Posted by: beccathomas | April 27, 2010

Writing a Lead (Topic of the week 8)

I am currently taking a Public Relations Writing class at Georgia Southern University, and as a part of that class we are required to take several online help courses.  These courses are put on by Poynter’s News University.  The courses they offer can serve as a great learning tool, and have proven to be very useful.  The course that I took recently was called “The Lead Lab”.  It was all about how to write leads effectively and efficiently.

From this course I learned many useful things.  I learned that the most important part of any news release is the lead paragraph.  This is where you give the reader the details of the story and entice them to read further.  This lead paragraph should be three to five sentences long.  The first one to three sentences of the lead paragraph should give the reader the most important facts.  Your lead should include the most newsworthy information from your publication.

I was surprised to learn that most people clutter their lead and load it with too much information.  This turns off journalists and reporters from reading your entire publication.  You want to stay to the point in your publication and not stray from the most newsworthy information.    Another common error when writing leads is to use too much hype.  This also turns off journalists.  They key is to stay to the facts.

I would have liked to see some more examples in the course.  The more examples I have, the more confident I will feel about the subject matter.  I would have also liked to have a few more exercises that let you decide if the lead was too cluttered.  I think never hurts to have more practice.

I think this course was worth my time, and I think you should check it out for yourself.  I know it will serve as a good teaching tool, or a nice reminder on important facts.

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