Read this. You won’t be sorry.

Read This

Somewhere between 2 and 8 seconds.

That’s how long you have to capture someone’s attention (some say 15 seconds, but my recent scrolling history challenges that. Try it. You’ll see).

A couple years ago, I went away by myself for a 2-night retreat. I wanted time to get out of the weeds and create some space to think and plan. The first night, I crashed on the couch with a glass of wine, my laptop connected to the TV in the old, dusty cottage. With infinite options across several streaming services and zero family members to accommodate, I chose the most exciting, heart-racing, blood-pumping, binge-worthy thriller I could think of – Master Class – this one by Salmon Rushdie. That’s what nerds do and I think nerds are cool, so I’m good with that.

Among all the great lessons of storytelling he shared, one sticks with me almost daily as we work to become the best storytellers in our field. I challenge myself, our team and our clients to live by it.

Your first sentence is your contract with your audience.

It says what comes after is worth your time. This is true whether you’re crafting a feature length article, an instructional video or a tiny Tweet.

Is this common sense? Maybe, but didn’t Yogi Berra say, “common sense is not so common”? It wasn’t Yogi Berra at all, but it sure sounds like him. It was Voltaire. And he’s right.

I spent some time in the google-verse looking at some of the leading brands we follow to see if they get this idea.

I started by looking at the first line on their homepages. Then, the voices of all our digital experts played in my head: no one goes to a homepage anymore. They go where their search takes them. True, but the same rule applies – homepage, blog page, sales presentation or email. Does the first line compel you forward?

Check these out.

GE? Beginning again? What does that mean? Why are they doing that? How does it impact me?
I’m in. Let’s read on.


I feel the empowerment, but this generic message could apply to anyone, at any time. I might even own a hoodie that says exactly this. Tip: Replace ‘what we make it’ with something more specific. Leverage the company values, strategic priorities. Digging into their content a little further, you can see Honeywell believes the future is determined by what we do today.

How about this opener? We create the future. Let us show you how.

John Deere

Teamwork. Interested already. This equipment company uses the prime real estate on their site, not to talk about the ‘amazing machinery, technology and services’ they make, but to pull us into a story. I’m clicking. Nicely done.


Oh boy. I know annual results are key, but anyone looking for the annual report can find it pretty easily. Scrolling down their home page a little further, you see some compelling stats about climate change and a video about their net zero approach. I think they’ve buried the lead. Don’t do that.

I hope you’re thinking about your own homepage now or your latest sales presentation that starts with a bland slide heading: “About Us” or “Agenda”. If so, stop right now and go create a compelling hook. One statement about the big problem you solve. Maybe even ditch the agenda slide altogether.

I’m going to take my own advice and try this:

“Hey teenager, you won’t believe what I saw in the dishwasher!”

You just have to empty it to find out.

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