Updated: Oct 23, 2020
We all know that fishermen use bait on a hook to catch fish. Makes perfect sense, really. The bait lures the fish to bite and before they know it, the hook’s got them, well...hooked.
The same principle applies when you’re writing a great intro for an article or blog – in journalism, it’s even known as the ‘news hook’ - an introduction that will entice the reader to begin the story and be interesting enough to keep them reading.
In the media, it’s usually about finding the element of the story that makes it topical right now, that links it to something that’s going on in the news (hence the name news hook). The same technique can be used to write a great intro in content writing, even if the topic isn’t newsy, by starting the story with something I call ‘colour’. This is especially important if the topic is perceived as dry or a bit grey.
And as a writer that specialises in business, and has written a lot about insurance and superannuation, I know the importance of a colourful intro more than most. If you’re an astute reader, you’ll see I’ve done it here, starting this blog with a story about fishermen, when it has nothing to do with fishing but is, in fact, about engaging writing.
If you’re still reading I’ll assume it worked, and if you’d like to learn how to do it yourself, read on.
Colour versus grey
Below is the intro I used in an article for a construction management company to promote its involvement in a building project at a well-known theatre. “Like the hard-working performers that tread its boards, the [well-known] theatre doesn’t
get too many days off. Two, in fact, with Christmas Day and Good Friday the only downtimes
in a schedule that involves around 330 performances a year.” Now, let's consider the alternative. “[company name] is pleased to have been chosen to project manage the redevelopment of the
[well-known] theatre.” If I’d begun the piece like that, do you think many people would have read on?
Here’s another example, from a blog post for a consumer finance company, about the impact of a fall in the share market on the value of their customer’s super portfolios at the peak of COVID-19. “If you’ve been watching the news over the past few weeks (and frankly, who hasn’t),
you’ve probably heard that the share market has plummeted to new lows. You might think
this doesn’t affect you, but if you’re one of 16 million Australians with super savings then
guess what? You’re also an investor in the share market which means that you, too, have a
dog in the fight.”
“This week the Australian share market hit record lows due to COVID-19, affecting the
superannuation savings of more than 16 million Australians.” Yawn.
How to find the colour
If you're struggling to find the colour in your story, there are a few cheats you can use to make your intro catchier. Tried and tested methods include beginning with:
An interesting quote
A startling statistic
A strange fact
A thought-provoking question
Of course, it has to have some relevance to the topic you’re writing about, but providing you can make the link back, the intro itself can be as off-topic as you’d like.
Leave it to the experts
But if writing just isn’t your thing, the good news is there are plenty of writers out there (like me!) who can help. If you’d rather just outsource to an expert, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.