When I was in journalism school we called it “burying the lede.” That is, the failure to mention the most important, interesting,or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph.
In corporate communications, “burying the lede” refers to the failure to mention the most important or actionable items at the beginning of your message.
To use a recent example, let’s say you are writing an email to all employees explaining your company’s flu vaccination policy. The policy states that all employees must receive a flu shot or file a declination form or be subject to disciplinary action. You wouldn’t begin this email with facts and statistics about the flu. You would start the email by calling attention to the steps employees need to take to avoid disciplinary action.
“Because receiving a flu vaccine is the best way to protect our patients, families and ourselves from the flu, all employees must receive a flu vaccine or file a declination form with Human Resources by December 1. Several vaccination clinics will be open to all employees in October. Receive your free flu shot at the following locations . . .”
The following paragraphs could then further explain the “why” and include statistics about the flu.
As experienced communicators, PR Daily readers know not the “bury the lede.” But that’s not always the case with our clients and executives, many of whom insist on putting background information or information that is irrelevant to your readers front and center.
When working with these insistent clients, I point out that readers may have very little time or bandwidth to digest their message. Too much information can distract and overtax readers, causing them to ignore the message completely. I ask clients if their message would be understood by someone who is reading it on their phone while standing in line at the grocery store.
I also point out that the background information and statistics can still be included in the message. That information can be linked or can be listed at the end under the heading “Background” or “Quick Facts.” I also offer options, such as adding an infographic or putting complicated information in a table.
PR Daily readers, care to share your tips on how to unbury ledes?
This article was first posted on Ragan Communications PR Daily.
Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. She writes about writing at impertinentremarks.com.