Don’t bury the lede: Put crucial information first

“Burying the lede” is the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first few paragraphs.

In corporate communications, “burying the lede” means you’ve failed to highlight the most important or actionable items at the beginning of your message.

Let’s say you are writing an email to all employees about a change to your organization’s health care plan. You wouldn’t begin the email with facts and statistics about the rising costs of health care or about the current turmoil in the health care industry. Instead, you would start the email by stating how your organization’s changes will affect employees:

We have chosen a new health care plan through ABC Health effective June 1. There will not be a premium increase associated with this change, but co-pay and deductible amounts have increased. There has also been a change to our provider list. Here are the details.

The following paragraphs should spell out the details, explain the reasons for the change and include facts about the rising costs of health care.

Corporate communicators know not to “bury the lede,” but that’s not always the case with your clients and executives, many of whom insist on putting background or irrelevant information front and center.

When working with these insistent clients, tell them that readers often have very little time or attention to digest their message. Too much information can distract and overtax readers, causing them to ignore the message completely. Ask clients or leaders if their message would be understood by someone who is reading it on their phone while standing in line at the grocery store.

Point out that background information and statistics can still be included in the message, such as being linked or listed under the heading “Background” or “Quick Facts.” You can also offer to summarize important information in a few bullets at the beginning of the message, and other information can follow later on.

Offering options, such as creating an infographic or placing the complicated information in a table, can be another way to persuade persistent clients and leaders. In the health plan example, a table can be an effective way to compare a new plan with the old.

PR Daily readers, how do you keep the lede in the forefront of your communications?


This post was first published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.

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