The Hook-Story-Offer Framework: An Easy Copywriting Formula For Beginners

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into the biggest problems all writers face stopping them from writing on the internet, building an audience, and monetizing their writing.

(And, of course, if you want to defeat these problems and master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you master a simple copywriting framework so you can start monetizing your writing.

Most people think turning readers into doers (or, in other words, people who will buy your product or service) is a tough nut to crack.

But before you can sell anything, you need to get their attention. In a world where you’re competing with the next viral cat video on TikTok, this is crucial. And it’s even more important when you’re trying to make your reader an offer.

When you present something “unusual” to a reader, guess what happens? Their brain gets surprised, it wakes up and says, “Whoa! I haven’t seen that before. Let me see if it’s interesting.” Attention won.

Then when you wrap it up in a relatable story, it becomes a slippery slide that guides the reader into whatever action you want them to take.

Copywriters call it the “Hook-Story-Offer Framework”—here’s how it works:

What is the Hook-Story-Offer Framework?

The Hook-Story-Offer framework is a copywriting technique found in Russell Brunson’s best-selling book, Dotcom Secrets.

There are 3 parts.

  • A Hook to draw the reader in.
  • A Story to highlight a relatable change.
  • An Offer, or invitation, to apply the change.

In other words, you capture attention and then compel the reader to do more.

And today, we are going to walk you through an easy 4-step formula for writing an “unexpected” hook to grab your reader’s attention and then leverage that attention into action with a personal story.

The reason this framework is perfect for beginners is because all you have to do is share what happens to you during the day: walking the dog, eating breakfast, sitting in traffic, and so on. Then, draw a connection to anything you want to sell. Simple.

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Name The Benefit

Every reader wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”

You need to be clear on the promise you are making to the reader. Because if the reader doesn’t know what they get in return for reading and how it will make their life better—they aren’t going to read.

So, what are you offering?

  • Mental clarity
  • Restorative sleep
  • Financial freedom
  • Profitable investment
  • Deep relational connection

Write it down.

Step 2: Put The Benefit In An Unexpected Setting

Find the opposite of “normal.”

This is a technique we learned from “Big Al” Schreiter in his book "Hooks!" If you are looking to improve your single-sentence openers, this is a resource to add to your library. Here is the question Big Al poses:

Where “wouldn’t” the reader expect to experience the benefit?

  • My diet support group meets at Pizza Hut (losing weight)
  • I thought Vitamin C was supposed to make you feel better? (immunity)
  • I have no friends. That’s why I go to work (making friends)

Remember your job is to prod the reader’s brain by breaking their expectations.

What comes to mind when you think about slimming down? Probably something like, exercise, counting calories, or eating a better diet. These have been written about a 10,000+ times.

Which means the reader expects it—and moves on.

The easiest way to do this is to pull out a thesaurus and make a list of opposites for your benefit. Let’s run with the weight loss example. What’s the opposite of loss? Gain, increase, profit, etc. Choose one of these words and see what ideas it triggers for you.

For example:

  • What do people who gain weight do? (Eat at Pizza Hut)
  • What situations make people put on the pounds? (Sitting on the couch)

Make your list.

Step 3: Frame The Hook As A Personal Story

Which one do you want to read?

  • Hook #1: How to lose 10 lbs in 4 weeks
  • Hook #2: Amazing break-through formula for diet and weight loss.
  • Hook #3: My chubby cat found a better solution to my weight problem.

None of them are bad, but let’s take a closer look.

  • Hook #1 has a clear promise, lose 10lbs in 4 weeks. It’s click worthy, but I’ve seen it before.
  • Hook #2 feels salesy. I’m skeptical, but I might click because I can’t resist learning about a new break-through. Again, I’ve seen it before and I am pretty sure I know what I’m going to get.
  • Hook #3 is a story. It’s personal. It’s relatable and I want to hear what happened. And maybe I can learn something from this person with a chubby cat! Which is why this hook works—even if it is a little clever.

You can frame your hook as a personal story with first person language.

  • I…
  • My…
  • How I…

Then bolt on your benefit and setting.

We could improve Hook #1 like this: “How I lost 10lbs in 4 weeks sitting in Pizza Hut.” It breaks expectations. It promises a story about the benefit of losing weight. And it’s clear what you will get from reading it.

On to the final step.

Step 4: Edit For Clarity (And Credibility)

So, what did we learn from our 3 examples in the last step?

  • All 3 hooks “work.” They open a loop. And the reader will want to close it
  • Each hook frames an expectation in the reader’s mind based on past experience
  • Hook #3 raises an unexpected twist with a story and thus wins the click-me contest

HOWEVER, there is a risk.

And the risk is you overdo “clever.” The chubby cat is close because it’s hard to believe someone’s cat will give you a new solution to losing weight. But because the benefit (remember Step 1) is on target, I still want to know more. The trick is to make sure the reader doesn’t have to make too many mental leaps to understand the relationship between the benefit and the setting.

So, before you ship your work, ask yourself:

  • Will the reader know what to expect?
  • Is it believable?

If the answer is yes, congrats you’ve written a solid unexpected story hook!

Now, go out and use this framework to start hooking attention and monetizing your skills as a Digital Writer.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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