This is a guest contribution from Kelly Diels-Rostant.
“Where’s The Beef?” asked the lil’ ol’ lady and in so doing launched her late-blooming acting career.
It was 1984. Clare Peller was eighty-four years old. It was her first acting gig and it was a hit. Her Wendy’s spot spawned a series of follow-up commercials, launched a slew of licensing and merchandising deals (t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, oh my!), and became an instant cultural catch-phrase.
It may even have turned the tide of a presidential primary. In a televised debate, listening to presidential hopeful Gary Hart talk about his “new ideas”, rival Walter F. Mondale leaned forward and said, “When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of that ad, ‘Where’s the beef?’”.
Mondale, not Hart, won the democratic nomination. That’s the power of a pithy, provocative phrase. A hook. The beef. And your blog post has got to have it.
So let me tell you where your blog post beef is: it’s the best, most quotable line of your piece, and I promise you it’s already there.
Really, it’s there. You already wrote it. It’s just in the wrong place.
But first, a little background.
The most quotable line of your blog post could – and should – be the first line. The hook. Hook your readers.
In conventional newspaper journalism, the first line of the piece is the entire piece: Who. What. When. Were. Maybe even how and why. All in one line. The way if the reader stops reading right there after the first line (bad reader! lazy reader!), she still got everything she needed to know.
Which means she can stop reading, yes?
Is that what you want your blog readers to do? Stop reading after the first line?
So that’s instructive. To write effective, compelling, must-read blog posts, accept the dramatic imperative of classical journalism and hook your reader with the first sentence. Then abandon the methodology – do NOT spill the who, what, where, when or how. At least not yet.
Write hooks, instead, which means don’t give it all away the first line. In fact, don’t lead with any context at all. Context can come later, in the second pararaph, or even later, in the second section of your post.