Burying the lede

Posted on Nov 9, 2015

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.

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3 Comments

  1. D Champness
    April 19, 2011

    Dear Bob,
    Often I struggle on websites to determine exactly what a company does and perhaps more importantly, why I should care. Only a few days ago I saw a large banner for a big life sciences company of the FT website which proudly stated that this company was helping to feed the world in a sustainable way. But when I clicked on the banner I was dumped onto their web site home page with a list of contents and no mention of the theme that had drawn me there in the first place. In fact I had to work hard to find the information I was looking for. Most people would have clicked away in a heartbeat. And this is not an exception – there are just so many websites even from Fortune 500 companies that fail to capitalize on the interest they have paid good money to generate in the first place.

    Reply
  2. Bob
    April 19, 2011

    You’re exactly right. The mistake of not having proper landing pages to send people to is worth a blog entry all by itself.

    Nothing turns a suspect into a prospect better than the reaction, “I’ve landed in just the right place.”

    Reply
  3. will
    April 20, 2011

    great point. keep the story rolling, reassuring through that user’s experience

    Reply

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