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It may have been fatal for the proverbial cat, but I rate curiosity very highly when it comes to crafting a compelling piece of content.
Journalists are well known for asking questions, digging away beneath the surface of a story and coming up with new angles the real 'peg' or 'hook' on which to hang their news piece or article.
You may be involved in producing what you see as more 'serious' business content. But, whatever your specialism, the journalist's technique will serve you well.
It's easy for us all to fall into the habit of writing in what I call an 'informational' style. We have facts and knowledge to share but what is it that will grab the attention of our intended reader ... and hold on to them?
Think about your piece from your reader's point of view.
When I critique a piece of writing for a client, here are some of the questions I ask:
- What's your purpose in writing about this?
- What's the key question your reader is asking about this subject right now?
- How does it impact their lives?
- How does your message or opinion relate to them?
- What's the key takeway for them?
- What's the real story here?
When planning your piece and when reviewing your own work, imagine you are coming to your subject for the first time. Be curious about it. Your reader may see it in very different light to you.
Remember your headline's one and only job is to make me read your opening sentence. And the job of your opening sentence is to make me read on.
Throughout your piece, constantly ask yourself this:
So what? Who cares?
Or, as one of my writing students recently announced when reading her first draft aloud, "Oh, who gives a ****?"
Just use whatever works for you!
Despite your expertise, you may not have all the answers at the start. Often the real gem of a 'hook' lies outside your current awareness. Push your boundaries.
Just keep on asking questions and you'll get there.
Let me know if you have useful tips for uncovering the 'real story' - what works for you?
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