In part one of this Hooked series, we looked at how the hook model is used to engage consumers and why it’s important for internal comms, especially internal email. Based on Nir Eyal’s book on creating habit-forming products, we analyzed Facebook as the poster child for this method and looked at how product designers have programmed us all to respond emotionally every time we feel our phone vibrate in our pocket.

Watch our webinar on hooking employees on internal comms here. 

Before we dig deeper into the first two stages of the hook model, Triggers and Actions, let’s take a look at how the hook model applies to your number one internal channel… email, which Eyall calls “the mother of all habit-forming technology.”

Internal Email Example:

internal-email-example-hooked model- bananatag


As we learned in the overview of the hook model, there are two types of triggers: external and internal. They provide the impulse to initiate and keep your audience moving through a cycle, much like the spark plug in an engine. Triggers work when they create an “itch we need to scratch” and they are strongest when combined with an internal and external trigger.

External Triggers

External triggers target our senses: we see, hear or touch them. These include the bright red new email notification, or the notification sounds or the vibration your phone makes when you have a new message waiting for you in your inbox.

“External triggers are embedded with information, which tells the user what to do next.” -Nir Eyal, The Hooked Model

The external triggers hold information of what to do next, whether that’s to ‘share now’, ‘read now’, ‘sign up’, or an email notification pinging you to ‘open this email since you have a new message!’

Internal Triggers

In habit forming technology, emotions are powerful internal triggers and ultimately influence our behaviour. There are key emotions and feelings often associated with certain behaviours, particularly habit forming ones. The most poignant being loneliness, frustration, sadness, confusion, and indecisiveness. These are common internal triggers that get associated with soothing some common emotion and providing a sense of relief.

“Internal triggers manifest automatically in your mind. Connecting internal triggers with a product is the brass ring of consumer technology.” -Nir Eyal, The Hooked Model

We may not realize it, but upon further reflection we subconsciously turn to Facebook when we’re lonely and feel like connecting with family and friends in some way. Going on Facebook provides relief and becomes a positive association in our minds.

Understanding your employees trigger is about understanding what’s relevant to them. What are employees looking for in their communications at work: is it to escape the task at hand for a few moments, to learn something new or to get important information pertinent to their jobs?

Applying Triggers to Your Internal Emails

An email notification with a catchy subject line is the most common and obvious external trigger employees will encounter: I just got an email from my company! I wonder what is says? Is it something I need to read right now? Their internal trigger could be the fear of missing out (FOMO) on something good in the message (like a contest that requires immediate action or an employee profile of their colleague a few offices down) or even boredom.

To keep the intrigue of what the email is about, try using a subject line that arouses curiosity. A customer gave us a great example of a catchy headline they used in one of their internal emails. Right at the height of Pokemon GO’s popularity, this healthcare organization sent out an email with “Pokemon NOT seeking treatment at our facility”. The internal comms team saw record number of open and click rates on that email.

If you can influence employees to turn to internal email for empowering information instead of social media, you have a winning formula in the making for engagement. This may seem like a lofty ambition but it’s easier than you think and there are a few questions you can ask yourself to make this work for your internal email.

Questions to ask about triggers:

  • What’s your employee population demographic and ‘who’ are your employees?
  • What is their day like right before they would perform an action on an internal email?
  • What internal trigger are your employees most frequently and likely experiencing?
  • How can you pair an external trigger with an internal trigger?



After being triggered you generally want your audience to perform an action. The question you need to ask is, what is the absolute simplest behavior an employee can perform to get their Reward? With Google, that’s as simple as performing a search. With Facebook, it means logging into your account and scrolling through the newsfeed.

The key to this stage is to ensure completing the action is as simple as possible. The harder you make the action (i.e. by putting information behind the login page of your intranet) the more personal motivation it’s going to take to get your audience to the next stage.

If you’re like me and need charts and images to be convinced of things, BJ Fogg of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University has developed a formula for behavior, appropriately named The Fogg Behavior Model.

It states that behaviour (B) consists of a Motivation (M), and trigger (T), also known as B=mat.
fogg-behavior-model-bananatag-internal comms


Motivation: The level of desire that exists for the user to take action.

Ability: How easy and simple it is to perform the action to get the reward.

Trigger: What prompts a user to perform a desired behavior.

We can use this model to predict action based on the relationship between the audience’s motivation and the ease of the desired behavior.

Think of logging into Facebook. If you didn’t have the option to “keep me logged in” and instead had to type your email and password every time, it’s far less likely you would log on as often as you do.

What most impacts ability, particularly in internal comms, is the element of simplicity, with a focus on the amount of time it would take to complete an action. How difficult is it for employees to consume your content? Do they have to go through multiple processes to get to the reward?

Applying Actions to Your Internal Emails

The simplest behavior your employees take include opening the email, scrolling through, reading, and often clicking a call to action. Every action employees take must be simple and clear, especially the call to action.

Don’t forget to analyze the experience beyond the email. If your emails house a link to your intranet or other internal channel that take employees elsewhere to read a company update or access other information, make sure the ability to receive the reward isn’t hampered by a cumbersome login process or one that isn’t accessible to mobile.

Questions to ask about actions:

  • What is the simplest action your employee can take to access an email?
  • What actions take place after they open the email?
  • How can you make these actions simpler (especially for mobile users)?
  • What is in the way of your employees ability to accomplish the actions that will later become habits with internal email?


What's Next for the Hook Model for IC?

We’re halfway through the hooked model and closer to getting a clearer picture of how to transform internal communications to become a habit in employees’ lives.

TL;DR: The triggers are what cue your employees to take an action and the action must be simple and straightforward for the employees to get to the next step easily and return back to the start of the model again.

Next up in this hook series we’ll be covering the final stages of the framework and how you can use Variable Rewards and Investment to amp up the motivation factor of the behavior model. Stay tuned!

Have any questions or comments about the hook model for internal comms? Let us know below!