The inverted pyramid is a principle borrowed from journalism for effective content writing. It helps readers gain the most important knowledge right under the headline.
It presents the most vital points that readers must know at the beginning of the article. It lets readers quickly skim through written content, absorb the elements that appeal to them, and decide to continue reading the article or not.
What is the inverted pyramid approach?
Making people wait and search all the way to the bottom of the news article can cause them to switch their attention. The inverted pyramid for content marketing satisfies their need for information and enhances recall value.
In many ways, this technique owes its origins to the military communications acronym called BLUF which stands for “Bottom Line Up Front.”
Gleaning into the inverted presentation in journalism
Have you ever wondered what makes us read a news article? What makes us stick to a topic of news feed – be it economics, business, sports, entertainment, lifestyle, yoga, etc.?
There are four reasons for it:
- Our interest in the topic
- The headline of the news article
- The author’s authority in the topic
- The depth of information in the article
Of all the above reasons, the information contained in the article is the most important. But the trick is to present the information in a manner that a reader can consume it easily.
The inverted pyramid approach has been a tried and tested method in journalism for many decades now and journalists across the world use it to write effective copy.
How does the pyramid help marketers in content writing?
How can marketers communicate effectively especially when they are putting together written content?
The answer lies in putting up information right at the top.
Let us look at a blog recently written by Joshua Hardwick, head of content at Ahrefs.com. Here is a snip of the blog.
Notice anything familiar? Joshua has adopted the inverted pyramid approach. The blog is about building local citations for businesses that are dependent on revenues from their neighborhoods. The author helps readers understand what ‘Local Citations’ mean before he uses an image to further explain it.
The target audience for this blog are probably owners of small businesses whose area of influence is limited to their localities, regions, and communities. Chances are high that they do not know what a Local Citation means and how they could benefit from it.
So, instead of dumping all his knowledge in one go, Joshua has a methodical approach to it – start with the definition, use an example, and then go with detailed explanations.
Where do we tend to go wrong?
As marketers and sales reps, we tend to make mistakes in our external communication. Here are a few things we must be careful about:
Hide information within the paragraph
Instead of placing the most vital information on top of the mail, we hide it in between a few sentences or within a paragraph. This hinders the reader’s experience. As a rule of thumb, never let a reader or a customer search for information within the copy. By doing this, you will be removing friction points and making it worth the reader’s time.
Be clear in your communication
If you can convey the important pieces upfront in the first paragraph clearly, you have done your job. Do not risk breaking it into smaller chunks and giving away some portions of it in the copy of the document. That way, you will end up confusing the reader. Instead, take the time to write a clear and concise message in your copy at the top. Read it twice before you launch it: to err is human; to edit, divine.
Bring out the facts
If you have some facts to convey such as numbers, data, etc., then you must bring them up front instead of placing it deeper. This ensures that readers can retain it for longer.
The corporate branding sins
Often, corporate brands make the mistake of communicating what they consider supremely important instead of putting out customer-focused content. For them, the triangle of writing is upright, and the most important section of the message might be buried somewhere deep within the copy.
This leads to quicker disengagement by their audiences and a lesser ROI for their content writing/ content marketing efforts. Brands and corporates have a responsibility to communicate effectively to their audiences and adopting the inverted pyramid of content writing helps them achieve that.
Bias in assumptions
We tend to assume that readers are already aware of what we have to say in our communication. For example, acronyms have no place in the opening paragraph unless you are sure that the reader already knows about it. At other times, it may be facts or data points that are crucial for decision making. So, ensuring that they are clearly mentioned at the top helps readers retain it longer.
In the inverted pyramid format, the first paragraph is a giveaway – it reveals everything that is important to a reader. This also means that the reader gets all the vital information even if she decides not to continue reading the content piece anymore.
This form of content writing has multiple benefits, such as:
- Readers can decide whether to continue reading or not.
- When readers read an article that matches their expectations, they tend to spend more time on it, thereby boosting its value.
- The Lede section of a content piece can have keywords embedded into it to enhance SEO.
So, the next time you sit down to write a content piece, try the inverted pyramid experiment and observe the results.
PS. In an inverted pyramid, PS is right at the pinnacle of it. People almost always read the PS, even if they don’t read the rest of the article. Use it to your advantage: put a call to action there or make it interesting enough to go back and read the rest of the article.