The Power of the Introduction, Angle and Top Line.

By Jon Kirk

‘Cougars’ seen in Essex copy – to be avoided

We discussed the importance of delivering creative, newsworthy copy in an earlier post. Today, we look at the effect and relevance of the introduction, or ‘top line’.

In simple terms, the first paragraph should tell the reader what the story is about. Sounds obvious, right? Yet you’d be amazed by the number of companies which fail to grasp this (rather basic) point. And it’s not just internal press teams at fault; some agencies and PRos are just as bad. Take this example:

Forget the lion there are over 1000 Cougars loose in Essex.

With the sightings of a Big Cat in Essex hitting the headlines, Illicit Encounters has offered up its own explanation of the large cat sighting, claiming that it may have actually been a Cougar. They are of course referring to the slang term of a woman who seeks encounters with younger men. A quick search of the website reveals that it has over 1000 “Cougars” registered in the Essex area alone.”

Or this:

Last year the world witnessed the problems companies can encounter when it is found that emails, particularly those that contain evidence, have been erased. While most organisations assume they have free reign to delete emails, there are preservation laws in place that must be adhered to.”

It goes on: “Emails that must be preserved for a designated amount of time include: [etc etc]”

And this:

Everyone comes across times when you are short of cash; it may be an essential school educational trip, your car needing urgent work doing on it or the washing machine breaking down, (typically when you have LOTS of washing to do) or even your pet falling ill and expensive vets bills that need to be paid.

We always try and prepare for unexpected situations like this, but sometimes it’s just not easy to do, especially with the economy how it is it’s harder and harder to have some money saved for a ‘rainy day’, so we end up struggling…

This is where GimmeDosh can help…”

Unfortunately, then, contrived intro’s – which are also often ‘dropped’ – invariably bore the pants off everyone, regardless of the quality of product, service or brand they (eventually) refer to.

The three rules to effective introduction writing are:

  1. Get to the point – tell the whole story in one paragraph
  2. Use plain English – swallowing a dictionary won’t win extra points (or column inches)
  3. Make it newsworthy – and remember there’s a difference between what you (or, more likely, your clients) might think is newsworthy and what it, in fact, worthy of coverage.

Here are a few examples of the intro’s we’ve used – all of which secured national (and often international) media exposure for our clients:

It’s the bees’ knees of affordable anti-ageing treatments. A new type of ‘miracle’ honey that could reverse the ageing process by up to 10 years goes on sale today amid predictions of a buying frenzy.

  • A real-life Willy Wonka has been forced to step down as ‘Britain’s Chief Chocolate Taster’ – after piling on the pounds.
  • The American gangster who inspired 1970s cult flick The Godfather was a ”fake”, a British historian claimed yesterday.
  • A singer whose debut single was crowned the ‘worst song of 2010’ had the last laugh yesterday after being offered £10,000 – for her ”insightful” autobiography.
  • An eccentric British author plans to launch his latest book where no book has launched before – into space.
  • They say not everything is black and white…Naturalists who flocked to Cornwall to catch a glimpse of a “rare” wild skunk colony had their noses put out of joint yesterday after the animals turned out to be – remote-controlled TOYS.
  • The world’s first waterproof paperback will hit the shelves next summer, publishers revealed yesterday.

The bottom line is that there are no hard and fast rules about drafting the perfect top line. Just remember that securing national coverage is hard enough without adding your own, additional, obstacles.

Until the next time.