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 the effectiveness of your communication plummets like a lead balloon.
The first thing your audience will see is your headline in a printed ad or 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 or 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, 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.