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2 Keys to Writing a Great First Paragraph for Every Blog Post - 5/14/2013 -

Well begun is half done, as they say. Here are some solid tips to help association team members get started with their blog posts.

By Marcus Sheridan

Over the past 18 months, I’ve been heavily involved in helping organizations utilize insourcing (http://www.thesaleslion.com/content-arms-race-single-author-blogs/) as a means to produce large amounts of powerful content among their staff and team members. During this time, I have found there are two main elements that deter employees from writing and participating in the organization’s blog, which are:

1. They aren’t sure what to write about.

2. They aren’t sure how to get their article started and beat themselves up over the "right” first paragraph.

The solution to #1 is very simple — You take it out of their hands. In other words, association teams should brainstorm the questions they get every day, at which point that list becomes blog titles, and then those very titles get assigned an employee name and date from the organization’s content editor/officer.

Although the idea of just letting the staff write about whatever they like may sound nice, it doesn’t work. When organizations push for this "open” editorial approach I immediately shut the idea down. Editorial calendars for your organization’s blog are simply a must in every great content campaign that involves multiple participants.

Once #1 is resolved and the staff member is given an article to write, the next "hold up” can often times be the first paragraph. The thing about this is if they are able to finish the first paragraph, their ability to finish the rest of the article increases dramatically. (Think for a second about doing the chores or working out — getting started can be the tough part, but once you’re going, it’s much easier to complete the task.)

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot more time working with organizations on how to systematize this first paragraph writing style in a way that is not only easy for the writer to produce, but also easy for readers to understand and appreciate.

The two core elements of a great opening paragraph for a business blog are quite simple to remember: Expertise and Empathy.

To help you see exactly how to use these two elements, here are a few example posts. Notice how the structure, style, and voice is almost exactly the same every time, no matter the subject or question. Here goes:

Blog Title: Mac vs. PC: Which Lasts Longer?

Opening Paragraph:

Customers often come to us here at Lion’s Tech Services and ask us a simple question: Will a Mac or PC last longer? Ah yes, a very good question indeed and an important one too for anyone looking to purchase a quality computer that will stand the test of time. And because we get this question so much, today we decided to write an article explaining to you the potential pros and cons of each of these computer systems.

Blog Title: What is the Most Energy Efficient Clothes Dryer on the Market?

Opening Paragraph:

A few days ago a customer came into our store here at Lion Appliances and had one goal in mind: She was looking for the most energy efficient dryer on the marketing today. Considering "green” has been such a hot topic lately, this is a question we’re fielding more and more, and it’s a great one to ask if you’re trying to conserve as well. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the industry’s most prominent models and show you the efficiency numbers for each.

Blog Title: What are the Best Ways to Save for College?

Opening Paragraph:

With the constant escalation of college tuition, more and more of our clients here at Lion Financial have been coming to us looking for the best ways to save for college and help their children get the education they deserve. As consultants that have worked with literally thousands of clients in helping make this dream a reality, we are passionate about this subject and have come up with the following 5 keys to helping you prepare for such an important endeavor.

Hopefully you’re starting to see a pattern here. The structure of each one of the paragraphs is the same:

1. Expertise. Mention that people come to you with a problem/or concern (Note: This concern is the subject/title of the blog post). You can do this by saying phrases such as, "Members come to us all the time…”or "Recently, a client asked me the following question…” By doing this, you’re making it clear your organization is an expert in this area, which is critical to subtly selling your organization and its content.

2. Empathy. No one wants to feel alone with their problems; they want to feel understood. This is a deep psychological need we all have, which is why simply adding phrases such as "we can relate” or "we appreciate” or "this is understandable” will go a long way in helping the reader view your organization as one that is not only trustworthy, but also "gets” them — opening up the doors for a potentially great relationship moving forward.

Another very simple way to look at this first paragraph structure is as follows:

1. People come to us with ____________ problem.

2. We understand and empathize with this problem.

3. Here is the answer to your problem.

Hopefully you see not only just how easy this method is, but also how it applies to any type of business or organization — big, small, association/non-profit, B2B, B2C, etc. It doesn’t make a difference, and it’s certainly a style that any staff member, no matter what their writing abilities are, can relate to and benefit from.

Marcus Sheridan is a content marketing consultant and author of The Sales Lion blog.


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