Say you’re writing a sales brief to promote the latest product your company has developed. You have engaged in careful planning to determine the target audience, purpose, scope, and context for the document. You have done your research. You have conducted thorough interviews. And, now it’s time to hit the keyboard. But, where do you start? Ideally, you start with a great hook. That is, the first attention-grabbing line of the document that makes your audience want to read more.
Creating a good hook is not easy. Some experienced writers don’t even get it right. But, it’s important to do so in order to gain audience attention, set the tone for the piece, and draw readers in. Here are some tips for creating a good hook:
Take Your Time
A hook is not something like a fact or a feature that is readily accessible. If you ask your subject matter experts what the “hook” for your piece is, they probably won’t be able to tell you. There is no formula. So, you need to figure it out. Sometimes it will become clear during the research or interview phase, when you find that one piece of information that is so compelling, you know it’s the riveting nugget you’ve been seeking. Sometimes, though, it is elusive, and you will need to ask more questions or study your research a number of times before it emerges.
Tune In to WIIFM
Often, the hook can be crafted based on the piece of information your audience wants to know most. Use the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) approach to determine what that piece of information is. Audience analysis or invoking your persona should reveal some clues as to your readers’ concerns and problems. Your hook could be a restatement of those concerns, or ways to address them.
Take It to an Extreme
Have you ever noticed that the funniest ads take things to an extreme? This gum is SO JUICY AND FLAVORFUL that we are going to send out a squad to make you spit it out. This body spray is SO ATTRACTIVE TO WOMEN that they will drop everything and come running to you when you wear it. This van is SO COMFORTABLE that you will want to spend time in it even when you’re not driving. Try thinking of your product or service in terms of hyperbole to generate a good hook.
What does your product or service do for people? What does it REALLY do for them? What does it REALLY, REALLY do for them? A virtual assistant service helps people with their administrative tasks without the overhead of having someone on staff. What the service REALLY does is take tasks of people’s plates so they can focus on their core competencies. What it REALLY, REALLY does is help people stressed-out professionals sleep better at night. If you were a stressed-out professional, wouldn’t you keep reading if you came across a document that asked, “Ready for a good night’s sleep?”
Your hook could be an analogy, quote, interesting fact, humorous story, or other element. Once you have one in mind, check it against the context of your document. Is it something your audience can relate to? Does it serve your purpose (sales, information, education)? Does it lead well into the next sentence and paragraph, and help readers know what to expect from the document as a whole? Discovery of a catchy, clever hook can be exciting, but be sure to consider practical matters as well.
What are some of your strategies for finding a good hook? Please share in the comments.
About the Author: Karen Marcus, M.A. is a Northern Colorado copywriter who has been helping clients in a wide range of industries to put their best word forward for 13 years.
Need assistance developing a hook? Karen can help! Click here for contact info.