Formula

Star – Chain – Hook

This 3-step storytelling formula turns you into a master of persuasion, winning people over with brevity and logic.
Masooma Memon
January 26, 2022

When to use

Thanks to its emphasis on the convincing benefits, features, and reasons – essentially, presenting a short logical argument – you can use this Play in your conversations, social media captions, email copy, and more.

Because the Star - Chain - Hook Play focuses on value, you’ll find it handy for short copy of any sort. For videos and long-form content such as blog posts, use the Play to create a strong introduction, setting the opening just right.

This Twitter thread uses the Star - Chain - Hook play for its introduction: 

What you'll need

A list of benefits or reasons (depending on what the story features) and a group of beta readers.

The Star - Chain - Hook Play doesn’t need a production crew. But it’s helpful to have a few beta readers (3-4 minimum) who can tell you how persuasive your story is.

The Steps

1. Plan your ‘Star’

The ‘Star’ in this Play is the opening line so it has to grab your audience’s attention right away.

Think of it as the headline on a poster that engages people on the spot – even if they aren’t directly paying attention to it.

TipRewrite your ‘Star’ a couple of times – nothing good ever comes in one go. Rewriting is also likely to bring out the most attention-grabbing gem.

For an effective ‘Star,’ also make sure you know what interests your audience.

For example, a pop culture reference is likely to bait a millennial audience instantly, making for an excellent ‘Star.’

PromptJot down 1 - 3 candidates that could become your opening line or 'Star'.

Once done, leave the ‘Star’ overnight (if you can) or for a couple of hours. The reason? When you return to review it, you can see it through a fresh perspective and check if it’s still as good as it was when it first occurred to you.

TipGive a few options for a ‘Star’ to reviewers (these could be your teammates or someone with a good understanding of your target audience). Then, find out which opening line is the most engaging for your readers.

2. Create your ‘Chain’

The ‘Chain’ is a series of smoothly flowing, inter-linked benefits. Its aim: 

  • Creating interest and desire
  • Continue engaging your audience that paused to read because of the ‘Star’ 
TipLimit your benefits to three because that’s the most that humans can hold in their working memory at a time. Three is also impactful.

For example, YouTube Music keeps its benefits to three in this email:

PromptPick one major, audience-relevant benefit for your ‘Chain’ and expand on it by giving people more reasons to avail it.

For example, Klarna expands on one benefit in their email copy. Their ‘Chain’ reads: “Pay how you prefer. Buy now and split your total into four easy, interest-free payments – more time to pay, more time to keep being creative.”

TipIf you’re following Klarna’s way of storytelling with this Play, make sure you don’t come across as repetitive.

Have a long list of benefits to share? Write down all of them. Now handpick the strongest ones based on your target audience’s struggles.

PromptTalk about the benefits of your product or service that your audience would find most alluring.
TipThink of which benefits they’d find the most alluring – not what you think is important. Use numbers to share reasons.

This Twitter thread does that with “500 hours studying,” “6 simple frameworks,” and “won’t cost you $120,000.”

One last thing: pay attention to the sequence of your reasons or benefits. Focus on building each one on one another so as to draw people in and increase their desire with each line. 

3. Now write a ‘Hook’

The ‘Hook’ is your call to action (CTA) or a link to your offer, product, or service.

Examples:

  • Shop today using CODE XX
  • So do you want to work together?
  • Create your visually engaging dashboards with our software

You’ll find more people taking your offer or clicking through your CTA if you’ve created a strong ‘Star’ and an enticing ‘Chain.’

PromptWrite a clear ‘Hook.’ If you’re unsure how to do that, make it short, direct, and to the point. It’s only when your ‘Hook’ is clear that your audience takes action.

Tying it all together

In short, the Star - Chain - Hook Play is a simple formula for short-copy storytelling.

When done well, it can be very persuasive as it gives people benefit-centered reasons to take the action you want them to.

So remember:

  • The ‘Star’ is the attention grabber
  • The ‘Chain’ packs in convincing benefits or reasons
  • The ‘Hook’ encourages action
Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS and ecommerce brands writing actionable content for clients like CoSchedule, Vimeo, and Databox. She's also an avid reader and shares content writing and marketing tips in her weekly newsletter, The Content Workshop.

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