hope, or curiosity, such a headline becomes a compelling gateway to the content that lies beneath.

In the vast digital sea, where countless headlines jostle for attention, those that resonate emotionally become islands of intrigue. For your personal brand, this emotional connect becomes a hallmark of relatability and depth.

When your headline touches the heart, it not only attracts clicks but also fosters a deeper bond with your audience, making them more invested in your narrative. To truly distinguish your brand in this digital age, prioritize emotion, crafting headlines that are not just read but deeply felt.


  • Know your audience: Take the time to deeply understand your audience’s values, aspirations, and pain points. Tailoring your headlines to resonate with these emotions will amplify engagement.
  • Vary the emotions: Don’t stick to one emotional tone. Depending on the content and message, alternate between joy, intrigue, hope, nostalgia, or even challenge to keep your audience engaged and connected.
  • Use powerful adjectives: Words carry weight. Choose adjectives that elicit strong emotional responses, ensuring they remain authentic to the content.
  • Story in a sentence: Think of your headline as a micro-story. It should set the stage for a larger narrative, hinting at the emotional journey the reader is about to embark upon.
  • Feedback and fine-tune: Monitor reactions to your emotive headlines. Reader feedback, be it through comments or sharing patterns, can provide invaluable insights for future headline crafting.

5. Keyword optimization without compromise

In the digital space, keywords are the compasses that guide audiences to content. But for personal brands aiming to craft unusual headlines, there’s a delicate balance to strike.

Keyword optimization should not entail sacrificing creativity or authenticity. It’s about intertwining SEO principles with your brand’s unique voice, ensuring visibility without diluting distinctiveness.

A headline that merges keyword prowess with unconventional flair does double duty: it ranks well in search engines while also capturing reader attention in an oversaturated market. For your personal brand, this means staying true to your narrative while also understanding the search habits of your audience.

Avoid the trap of generic, keyword-stuffed headlines that fade into the digital background. Instead, seamlessly integrate keywords into headlines that also tell a story, evoke emotion, or challenge norms. In this way, you harness the power of SEO without compromising on the unusual essence that sets your brand apart.


  • Research with perspective: When identifying keywords, don’t just consider volume. Factor in relevance and potential to blend with your brand’s distinctive messaging. Some less obvious keywords might resonate better with your unique angle.
  • Creative integration: Instead of forcing keywords into headlines, weave them into your narrative. Think of creative phrasings or combinations that naturally incorporate these keywords while retaining originality.
  • Avoid overstuffing: Resist the temptation to cram multiple keywords into a single headline. Prioritize one or two and focus on crafting a compelling, unusual headline around them.
  • Regularly re-evaluate: SEO landscapes change. Regularly revisit your keyword strategy to ensure you’re optimizing for current trends, but always keep your brand’s unique voice in mind.
  • Quality over quantity: Instead of chasing every possible keyword, prioritize those that align closely with your brand’s identity and content. A well-optimized, distinct headline with fewer keywords can often outperform a generic one with many.

6. Use the right headlines for the right contexts

In crafting unique headlines for your personal brand, understanding context is pivotal. Each platform, medium, and audience segment carries its own nuances, expectations, and consumption patterns.

While an offbeat, lengthy headline might work wonders on a blog, a concise and punchy version might be better suited for Twitter. The art lies in adapting your core message to fit the platform’s character limit, audience temperament, and overall vibe.

Furthermore, the context in which a reader encounters your headline—be it amidst morning emails, during a lunch break scroll, or in evening relaxation—can influence its impact. For a personal brand aiming for resonance, it’s essential to tailor headlines not just to the brand’s essence but also to the specific environment in which they’ll be received.

By ensuring alignment between headline style and context, you guarantee that your message isn’t just unusual, but aptly so, optimizing engagement across varied scenarios.


  • Platform research: Familiarize yourself with the distinct characteristics of each platform you use. Understand character limits, dominant audience demographics, and content consumption patterns to tailor your headlines accordingly.
  • Adapt and repurpose: When sharing content across multiple channels, don’t merely replicate headlines. Instead, reshape them to cater to each platform’s unique requirements while retaining the core message.
  • Time-specific adjustments: Consider when your audience is most active and adapt your headlines to fit that context. A headline crafted for a morning read might differ from one aimed at evening relaxation.
  • Monitor and adjust: Use analytics to see how different headline variations perform across platforms. Use this data to refine your approach continually.
  • Stay updated: As platforms evolve and audience behaviors shift, ensure you’re staying updated with the latest trends. Regularly revisit and adjust your headline strategies to ensure relevance and impact.

7. Get inspired by some unforgettable headlines

In the realm of blogging, where content is vast and competition is fierce, certain headlines have left indelible marks, compelling readers to click, read, and share.

Take, for example, James Whittaker’s introspective “Why I Left Google: A Note to My Friends,” which instantly piqued curiosity about the inner workings of the tech giant. Or Rob Rhinehart’s intriguing “How I Stopped Eating Food,” introducing readers to his groundbreaking experiment with a liquid diet. Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” not only captivated creatives with its empowering message but also reshaped how many view success.

These unforgettable headlines, tailored to the writer’s unique experiences and insights, masterfully tap into human curiosity and emotion. As you craft headlines for your personal brand, draw inspiration from these luminaries.

Understand the contexts, the emotions, and the stories behind their headlines, and aim to encapsulate similar magnetism in your own words.


  • Study the classics: Regularly revisit some of history’s most impactful headlines. Analyze their structure, tone, and choice of words to discern what made them stand out.
  • Maintain a swipe file: Create a collection of standout headlines you come across—be it from print media, digital platforms, or advertisements. Review this file periodically for inspiration and to recognize patterns or techniques.
  • Break it down: When a headline captivates you, dissect its elements. Understand the emotions it evokes, the story it hints at, and the urgency it creates. This helps in replicating similar effects in your headlines.
  • Incorporate timelessness: Strive to craft headlines that not only cater to current trends but have a timeless appeal, ensuring they remain relevant and impactful over time.
  • Experiment and adapt: Don’t just replicate classic styles. Infuse your personal brand’s essence and voice, adapting inspirations to resonate with your audience and stand out in the contemporary landscape.

8. Testing, refining, and perfecting  headlines

Even with years of expertise under one’s belt, the art of crafting an unusual headline benefits immensely from continuous testing and refining. In the dynamic realm of personal branding, what resonates today might evolve tomorrow.

Thus, it’s crucial not to view headlines as static entities but as fluid elements, open to iteration. Utilize tools like A/B testing to gauge audience responses to different headlines, identifying which formulations generate maximum engagement.

Feedback, both qualitative and analytics-driven, becomes a goldmine of insights, guiding tweaks and enhancements. Even the most unconventional headline can benefit from fine-tuning to better align with emerging audience preferences or new brand directions.

By committing to this cycle of testing, refining, and perfecting, your personal brand ensures its headlines remain not only distinct but also deeply resonant, marrying creativity with adaptability in a constantly evolving digital landscape


  • Embrace A/B testing: Regularly run split tests on your headlines. Present two versions and measure which one drives more engagement or conversions, providing empirical data to guide future headline strategies.
  • Gather feedback: Don’t rely solely on metrics. Engage with your audience through comments, surveys, or direct interactions to understand how they perceive and react to your headlines. This qualitative feedback can offer invaluable nuances.
  • Stay updated on trends: The digital landscape is always shifting. Keep an eye on emerging headline trends or shifts in audience behavior, and be ready to adjust your strategies accordingly.
  • Revisit past content: Periodically review older headlines. Assess if they can be revamped or updated to maintain relevance and appeal in the current context.
  • Maintain brand consistency: While refining headlines based on feedback and trends, ensure they still resonate with your personal brand’s core values and messaging. This ensures authenticity even amidst adaptation.

In summary

  1. The power of distinctiveness: In the vast sea of digital content, it’s the unique and unexpected headlines that capture attention. Harnessing the art of being distinctive can elevate a personal brand beyond the conventional, ensuring it stands out and makes a memorable impact.
  2. Emotion and authenticity resonate: Tapping into the reader’s emotions with genuine, relatable headlines forms deeper connections. When readers feel something, they’re more likely to engage, share, and remember.
  3. Refinement is crucial: Writing headlines isn’t a one-time task. Continuous testing, refining, and perfecting based on audience feedback and data insights are essential for optimizing reach and engagement.

Take your brand's content marketing from run-of-the-mill to remarkable

Shobha Ponnappa

"As a Content/Brand Specialist, and SEO/UX Writer, I can help transform your brand's online presence. I can lift it with innovative ideas to take it to an enviable position. Let's collaborate to create a captivating brand story, engage your audience, boost your online visibility, and increase your ROI. Take the next step towards your brand content success and contact me today."

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