Women In Business

How to write a compelling start to every blog

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Imagine you’re gossiping (or, more politely, networking) with your best mate. “Did you hear about Sue’s husband?” might be your opening gambit. Or “I caught up with James the other day.”

When we are relaxed, we know how to get the full attention of our mates for a good story. It’s not so easy to translate this into creating content on the web.

The blank page is a formidable foe, even for experienced writers. It’s when the negative voice of our internal editor — a highly critical one, who is not at all like real editors — is at its loudest. Often, that internal voice will heap scorn on our very first sentence.

Add to that internal pressure the very real knowledge that we have just a few seconds to grab and hold the attention of our readers. You know from your own experience clearing your inbox each day; as readers, we are ruthless.

So how to do we achieve a gripping start to our blog?

Getting started is different from your gripping start

Experienced writers know that we get started writing our blog by putting words on the page. Words on the page are the clay from which we will sculpt our blog. No clay, nothing to sculpt with.

I suggest that you start with a question you want to answer, do some desk research or interview an expert on the subject, and then just plonk down everything you have learned. Tame the blank page early.

This gets you started, but it not what you publish.

When I am in an editor role, my job is often to simply axe the first two paragraphs of contributions. These were the “warm up” paragraphs I’m referring to above. They are as important for us as writers, as the stretches we do before exercises. They just do not belong in our published draft.

Finding the lead sentence

Here is the general principle – start your story at the most exciting bit.

The secret to the great beginning can be as simple as axing your first couple of paras. The lead sentence is often four or five paras in.

Alternatively, move the introductions. We all are tempted to start with an introduction: “Jane McDuff is the CEO of global company, Million Dollar Makers. I spoke to her last week …”

Actually, as reader, we don’t care about Jane McDuff until we are convinced that it will be worth our time to read her story. So we might start: “On the way to building her global empire, Jane McDuff made and lost her fortune several times. In the dark hours before triumphing with Million Dollar Markers, McDuff was up to her eyeballs in debt and ready to give up, when she was struck by a great idea.”

In other words, start with the bit that convinces me I need to keep reading.

Here’s a real example of a great lead written by Amanda Gome, a former editor and journalist with BRW magazine, now head of digital and strategy at ANZ bank. Here are the first two lines of her story, Top tips for women who want it all:

A very funny thing happened on the way to equality. We got waylaid with the most ridiculous of debates, which is still raging.”

Isn’t that simply irresistible, the most magnetic of content? It is almost impossible, if you are a professional woman (the target audience), not to read on.

Which brings me to the final key to a great start: understand your audience. If you are clear who your audience is, and address your first sentences to them, you will grab and hold their attention. Although men might read Gome’s story, the heading tells us specifically whom she is addressing. In fact, understanding your audience and writing to them specifically will improve every aspect of your blog, including a great start.

Anytime you feel lost, imagine telling your story to your best mate: how would you start it if you wanted to get their attention? That’s the beginning you want.

About Kath Walters

Trainer. Mentor. Speaker. Kath Walters is a former Fairfax business journalist turned expert in media relations and content marketing. Kath trains and mentors businesses that want to use media and content to build their profile and profits -- and change the world for the better -- sharing everything she has learned over 16 years of writing and editing for top quality print and digital media mastheads. Kath has written an estimated 1.3 million compelling, informative and carefully researched words. The mastheads that have published them include: LeadingCompany, BRW, Australian Financial Review, SmartCompany, Business Spectator, Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Property Observer.

1 Comment

  1. success@AusAsiaTraining.com'

    Rachael Mah

    May 14, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Brilliant tips and important reminder notes such as “knowing your audience”.
    Thank you very much Kate.

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