That All Important First ...


Take a look at the following opening paragraph in a recent Economist article:

“The porters at Trinity College, Cambridge, were puzzled by the faded, handwritten letter. They did not recognise the addressee’s name, and opened the envelope. Inside was a note which appeared to suggest a meeting; perhaps even a date. But that meeting probably never took place. The letter had been posted in March 1950 – and had been lost in the mail for 56 years.”

It sounds like another round of postal service bashing. After all, 56 years to deliver a letter takes “slowness” to a new level. Instead, the mini story kicks off a piece on a new technology that uses the satellite-based
Global Positioning System.

The opening paragraph in a recent story in BusinessWeek goes even further:

“It’s an ordinary day on Pete Ferrell’s 7,000-acre ranch in the Flint Hills of southeastern Kansas. Meaning, it’s really windy. When he drives his silver Toyota Tundra out of the canyon where the ranch buildings nestle, the truck rocks from the gusts. Up on top of a ridge, surrounded by a sweeping vista of low hills, rippling grass, and towering wind turbines that make you feel like a mouse scampering underfoot, Ferrell carefully navigates into a spot where the wind won’t damage the doors when they’re opened. Then he points to an old-style windmill, used for pumping water, which was erected by his father decades earlier when the ranch was in the throes of a drought. “That’s the windmill that saved us in the ’30s,” he explains, his voice growing husky with emotion.”

This is the type of stage setting you’d expect in fiction complete with the “voice growing husky with emotion.” Triggers an image of Lauren Bacall on the big screen.

Lauren BacallToday’s business and trade journalists – including those from the technology sphere – are increasingly charged with bringing an entertainment dimension to their writing.

Yet, it can be a revealing exercise for a company to step back and examine the content being developed to crack these targets particularly the all-too-elusive business media.

Facts and figures. Check.

Product features and benefits. Check.

But the elements that constitute good storytelling are often MIA.



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