You're reading  Inc. because you're serious about your business and your career. So you may surprised to find out that studying a very different type of publication-- Cosmopolitan, the magazine for young women--can give you valuable insights about how to communicate more effectively.

Cosmo (as it's affectionately known) is the best-selling magazine in its category, reaching more than 17 million readers per month in the United States.

Here's what you need to know: The editors of Cosmo have made an art form (and a lucrative business) from appealing to young women. And you can adapt that secret sauce to get your message across to any audience.

The magazine's success starts with cover lines, those short headlines (on the cover, of course) that promote what's in each issue. Like other consumer magazines, Cosmopolitan not only offers subscriptions, it also relies on sales of individual copies at newsstands, supermarket racks, and in airport shops. And it's a jungle out there--magazines only have a few seconds to catch a potential buyer's attention, convincing her to pick up the magazine, look at it more closely, and decide to buy it.

It's no surprise, then, that Cosmo's editors spend consider time working on the cover. They start with a deep understanding of the audience, using focus groups, reader polls and online surveys to get a sense of who the reader is and what she wants.

As a result, Cosmo cover lines are designed to meet readers' needs, most of which focus on relationships:

         "How to snag the man you want"

         "50 fun ways to get close to him"

         "5 relationship rules you gotta break"

         "10 times it's okay to be a bitch"

To understand how this relates to the serious topics you need to communicate, use 3 techniques that make any message relevant and appealing:

  1. Brief. Cover lines are short, snappy, easy to read. Long words are few and far between.
  2. Helpful. The premise is to help the audience solve a problem or accomplish something that matters to them.
  3. Fun. Cosmo is serious about its readers' needs, but doesn't take itself too seriously. You can sense the smile and the wink behind the words.

Yes, you can use these ingredients to improve any communication. Just focus on your audience and create messages that speak to their needs. Oh, yes, and relax and have fun with it.

See you at the newsstand.