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Hook people with your story using these 4 elements

There is so much content out there and the competition for your consumer’s attention is tough. Use hooks to grab and retain the attention of your customers.

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How can your story get people’s attention? With so much content out there competing for our limited time, a good hook is essential to pull people in. What is a good hook, you ask? According to Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar story artist and animator, a good hook is something unusual, unexpected, action-driven, or raises a clear conflict.

Luhn knows about hooks. He worked for Pixar for over 20 years, helping create stories for movies like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille and more. Since leaving Pixar, he has become a thought leader in the field of creativity, a popular keynote speaker at Fortune 500 companies, and author of the storytelling guide The Best Story Wins.

Hooks aren’t just important for animated stories. Luhn says they are important for business stories too. Hooks can be used to promote your brand, inspire employees, or motivate customers to buy your product or service.

Hooks set up an intriguing question

Hooks are not a story themselves, but they give the audience a taste of what the story could be. According to Luhn, good hooks set up an intriguing question or a “what if” premise.

Take Tesla, for example. It poses the “what if” premise of “What if we could create cool cars that were environmentally friendly and didn’t burn fossil fuels?” Or Apple’s idea for the iPod: “What if we could put a thousand songs in your pocket?” These “what if” questions hook us as much as the story idea of “What if being a superhero was illegal?” — the premise of The Incredibles.

Four elements to a good hook

Hooks, by nature, are short. They are your logline or elevator pitch. They can be told in three minutes, thirty seconds, or even in a sentence (think TV Guide descriptions). While the length of the hook may change, all hooks contain the same four elements we have used to tell stories for thousands of years.

  1. Hero

  2. Goal

  3. One or more obstacles

  4. Transformation

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Hooks give the audience a taste of what the story could be. (Photo by garagestock via Shutterstock)

Hooks in business

To understand how you can use a hook in business a little better, Luhn examined Facebook’s logline/mission statement:

Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together, to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

Using the four elements, you can see how Facebook hooks us:

  • Hero? Us (i.e., everybody).

  • Goal? To help people build community and bring the world closer together.

  • Obstacle? This is not spelled out, but it’s implied that in our big, chaotic world, it’s difficult to have community and stay connected.

  • Transformation? When using Facebook, people go from disconnected to connected. They can reach out to friends and family, discover what’s going on in the world, and share and express what matters to them.

Or think of Google explained as a logline: What if you could find the answer to any question you had by a simple keyword search?

  • Hero: You.

  • Goal: Knowledge

  • Obstacle: Finding the right answers.

  • Transformation: Going from uninformed to informed.

Hooks are essential to get people’s attention to your story. All you need to do is ask “what if” and make sure you hit the four elements quickly—before someone’s attention gets taken by a better hook.

(Featured image by moomsabuy via Shutterstock)

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Kyle is the Marketing Coordinator at BigSpeak speakers bureau, an Inc. 5000 company, where he works with many of the top thought leaders, business writers, and keynote business speakers in the world. As a content creator, he has helped establish the voice and brand for organizations such as BigSpeak and the Graduate Student Association of UC Santa Barbara. His background is in business writing, multimedia marketing, and international education. Before becoming a marketer, Kyle taught business writing for Fort Hays State University in Shenyang, China. Kyle holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, M.A. in Foreign Languages from the University of Delaware, and a B.A. in History from Pennsylvania State University.

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