Stealing ways to ‘hook’ your audience

Blog post by Mark McMahon, DECC

Wednesday 11 February 2015

I'm a thief. I’m not afraid to admit it. I like to steal things and turn them into other things that really help me.

But I’m not a bad thief – I let people know if I’m using their stuff and I make sure I have their permission when it’s needed.

Take, for example, the art of getting people to read your content, a perennial challenge for internal communicators – communicators of any kind, for that matter.

Employees are busy people, so how do you get their attention, draw them in and leave them behaving, knowing, thinking or doing something differently?

You can start by telling a story and scrapping the corporate speak. Just make sure it’s interesting enough to hook people in. Then, use that story to bridge straight into the point you want to make or the key message you want to get across. It’s a simple but effective trick that we all could use much more often to reach our target audience and help them see what’s in it for them, whatever the message

Let’s try it.

In the 1930s, Dr John Brinkley sold a miracle cure for impotence. Without going into the details, let’s just say it involved goat testicles.

It was rubbish. It didn’t work. Brinkley mainly killed or maimed his patients instead of curing them. The Journal of the American Medical Association printed a warning to the public not to deal with him.

Although it didn’t work, Brinkley went on to become, for a time, one of America’s wealthiest men. Why? Because the poor people he operated on didn’t read the Journal of the American Medical Association. They listened to the radio, where they would hear Brinkley promoting his treatment and telling stories of his miracle cure. And they lapped it up.

I like this story because it highlights the importance of knowing your audience. If you don’t know where your audience get their information or news, or who they trust and listen to, then you could be selling everlasting life and still not get noticed. Or you could be telling employees about the fantastic lunchtime talk about a topical issue that will help them with their jobs and no one will turn up.

The IC Space has a section dedicated to choosing your channels. It’s well worth a look. We can all too easily select the default option (all-staff email anyone?) and not think about who exactly we need to reach and the best way of getting to them.

So why am I a thief? Because none of the above is my idea. I stole the idea, the story and the tip on how to hook people in. I even stole the tricks of making your first sentence as short as possible and putting line breaks after every idea.

If you’d like to steal lots of good stuff like this as well, then I’d recommend reading Ian Harris’ little (and very cheap) book “Hooked On You: The Genius Way To Make Anybody Read Anything”.

You can also check out The IC Space, which now lists the latest Internal Comms jobs across the Civil Service as well.

Now stop thinking about those poor goats.