How to write a lede for marketing emails

Follow the leader

If it bleeds, it leads. This adage is well-known in journalism. When writer’s block hits, journalists can always fall back on blood and violence. Ok, that might be a bit, ahem, dramatic. Nonetheless, itʼs a fact that bold statements hook readers. Making bold statements doesnʼt mean making your marketing email dramatic in order to engage your audience. What it does mean, however, is learning how to grab a reader’s attention. And keep it. That’s why every email marketer should lead with a “lede.”

Wait, what the heck is a “lede?”

Simply put, a “lede” is the opening sentence of a news story. It’s the most important series of words in any article because it entices readers into reading the entire piece. Failing to mention the important, interesting, or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first few sentences is called “burying the lede.” Your lede sets the tone for the entire email. Since it’s your first impression, don’t rush it. Carefully craft your first sentence; linger over each word. Then re-read, revise, and rework it. Remember, you are CRAFTING CONTENT, not churning out random words. It’s important to create compelling ledes for marketing emails.

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The lead sentence in your marketing email is just as important as a “lede” in a news story. You may write the catchiest, cleverest email in marketing history, but if your lede doesn’t hold your reader’s attention, the rest of your email won’t be read. And if that doesn’t happen, your email won’t engage anyone because your prospective customers wonʼt read it in the first place!

American novelist Joan Didion said, “What’s so hard about the first sentence is that you’re stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence.” Your first sentence — your lede — is the cornerstone of your email.

5 tips how to write a lede for marketing emails

How to Write a Lede

1. Get to the point.

Your readers are busy people. So, youʼve got to engage them by giving essential, emotive information in the first sentence.

2. Provoke people.

Be provocative by using bold statements. Remember, there’s a fine line between provoking people and pissing them off, so strike a balance between controversial language and informative language. Above all, your lede should be substantive.

3. Take your time.

Writing good leads takes practice and patience. If youʼve got writerʼs block, take a walk. Seriously, walking away from your email can help you overcome writer’s block.

4. Challenge conventional knowledge.

There’s no better way to engage an audience than to tell them they’re wrong! It may sound shocking, but readers really want to hear what you’ll say next when you kick-off an email by saying they’re missing key information that you can share with them.

5. Keep it simple.

Great ledes are succinct. Write the lede, read it, revise it, and relentlessly edit it. Here are some sample ledes to inspire your next email:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It was a pleasure to burn.” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Magazine feature writer John McPhee said, “a good lede is like a flashlight shining down into the story.” Don’t leave your readers in the dark. Light their way by creating awesome ledes for marketing emails. Now, go make it happen! Think you’ve got your first sentence nailed down? Now you know how to write a lede for your marketing emails. You must now check out how you can make your email subject line pop just as much.

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Plume & Post
Plume & Post is an agency founded by three friends who believe that small businesses blaze trails that can change the world. Marketing strategists at heart, we've built blogs, created editorial calendars, designed infographics and written whitepapers to achieve big-picture results for small businesses (those measured in dollars). We enjoy every opportunity to collaborate with small businesses to create valuable content for their audiences.