Everyone is aware that attention is at a premium. You have 7 seconds to hook the audience and get them interested. But even if the hook is interesting, it doesn’t mean listeners will be compelled to stay tuned in. That’s why hooks have to target emotions. There are many emotions, but I’m going to show 8 emotions to target with hooks.

This article shares the 8 emotions to target in the hook. Including:

  • The science behind hooking attention with emotional triggers.
  • A discussion of each of the 8 emotions.
  • Examples of creating strong hooks that get attention emotionally.

8 Emotions To Target

When an opening line connects to feelings, there’s a chance to make a powerful and meaningful impact.

Human beings are wired to make quick decisions.

  • Is this for me or not?
  • Am I interested or not interested?

It’s not a logical decision or a calculated decision. Most decisions are emotional. We then use information and logic to justify a decision already made.

That’s why all hooks that don’t target emotions are a waste of time.

Starting with a provocative hook is critical. And it’s easy to understand that appealing to emotion is a good idea. So by this point, you’re probably shrugging your shoulders and thinking, “Yeah. So what?”.

But what does it mean to target emotions in a hook? What type of hook provides the best chance to earn that precious attention?

Robert Plutchik diagrammed hundreds of emotions in his famous Wheel of Emotions:

This may be more emotions than you want – or are able – to deal with. But if this is interesting, go ahead and geek out. Get Plutchik’s book.

Most will want it simpler. So let’s focus on the 8 core emotions.

The secret to getting audience response and keep them connected to content has nothing to do with an airtight argument or even sounding good together.

Here are the 8 most common emotions to target:


This is the most powerful motivator. Television newscasts rely on this to attract viewers with terrifying teases. It’s common to hear teases that provoke fear, like this:

Will your children be exposed to a potentially deadly virus…at daycare?”

It gets attention by sounding an alarm. It challenges the comfort zone.

See also  How a Compelling Hook Inspires Curiosity

Fear doesn’t have to be extreme. It works in small ways.

One fear is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). FOMO is a real thing and can be a powerful tool for promotions and marketing. When listeners think they may miss out on something amazing, a stronger reaction results.

For every emotion, the opposite is also effective. In this case, safety and reassurance that everything will be okay is a strong emotion. It still plays on the core emotion of fear but comes off much differently.

That may fit some personalities better, but the appeal is similar.


Anger inspires audiences and is often used by news-oriented talk shows to cause outrage.

Hyperbole and extreme points of view stir an emotional spark to provoke reactions.

Do you remember the classic movie Network? The television anchor, played by Peter Finch, created a passionate following with his phrase, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” The same approach works today for dozens of talk hosts and personalities.

Hooking the audience with a line that causes instant anger may be polarizing, but it will keep them into your content.

It’s fairly easy to target outrage. First, tell the story that will cause anger. Then take a stance against it. This works for acts of violence, cruelty to animals, or bullying. Listeners will respond.


Don’t over-use this emotion because it can be depressing and affect the overall brand image. But appealing to sympathy or empathy can be a powerful way to get into a break.

I’ll never forget the Monday morning after Princess Diana died (August 1997). That morning, Jeff & Jer started their show by saying,

If you’re like us, you’re not feeling very good this morning. And we just can’t do our regular show. Usually we tell jokes and just have fun, but today doesn’t feel so good. So if you want to talk about what happened, maybe we can be each other’s support group.

They took calls all morning long. Powerful. They tapped into the sadness in the audience and won hearts for their empathy.

See also  The 7 Second Challenge


Joy is a deep, powerful emotion, and a target many Contemporary Christian stations should use more often. Joy isn’t the same as happiness. It’s a deep feeling of satisfaction and comfort.

This is at the heart of a celebration.

There’s something contagious about expressing joy, hope, and a positive outlook. Starting a break to cause the audience to feel good – genuinely feel good – should be a primary goal.


Disgust is an emotional response of revulsion to an offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant event. It seems close to anger, but it’s distinct.

Shock jocks often try to be more outrageous than anyone else. It’s fairly easy. Just be revolting to the general public. Core fans will l love it, and everyone else will talk about you.

But be very careful if this is the target. Once you go down the shocking/disgusting route, the bar is raised. Over time, fans become numb to it and the general audience is turned off.

Relying on disgust usually leads to a short career. Howard Stern is still successful. He is one of the original Shock Jocks but has so developed many more aspects to his personality.


Though it’s a core emotion, trust is hard to target in hooks. However, it is a primary target for many station brands.

Trust is a target for television news stations and some news radio stations. Positioning phrases like, “Coverage you can count on” or “The one to trust for traffic and weather”, appeal to this emotion. But it’s hard in hooks.

See also  Five Ways To Find a Clever Hook


The key to longer TSL is to create anticipation for what’s ahead. This should be the goal of every hook. Do it right and the brain releases endorphins that make it difficult to tune away.

There are interesting ways to tap into anticipation. One tactic of effective hooking is actually revealing the payoff to the story as the hook, but only if it demands a story.

For example:

I cut off the tip of my finger.

My kids think I’m a nutcase.

I spent the night in jail.

Though this is an example of revealing the Pay Off, it intrigues the listener to find out what happened to lead to the end.


Making a new discovery can also be a good hook, as long as it’s about something that actually matters to the audience. And that’s a major problem with this emotion.

Most topics on the air really don’t matter. It’s far more important to tell a story in an entertaining way.

But surprise relies on revealing information the audience doesn’t already know. And if they don’t know, they probably don’t care.

For example, here’s a hook that targets surprise, but really fails:

A new SUV is coming out, and it’s going to change your commute to work.

That’s not going to lure anyone deeper into the content, even though it’s surprising (new) information. Who cares, right?

However, dress it up and leave something out, and there is a far better chance to get a response:

How would you like to have your SUV drive you to work each day? We’re one step closer, and it’s going to rock your world.


The brain makes decisions at warp speed. That’s why hooks have to be fast, simple, and direct. But the brain also makes decisions based on emotions, not logic.

Keep these 8 key emotions in mind for the best chance to keep listeners through a break.