The first rule of successful communications is that you must immediately win your audience’s attention, capture their imagination, engage them, and answer their “What’s-In-It-For-Me” question. In other words, hook them into giving you their attention. It is sort of like fishing. A sharp hook catches more fish than a dull one.
It doesn’t matter who your audience is – it could be suspected prospects, actual prospects, customers, staff, or investors.
It doesn’t matter what communications medium you are using – it could be this newspaper, a web page, email, direct mail, or spoken word.
It doesn’t matter the purpose of your communication – it could be advertising, selling, motivating, or convincing.
What does matter is that you immediately engage their interest and their imagination by answering that often unspoken question, “What’s-In-It-For-Me?” If you don’t engage your audience in the first moment, at least a good portion of the effectiveness of your communication plummets like a lead balloon.
The first thing your audience will see is your headline in a printed ad, the subject line in an email, and the first thing they will hear in a speech or sales presentation is your opening statement. If you create interest and capture their imagination in that first vital moment your audience will give you the opportunity to tell them more, to convince them, and motivate them to action.
Your headline can be a bold, even audacious, statement, a question your audience will want the answer for, an evocative beginning to a story, a shocking statistic, or even a well crafted pun. But whatever it is it needs to be something that keeps your audience from turning the page or hitting “delete,” or closing their mind to your communication.
So review your marketing and advertising communications, your emails, your notes for the talk you will be giving at a meeting with an eye and ear to evaluating the headline. Are there more powerful words you can substitute for dull ones? Can you turn a statement into a question? Are you using emotions in addition to facts? If you sharpen your “hook” you will catch more fish.
Larry Galler works with professionals, small-business owners, contractors, and entrepreneurs to increase sales and profits through better, more creative marketing and effective administration systems.