Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarah Palin, Sandra Bullock, and Lady Gaga to Sue Toyota

Decoding, Deciphering, and Devising Hooks to Get Your Business Noticed

My morning routine is fairly simple. I get up, take a shower, make a cup of tea, and hit the news sites before I start my work day in earnest. Like most people, I skim the headlines and only read the stories that I find most interesting. Some stories speak to me personally, such as those about children's product recalls or Midwest weather reports. Others draw me in because of my profession: if a company of any size or type has seen a great profit or loss due to a new business practice, I want to know. But many of the stories simply hook me in because of clever titles, that may or may not have anything to do with the story itself.

Donor Sues Tea Party Organizer of Palin's Fee -

As a politically minded American citizen, I saw the headline and thought, hey - now that's interesting. Why would a Tea Party donor sue over Sarah Palin? How could a donor sue over money that's been given? What is the Tea Party up to now? Of course, the story has very little to do with the former Alaskan governor and is mostly about the give and take regarding political contributions. The headline is not dishonest, but it is misleading. Most importantly? It works. The news site has found a way to take a portion of an incident (Long story short: The convention organizer agreed to join the donor's committee if the donor paid half of Palin's speaking fee. Once the organizer received funds he backed out of the committee, therefore the donor decided to sue.) and twist it into headline making news.

Meat Linked to Climate Change? -

No, is the answer to this question. In this case, CNN has chosen to provide a headline on its main page that does not even match the story it links to. The article's title "Scientist: Don't Blame Cows for Climate Change" actually gives us the exact opposite sentiment as the chosen front page headline. Why make the change? It's simple, really. CNN's marketing experts are well aware that people become exercised when told that their everyday practices can cause destruction to the planet as a whole. By placing the actual headline on the home page, CNN would give those same individuals the satisfaction of knowing they can consume their hamburgers with a healthy conscience - without clicking the link.

The lesson you can learn from these examples is up to you. Do you want to focus on a small but important piece of your business, hoping to draw customers in? Do you wish to tempt fate by misleading customers in order to make them more interested in your business. Either choice is risky, as you may find yourself with a possible client base that now feels they may not be able to rely on your company, though if accomplished in an intelligent way, you may also be able to spread word of your company's name in a unique and memorable fashion.

There is yet one example of hooks that worked that we have not covered:

Microsoft Office Faces Challenges from Free Google Tools - Wall Street Journal

The story is about Microsoft Office facing challenges from free tools offered by the search engine giant, Google. Just as the headline states, the article covers the new worries that Microsoft has to combat in order to continue selling its ever growing suite of programs. This type of hook works as the content is interesting to most people and we can trust that we will not be surprised by a misleading headline. Conversely, the headline may not be as catchy as some others, therefore not bringing in quite as many viewers.

Which route will you take when promoting your business? The choice you make is up to you.