Mention “civic engagement” at a party, and people are apt to suddenly need to freshen their drinks. Start an article with “Civic engagement is important,” and your readers will (literally or symbolically) do the same.
Instead, start your article by describing a man who coached a basketball game in a three-piece suit – and no shoes. Tell why he did it: to show people what life is like every day for millions of African children. Share that though he was hoping to get 40,000 donated pairs of shoes, he got 125,000. Mention that this small act touched the hearts of people around the world.
Suddenly, no one’s going to the bar. And your readers are halfway into your article before they even realize it.
This is how Ric Burrous illustrated what civic engagement means to faculty and students at IUPUI, a college campus in downtown Indianapolis (and, I’m proud to say, my alma mater). Deep into the story, Burrous gets to mention the school’s service-driven community programs, no doubt making professors, volunteers, alumni, donors and students happy and significantly raising awareness of these programs, just as a communications department should.
But without pulling his readers in with the fascinating and well-told story of the “barefoot coach,” few people would have read the rest.
Nice job, Ric.