3 Tips for Writing a Catchy Lede

Gary Grates

writingWhat is the number one reason why a piece of written content gets ignored, deleted or bypassed?

The answer is in your first sentence or paragraph, otherwise known to PR pros and journalists as the lede. You lost the reader, most likely, because of a weak lede, one that's a numbingly bland series of words lacking energy, wit, enticement or surprise.

I'd venture to say that if you've got 20 minutes to write a piece of content, devote half of it to rewriting your first sentence. And the first step in rewriting an opening sentence and paragraph is to delete what you've written entirely and start again. Try that three times and you might be getting somewhere.

There's no written format that cries out more desperately for a strong lede than press releases. If you're a PR pro, think clearly about the people on the receiving end of your releases. This is a profession—journalism—under attack by "disruptive" business models (aka free stuff on the web) cruelly designed to render it laughingly obsolete. Journalists don't even have the bandwidth to delete your pitches one at at time.

Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of agency InkHouse and a presenter at PR News' Aug. 15 webinar, "How to Write Effective Press Releases That Serve Your Brand & the Media," offers three approaches to lede writing that you should consider as you rewrite your opener:

  1. Begin with a question
    —"What is the number one thing holding women back from upper management?"
  2. Eliminate the "XYZ company, the leading provider of blah blah blah, today announced..."
    —Demonstrate that leadership through proof, not words. Leaders are leaders because of demonstrable metrics.
  3. Begin with a strong statement that is contrarian or provocative.
    —"In five years, people won't drive cars anymore."

If you follow one of these approaches, don't forget to delete and try again. And again. And one more time for good luck.

Follow Beth Monaghan: @bamonaghan

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI