Writing Great Intros: The Hook, Line, and Sinker Approach

Comedy and writing great intros have something in common: surprise the reader.

Some call it the hook, line, and sinker approach. Like in fishing, that’s also what you need to write great introductions to your posts or articles.

Of course, this is what your primary school teacher taught you. But let’s go a bit further.

Hook

What do you call a fisherman who throws an empty hook? A bad fisherman.

It’s the same with copywriting.

Your goal is to surprise the reader with a pattern interrupt. Start with something that the reader would never expect, like talking about a wild boar chase in a finance article.

A few formats you can use are:

Metaphors

These make unfamiliar topics easier to understand, and they allow the writer to pull stories and ideas from interesting places.

Hypothetical

Bring the reader in your article with a hypothetical situation.

Quote

Start with the quote of an expert, even if it’s not related to your topic.

Non sequitur

Introduce a fact that has nothing to do with the topic, and then link it to your argument.

Anecdote

Create a connection with the reader by sharing a personal experience.

Data

Let numbers speak.

Trust and authority

It’s not enough for your hook to grab attention or be slightly controversial… The main driver of any real engagement with your copy is trust and authority.

Casey Hill tested this theory by using two different hooks and sharing results on LinkedIn:

  • Empty hook: “Recently I sat down with Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, to discuss how to scale your organization.”
  • Trustworthy hook: “Nick Mehta runs Gainsight, a company that Vista acquired for $1,100,000,000. He knows a thing or two about scaling organizations.”

Guess what? The second hook had 10x more views than the first one.

Let’s dig into Casey’s takeaways…

Use specific claims

When you can show real numbers and results, it feels far more persuasive than only showing the end result. For example:

“In June 2022, [insert brand] implemented [insert solution] to replace [insert alternative]. After a bit of a ramp period, they saw demo conversions climb first 6% in July and then 11% in August.”

Use customer proof

Casey points out that when many brands use customer claims, they usually just include a quote. That’s an empty hook, because we don’t know if real people made them.

Replace quotes with videos of clients or customers describing specific before-and-afters of your product. You’ll see an immediate difference.

Affinity matters

If you want someone to buy your product, make them feel you’re on the same page.

Casey says he bought a SaaS start-up book just because the title was closely related to the growth stage his company was in.

Borrow authority

Sometimes you can use a little help from already authoritative people.

This can take many forms… Quoting an industry leader, referencing an excerpt of a high-profile podcast, citing a trusted website, and so on.

That’s how you put real, tasty bait on your hook. Just make sure you can back your trustworthy claim when the time comes… and you’ll catch the big ones.

Line

Your hooks shouldn’t be disjointed from the rest of the article. If you spend a good amount of mental energy to come up with an innovative hook, you should make the most of it. Come back to that unexpected fact or metaphor throughout the rest of the article. This helps you build a consistent narrative along with all the text.

A common tactic in journalism involves using the hook at the beginning and tying it back in at the end.

Sinker

After you hook the reader, your job is to provide some substance to deliver the expectations created by the hook. You can do this by:

  • Making a clear, concise summary of the argument you’re making.
  • Demonstrating relevance to the reader.
  • Highlighting concrete benefits from reading your post.

Writing Great Intros: Other Tips

The first tweet of a whole Twitter thread, or the first paragraph of a blog post makes the difference between a flop and a boom.

If you take a look at the intro of ten Twitter threads that went viral, you can unpack why they worked.

These are our favorites:

Example #1

“I’ve interviewed and managed over 2,000 people.

Here are my 55 contrarian observations about humans.

A thread…”

Why does this work?

  • It provides proof that the author is qualified to talk.
  • “Contrarian observations” hooks curiosity.
  • It shares a list.
  • It uses numbers.

Let’s look at another:

Example #2

“I was burned out in finance working on someone else’s schedule, and tired of having my time tied to $.

So I started investing in cash-flowing biz’s.
Not sexy startups, but boring businesses.

One of my fav small deals netted $67k a year, $100k at close… w/ quarters

A thread:”

Why does it work?

  • Rags to riches story.
  • “Investing in boring businesses” makes it more believable contrary to the hyped investing world.
  • The numbers prove the author can talk about this topic. And paradoxically, since it’s “just” $67k, and not millions, it makes it more attractive because it’s more believable.

Example #3

“Good copywriting is a superpower.

Amazon, the second most valuable brand in the world, puts an emphasis on teaching its employees how to write.

They know good copy equates to more customers. These are the 8 tips to write like an Amazonian.”

Why did it work?

  • It borrows authority from Amazon.
  • Build some hype with the superpower analogy.
  • It introduces a list.

Hook, Line, and Sinker Approach outside the intro

Be it a blog post, a tweet, a podcast, or a YouTube video.

Successful doesn’t necessarily mean viral. A successful piece is one that exceeds other pieces of similar quality and format.

The model is made up of the same three elements: hook, line, and sinker.

Let’s give it a proper look.

Hook: The goal is to grab attention

There’s no information delivered, just the promise of what’s to come.

The elements of the hook are the headline, subheadline, article image, or the first seconds of a video. Here are some examples:

  • Serious Eat: Our Favorite Recipes of 2022 – This is promise-based and it entices curiosity if you’re the target audience.
  • BBC: “Alexa tells a 10-year-old girl to touch a plug outlet with a penny.” – This tells a story and makes you wonder how it ends. It’s an open loop.

Line: This is the meat of the content

The goal is to satisfy the curiosity created by the hook.

Otherwise, the hook will be just another clickbait headline.

The other objective is to trigger an emotional response.

Usually, surprise, fear, hatred, and anger stimulate more engagement and shares.

But there are many examples of high-performing pieces that leverage joy, gratitude, empowerment, shame, and pride.

Sinker: The lasting memory that sticks with you after you consume the content

It’s like the lightsaber sound from Star Wars. Or “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” from The Godfather.

And there’s no unique sinker.

It can be a line, a sound, or a photo. It all depends on the person that consumed the content.

There isn’t a clear path to come up with a sinker. But you should try to introduce as many sinkers as you can in a piece.

In other words, you should try to make your piece memorable.

Bottom line

These were the most interesting examples, but the main lessons you can learn from the whole list are:

  • Agitate a widely spread problem.
  • Use numbers and lists.
  • Add contrast (boring investments).
  • Share proof you’re qualified to talk about the topic. Or borrow it if you can’t.

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