What Your Content Needs is a Hook
Peter Panda

What’s the difference between content that is read and content that is passed over? To know the answer, let’s phrase the question differently: What’s the difference between a book you read with great interest and one you put down after a few chapters? Or what’s the difference between the song you like on the latest CD of your favorite artist vs. all the others?

The answer is normally, “The hook.”

In novel writing, it’s the conflict. What situation grips the reader’s attention early so they have to see it through to the resolution? In songwriting, they actually call it a hook. It’s the clever melody or catchy lyrical phrasing you can’t get out of your head.

The same quality needs to exist in your business content to produce the same effect. No one will read your blog post or white paper, watch your video or listen to your podcast unless you present them with a hook early on.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn every post into a murder mystery. You don’t even have to resort to the easy and predictable teaser approaches. (For example, using the “But wait! There’s more!” approach in commercials or the “Stay until the end when we …”-style bait lines interviewers will sometimes throw out.)

It does mean you have to think more creatively about your writing, though. How can you plant a seed in the beginning of the content that results in a psychological need to proceed for the intended audience? Here are some ideas:

  • Present a conflict, like you would in a novel. For instance, “The blog post you typically write is good, but there’s something missing! What could it be?”
  • Use catchy phrasing in lists, like writing a song. For instance, “10 Plot Ploys to Punch Up Your Piece.”
  • Ask questions that beckon an answer, like, “What’s the difference between content that is read and content that is passed up?”
  • Flip the finale and show the success first, then explain how you got there. This would be in the form of a case study where you might state that the client drove $11,000 in revenue in five days right up front, leading the audience to have to read more to find out how.
  • Lay down the gauntlet. Our fearless and furry leader Aaron Perlut did that last week when he called out the latest H&R Block ad campaign, saying it missed the mark. You have to read to find out why.


Those are just a few tricks of the trade of laying down the hook. What other ideas do you have to capture your audience’s attention to ensure your content is not just seen but consumed? The comments are yours.  

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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