A guy walks into a bar … and invariably opens with a one liner.
Does he get the girl (or guy)?
Depends on the line – if it’s a good one, there’ll be more conversation. If it’s dodgy, sleazy or boring, it’s time to move along buddy.
And so it is for you and your content. You gotta open strong.
Hooks and angles are what good content depends on, and the opener is often the hardest thing to get right.
I’ve seen my kids school assignments and essays. They’re taught, like all of us were through school, to write in a certain way, and therefore think in a certain way.
It’s a set structure, usually summarising the entire essay in the opening paragraph, or some obvious, dry line introducing the general theme.
This structure might serve you well through high school and some uni degrees, but it’s not real helpful when it comes to messaging and content – and when I say content, that’s written or spoken.
Journos – well, we’ve been taught to think and communicate in a completely different way. We go for the angle – the juicy, most interesting point or idea.
The hook – or angle – is about hooking a reader from the get go, drawing them in and then through, the story. It’s a style designed for mass audience and limited space – you want to grab as many people’s attention as you can but you only have so many column centimetres or minutes on air in which to do it.
And these days of crowded internet noise, attention is both money and harder than ever to come by.
So having a great hook or angle to your landing page, blog post, social media post, about page or pitch is critical.
Ditch dead-boring opening lines
Use these three ideas to score a little higher with your approach.
Think of it as a conversation
Everyone talks about content, marketing and content marketing, but at the end of the day, it’s communicating.
Women are bloody good at communicating – we are the half of the human race more likely to talk it out, talk it over, talk about it. This should be easy for us.
Think of all your content as having a conversation with a friend. This is actually something journalism students are taught in uni believe it or not – it’s just called ‘conversational style’. It means write in a non-formal, non-essay-like way so that it’s easy for readers to follow.
It can also add more life – make it more interesting – because when you communicate in this way, you’re a little warmer, more yourself, and more likely to be on the same wavelength as your audience.
You simply write or speak as if you were talking to a friend.
Now, if your audience is a scientific community, or of the legal or medical fraternity, you can still follow this general idea – you write as if you were talking to colleagues, not presenting a research paper. It doesn’t mean being unprofessional. It’s about being interesting.
Tell a story
Opening with a story – related to the topic – is one of the best hooks you can use if you can write or tell it reasonably well. People love hearing stories – we’re storytellers from the time we lived in caves and drew pictures on the walls. We LOVE communicating this way.
If you begin your post/email/article with a bit of a yarn that then leads to the point you want to make, you’re far more likely to grab and keep someone’s attention.
[Read more on storytelling here]
[Download the Storytelling Selling guide]
Make a statement
Be bold right from the get go. Make a statement that in some way makes the audience curious. They might agree or disagree or not understand right away what you mean, but chances are they’ll be curious.
Don’t make some ridiculous statement that has nothing to do with your topic. It’s not about saying something ludicrous or controversial. It’s attention and explanation.
The main thing is to always think of what your audience will find most interesting, and go with that.