Don't bury your lede.

Marketing is the ability to tell your story in a compelling and memorable way. Journalists do this every day, and there's something every marketer can learn from their journalistic brethren. It's a simple piece of advice given to every budding young reporter. That advice is: "don't bury your lede."

What's a lede? The lede is the most important part of the story. It's the gem that makes the story worth reading. Great journalists can spot a good lede in the midst of the most muddled story. And good marketers need to be able to do the same.

Here's an example of a great lede from a recent wall street journal article (hattip: Brandon Ducher)

Like most San Franciscans, Charles Pitts is wired. Mr. Pitts, who is 37 years old, has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He runs an Internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. The tough part is managing this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

Notice the lede isn't the fact he uses social networks, nor the fact he's homeless. It's the juxtaposition of the two. The idea that a homeless person has a digital identity is the heart of this story, and the author does a great job engaging you in the narrative with this unexpected angle.

To find the lede you have to sift through the chafe, the details that don't matter, and figure out what is actually worth talking about when it comes to your brand or product. You should grab the lede by it's collar and make it stand up front and center. The lede should lead.

The most common mistake is trying to say too much. You can't have multiple ledes, or you end up with a muddled, un-focused story that loses the reader. A good lede should be simple, concrete and memorable. It should hook the audience and keep the reader going.

Next time you're working on crafting a marketing message, pretend you're an outsider writing a news story. What aspect of the story is worth talking about? What's the most interesting angle? Try to identify the lede, and then give it the spotlight it deserves.

Written by Adam Harrell on June 16, 2009


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Adam Harrell