Journalists refer to it as the “nut graph.”
It’s short for “nut paragraph,” the part near the beginning that explains, in a nutshell, what the story is about. The nut graph often lends perspective, includes statistics or makes a comparison between something then and now.
Here’s an examples from a recent Wall Street Journal.
A front-page article on product placement on daytime TV opened with an anecdote about the ABC soap opera “All My Children.” The network had made a product placement deal with Wal-Mart just as producers were wrapping up one articular episode. That meant that at the last minute, writers had to redo the script to slip in a reference to Wal-Mart’s Enchantment Perfume. The article include four paragraphs from the rewritten script, then the nut paragraph:
“Product placement has been around for years, but now the practice is growing rapidly in daytime television. Butterball turkeys, Nascar shirts and Kleenex tissue have all taken recent star turns. Not only do the characters on ‘All My Children’ smell good, but they also have been swilling a lot of Florida orange juice–and not because they’re thirsty.”
Notice the comparison between then and now, followed by specific examples we can all identify with.
Why is it important for Publicity Hounds to be able to find nut graphs in newspaper and magazine stories? Because reporters write nut graphs to explain to readers what the story is about. You, too, should use the same elements in nut graphs to explain to journalists what your stories are about.
A nut graph will often flag the reader to an emerging trend. So, too, can your pitch. Another story, this one in the Marketplace section of a recent Wall Street Journal, did just that.
The story was about Tom Dolby, the guy who cuts and arranges other people’s pop songs so they become ring tones on cell phones. The story opened with the first paragraph explaining that Dolby hasn’t had a hit song since 1983 but that he still earns a living making music by writing ditties like “Tropical 2” and “Groove” that have become ring tones for telephones. Then the nut graph that explains the trend:
“The fad for ring tones based on pop hits is well-known, making the ringers a $2.2 billion business world-wide. But for some artists, including a growing number of current ones, original ring tones are a growth market, too.”
That nut graph is a tip-off that any time you can include sales figures in your pitch, you will get a journalist’s attention.
The next time you’re reading an article, look for the nut graph. Identify its elements, then use those same elements when composing your own story pitches.
Getting free publicity in print is easy if you know all the tricks. I shared them with George McKenzie when he interviewed me for a CD we produced called“Get Free Publicity in Print.” It’s my favorite interview. Read more about what we discussed, or order CD or cassette tape.