The pressure is palpable. You feel it in your chest, squeezing your lungs until you can barely breathe, causing that voice in your head to doubt yourself, to question everything you have learned to this point, to question, even, whether you’re cut out for the role that you’re in.
And that’s just writing the intro to a normal blog post. Imagine the pressure of writing the intro for a blog post about writing intros to blog posts!
And yet, you have to begin somewhere. And like most beginnings, it must serve a point: to grab the attention and interest of your readers. It’s often been said that the point of every line of copy is to get readers to move onto the next line. And if that is true, then the opening paragraph must capture their imagination so that they want to keep reading.
The team here at Candor has written thousands of introductions between us, and here we’ve compiled some of our tried and trusted practices (with examples) in order to help you write introductions you can be proud of. Let’s dive in!
1. Timely tie-in to recent news or events
You want your blog content to feel timely and relevant, and what better way to do that than by tying the opening into something that has been in the news recently? Try something like:
Yesterday, Google launched what it is calling a “helpful content update," aiming to punish publishers who post SEO-first content and to elevate "original, helpful content written by people, for people." What does that mean for your content strategy?
2. A fun or interesting anecdote
People love stories. Stories help us connect with other people and make sense of the world around us. By starting your blog post with a brief anecdote relevant to the point you want to get across, you can draw the reader in and help make your point more tangible. For example:
Jane Smith walked into her boss’s office and asked for budget approval on a new cybersecurity solution. Her boss looked at her from across his desk and asked why he should care whether their employees fell for phishing attacks. “We have bigger fish to fry,” he told her. But Jane knew something that her boss didn’t.
3. A first-person tie-in
It’s easy to feel like all blog content needs to be very professional and buttoned up, but sometimes readers just like to know that there’s a real person on the other side of the keyboard. Try telling them something about yourself in order to connect on a human-to-human level. Something like:
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to write good introductions to my blog posts. I’ll write and rewrite it a thousand times and still feel frustrated that the words don’t sound like I want them to. Then I’ll give it one more try, and at last the words all arrange themselves perfectly and I feel like the hours spent at my keyboard were all worthwhile.
4. A relevant or surprising fact
People typically read blogs to learn something new, and by presenting them with a little-known or surprising fact, you can shock their brains into paying attention. For example:
Did you know that the first electric vehicle was created in 1832? When Robert Anderson invented the first car to be powered by electricity, he could never have imagined that it would take close to two hundred years for his invention to reach the mass market.
5. Something completely unrelated with an unexpected tie-in
The writer and speaker Malcolm Gladwell has a way of describing one thing as a way of explaining something else. For example, he might describe the flight patterns of a flock of birds as a way of explaining why groups of people on social media behave the way they do. Try this in your own writing, using techniques such as:
White rhinos will often use communal dung heaps called "middens” as something like a community bulletin board where they can leave messages to the rest of the group. We’re not suggesting you try this as a way to get your message across, but there are lessons to be learned from middens when thinking about your company’s content marketing strategy.
6. Zoom in — or out
Sometimes it helps to put things in perspective by taking either the macro or micro view of things in the introduction of a blog post or article. You might zoom in to look at how an issue affects a specific person or a company at a granular level, or zoom out to look at the macro-picture of a specific trend. For instance:
In the history of humankind, people have written stories as a way of connecting with each other, of making sense of the world around them, and of passing wisdom down from generation to generation. And like every writer or storyteller to ever weave a tale, you might struggle to figure out where to begin yours.
7. Set the scene
To steal a writing tip from the world of fiction, another good place to start your blog post or article is by setting a scene for the reader. Describe where they are, what they are seeing or hearing or smelling, the environment around them. This is a great method to lure them in and drop them into the action, in a way such as:
It’s a Monday morning and the office is nice and quiet. A cup of coffee sits next to your laptop on your uncluttered desk while smooth, relaxing music plays through your headphones. You stare at a blank Word document, waiting for the words to the blog post to form in your head.
8. Ask a compelling question
Asking someone a question is a great way to get their mind going and engage them with your content. It helps if the question doesn’t have an easy answer, and they feel compelled to read on in order to find out what the correct answer should be.
What makes William Shakespeare the greatest playwright of all time? Is it the complex web of motivations found in each of his characters? Is it the way his plots bounce between comedy and tragedy? Or something entirely different, like the way his plays reflect the timeless aspects of human nature?
9. Highlight a common pain point
Many readers visit a company’s blog in search of solutions to a specific problem they are facing. So one good way to start your blog is by addressing that pain point head on and showing evidence that your company’s solution will work to alleviate their pain. To wit:
Today’s salon owners barely have enough time to manage staff, schedule appointments, and track inventory on a regular basis. But what if there was a software solution that did it all for them in real-time, so that they were free to focus on the type of work that made them want to open their salon in the first place?
10. Create an emotion
We’ll close our list with the way we started our own article. Another great way to write an introduction is to instill some kind of feeling or emotion in your reader, one that they can relate to from their own life. In this case, we tried to get you to feel the pressure that writers often feel when sitting down to write the introduction to an article. Did it work? Well, if you’ve read this far, we’ll assume it did!
What other methods do you use to write an introduction to a blog post or article? If you have more ideas beyond the ones offered here, please share them in the comments!