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Marcus Sheridan

By Marcus Sheridan

May 9, 2013


Content Marketing
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Content Marketing

2 Keys to Writing a GREAT First Paragraph to Every Blog Post You Ever Write

Marcus Sheridan

By Marcus Sheridan

May 9, 2013

2 Keys to Writing a GREAT First Paragraph to Every Blog Post You Ever Write

Over the past 18 months, I’ve been heavily involved in helping companies with multiple employees utilize insourcing as a means to produce large amounts of powerful content amongst 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 company blog, which are:

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

2. They aren’t sure how to get their article started, beating themselves up over the “right” first paragraph.

The solution to #1 is very simple—You take it out of their hands. In other words, employee 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 company’s content editor/officer. Although the idea of “just let the employees write about whatever they’d like” may sound nice, it doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried it enough times now to know this, and these days when my clients push for this “open” editorial approach I immediately shut the idea down. Editorial calendars are simply a must in every great content marketing campaign that involves multiple participants.

Once #1 is resolved and the employee is given an article to write, their 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 drastically. (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.)

Over the few months, I’ve spent a lot more time working with clients 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 2 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, I’m going to write a few example posts and show you 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:

Customer’s often come to us here at Lion’s Tech Services and ask us a simple question: Will a Mac or PC last longer? Ahh yes, a very good question indeed and an important one too for anyone that is looking to purchase a quality computer that will stand the test of time. And because we get this question so very much, today we decided to write an article explaining to you the potential pros and cons of each one 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’s 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 lately 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, “Customers come to us all the time…”or “Recently, a client asked me the following question…” By doing this, you’re making it clear you/your company are an expert in solving this problem, which is critical to your subtle selling success as a content marketer.

2. Empathy: No one wants to feel alone in 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 you as someone that is not only trustworthy, but “gets” them—opening up the doors for a potentially great working 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—big , small, B2B, B2C,etc.—it doesn’t make a difference, and it’s certainly a style that any employee, no matter what their writing abilities are, can relate to and benefit from.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on this method? Also, what have you done to help employees “get going” with their content marketing efforts?  As always, your opinion and questions matter, and I’d love to know what you think.

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