How to Write a Compelling Lead Paragraph

(Note: I originally wrote this as a guest post that ran on the ISOOSI blog, which has since come down, so I’m publishing the post here.)

How to write compelling lead paragraphs - Content NewsroomYou’ve mastered the irresistible headline.

You’re driving visits!

But that’s not enough.

You need conversions. You don’t make the sale on brilliant headlines alone.

That’s where the lead paragraph (“lede paragraph” to you journos out there) comes in. You must craft a first paragraph that compels readers to continue.

That’s the only way to get them to take the next step and make a purchase.

How do you write the perfect lead?

Here are examples of leads using techniques that you can tailor to your audience.

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Newsroom Content Tips: An Alleged Problem

This post is titled “An alleged problem” because not using the word “allegedly” in stories about arrests and lawsuits will allegedly get you sued.

A lot of stories come out with headlines screaming “arrested for” and “sued for.”

The recent lawsuit against Facebook has brought this to my attention.

A lot of headlines say “Facebook sued for …”. They should say “Facebook sued for allegedly … .”

When writing about arrests, using “allegedly” is good, but using “on charges of” is better.

  • Bad: Joe Schmo was arrested for robbing a bank
  • Better: Joe Schmo was arrested for allegedly robbing a bank
  • Best: Joe Schmo was arrested on charges of bank robbery

It’s best to just state the facts, and in the case of arrests, the facts are the exact charges.

You do this to prevent being sued yourself. If a lawyer sees you convicting their client before trial even begins, watch out!

That lawyer can sue you for allegedly impeding the client’s right to a fair trial.

To prove that I know what I’m talking about, here it is straight from the Associated Press:

To avoid any suggestion that someone is being judged before a trial, do not use a phrase such as arrested for killing. Instead, use arrested on a charge of killing. If a charge hasn’t been filed, arrested on suspicion of, or a similar phrase, should be used.

This is why marketing departments or online publications don’t just need stellar writers; they need editors who can keep you out of court.

It’s particularly painful to see a horribly written headline, yet a carefully written story. That often means the writers know what they’re doing, but the editor wrote a headline to fit the space or keep character count low, but neglected the legal ramifications.

Make sure everyone who writes and edits your content knows the rules for writing about legal issues.

Social Media Crisis: When the Most Trusted News Source Gets Hacked

Associated Press Twitter account suspended

The Associated Press Twitter account (@AP) is suspended while the hack is investigated.

Panic ensued on Wall Street when The Associated Press Twitter account (@AP) was hacked, and the following message was tweeted on April 23, 2013:

Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured

News industry professionals should’ve known this was fake by the inconsistencies in the use of uppercase letters – if anyone has to follow AP Style, it’s The AP!

In the news business, there’s a rule that we all learned in our first journalism class (Thanks, Professor Bush!). In any news story, always interview at least three credible sources. This is to ensure accuracy.

This same tactic can be applied to this kind of social media crisis. Before panicking over a tweet (even from a credible source, such as The Associated Press), we should seek out at least one other source that corroborates the story.

Although news is quick and easy to see on Twitter, check out the actual news site since Twitter accounts are easily compromised. According to today’s CBS News story, @AP isn’t the only news organization twitter handle that’s currently suspended due to hacks:

Over the weekend, CBS News confirmed that its ’60 Minutes’ and ’48 Hours’ Twitter accounts were compromised. Both accounts remain suspended at present time.