Forget About the Rest of the Story: It’s the Lead That Counts!
Too many times I find myself rewriting the leads of not only of freelancers, and yes, my staff too, but of journalists who’ve written stories in the magazines or newspapers I’m reading. There’s no doubt about it. It’s tough to write a good lead, whether it’s to a news release or a newspaper article.
What should make up a good lead? Well, first of all it should get your attention (and being funny never hurts)! But, secondly and just as important, it should contain in that one or two sentences what is newsworthy about the article. Why should I, as the reader or the journalist (for PR people), continue reading this news release or story?
As my staff can tell you, I come from the Fox News school of TV writing, which in a word means “cheesy” from the word go. Wish I could remember some of the ones I wrote in my TV days! These days, I try to cut out the cheese but keep the wow, attention-getting factor. Rarely is a straight lead to my liking.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite leads to give you some inspiration:
1) From the Indianapolis Star on Friday, Nov. 12:
“What’s black and white and read all over? Not the white pages, which is why regulators have begun granting telecommunications companies the go-ahead to stop mass-printing residential phone books…”
Author: Michael Felberbaum, Associated Press
2) One of my favorites!! From the Charleston Post & Courier, April 29, 2010
“If you’ve ever wondered what the view is like from the top of the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse, you’re in luck. On Saturday, the National Park Service will share pictures of all the spectacular views you would see if you were able to climb to the top. ”
Author: The always funny Bryce Donovan
3) Another great one from Bryce
Title: Sick of Flying
“I’ve never had more fun vomiting in my entire life.”
“On Wednesday, not far above the treetops and steeples of downtown Charleston, I got the opportunity to fly with the Blue Angels, something I’ve dreamed about for as long as I can remember. ”
Author: Bryce Donovan
4) One of my favorite press releases (title is key here too) for Breakaway Adventures
Title: Take Fido for a Walk … Through France
“Breakaway Adventures, a tour company that specializes in relaxed overseas getaways, has made taking the dog for a walk a lot more interesting. The company is inviting pooches to join their “people” for three different walking tours through France.”
5) One more for Breakaway Adventures, again title critical here
Title: Breakaway Adventures Offers ‘Tour de France’ for Wimps
“A new tour from Breakaway Adventures, a company that specializes in relaxed overseas getaways, lets cyclists pedal the same streets of the Tour de France ‘peloton,’ minus the breakneck speed, crashes and sore muscles.”
Got any good examples of great leads? Please share and let me know if you like my choices!