west Go back

Hook your audience: Two keys to keeping busy readers engaged

Most busy readers are scanning your internal updates — not reading word for word — trying to answer two questions: What is this about? How will it impact me?

  • Why it matters: You have a few seconds at most to share a clear answer, or you’ll lose them to one of a dozen other emails, tabs, or alerts fighting for their time. 

What works: Engagement spikes if two details consistently kick off your comms, from articles to emails, executive briefings to all-staff alerts:

  • What’s new: one sentence that tells readers an important update they need to know.
  • Why it matters: the context that explains why that information is worth their time.

Over four years of testing, we’ve seen these two sentences become the most effective way for busy readers to understand a message and remember it once they move on. The busiest folks get what they need in under 15 seconds. And anyone with a little more time will see — right away — why this update is worth digging into.  

Why it works: Our founders built this formula using decades of data around reader behavior. We don’t love what we found, but we know that it’s true:

  • Only 5% of readers make it to the end of a typical, 800-word piece of communication.
  • Over 80% stop reading before they finish the first page. 

We also talked to hundreds of executives and busy professionals who all said the same thing:

  • Information is moving too fast. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s worth reading.
  • The big picture is missing. Readers often have to guess how information will impact their life, career, or company.

The takeaway: People may be tight on time, but they’re hungry for relevant updates, delivered in a clear and efficient way. If you focus on sharing only what’s new and take the work off readers’ shoulders to see why they should care, they’ll reward you with their time and trust. 

We’ve seen open rates reach 70%+ when communicators adopt this Smart Brevity® methodology, or tap into our other training and content services for help.