November 9, 2015

Burying the lede

Bury the lede, kill the response.

I was reading the About Us page of a website for a wholesaler, and I found a curious thing: the first paragraph could be summarizedbury the lede, lose the reader“We’re not just [the expected products], we’re also [product line #2], and [product line #3] that people love!”

Okay. They diversified, now offering a wider selection. Fine. But then paragraph two began, “But more important…” and continued to say how their retail customers benefitted because these product lines made consumers more loyal, brought more footprints to the door, yada yada yada.

Seemed strange. They ask us to plow through a paragraph of what-we-do, then dismiss it because why-it-matters is “more important.” If it is, and it is, why wasn’t that first? Why the wheel-spinning self-congratulation? Why bury the lede*?

IF one could credibly, convincingly get retailers to believe that by stocking your products, people will come back again and again with bright smiling faces, retailers will, definitely will, buy in. Whether it’s haute cuisine, oat cuisine, or moose turd pies, you’ll get that initial sell-in. The job then becomes: living the brand to maintain that belief.

This is just another case for Hemingway’s advice to “write drunk and edit sober.” Gush all your thoughts into your document, but then take your time crafting the message with your readers’ needs in mind. One step in that process is when to introduce the lede. It isn’t always in the headline or at the very beginning (as in this blog post), but it’s often useless to spring it nine paragraphs down.

Mathematically, the distance from headline point A to where you clarify your lede (text point B) is in direct proportion to Q, the quality of your story-telling.

*BTW, many journalists have (since about 1965) spelled it lede, to remove any confusion with lead, that heavy metal in bullets. Makes sense, but I dragged my feet for decades before I got comfortable with it. Spellcheck accepted it; I caved.