Monday, November 3, 2008

Mastering the Art of Writing PR

Here's three ways you can ensure your PR words will get noticed and printed.

What makes good PR copy?

For most practitioners, good copy means getting the corporate message across effectively and promoting products and services in the best way possible.

For journalists and editors ~ the publicity gatekeepers ~ good PR copy is good news copy.

And for enterprising writers with PR clients, good copy means promoting your clients in a newsworthy fashion. It must be news to make the news. If it's 'fluff' it will be trashed. Pure and simple.

Here's three ways you can ensure your PR words will get noticed and printed:

1. Think like a reporter

As a PR writer, you need to wear two hats – as journalist delivering a strong news-worthy story and as PR/marketing consultant ensuring your client gains good publicity and value for money.

The key is wearing both hats simultaneously, so that you can please both audiences – the journalist and your client. And, that’s why a large proportion of media releases fail, because the PR writer has failed to cater to both audiences.

You must understand that a busy journalist on a daily newspaper may receive anything from 20 to 50 releases a day. They haven’t got all day to read them, so you have to attract their interest with your headline or lead, otherwise your release will be filed in the trash. It’s also important to remember that any journalist who has been in the business more than a few months has become jaded by teaser campaigns, cagey copy, flattery, bribery or any other tricks you or your client can think up.

The best ~ no ~ the only technique that will work with a journalist worth their salt is to deliver clean, clear, straight copy. Anything else and you are wasting your time, their time and your client’s money.

2. Write like a journalist

Adopt the 'inverted pyramid' style of writing. This style essentially presents information in order of importance. It has a dual purpose of instantly capturing the reader’s attention and enabling the editor to cut the story from the bottom-up to suit space requirements.

When writing stories for the media, ensure your introductory sentence – or lead – summarizes the major points. All of the 'who, what, when, where and how' of the story should be contained within the first two or three sentences of your release.

To get a better idea, read the first few sentences of stories in your newspaper. You’ll discover that you know all of the essential information. The following paragraphs merely build on the framework.

As you are fleshing out the body of the story, add relevant quotations. Quotes contain active language and, because they are people-oriented, we are drawn to them. They also add an extra layer of credibility to whomever is being quoted.

3. Use your PR license to sell

One of the distinctions between journalism and PR copy is a little thing called ‘license’. Your goal is to satisfy three audiences: your client, since they’re paying your bills; the journalist, since they’re the gatekeeper to publication; and their readers, since they’re everyone’s reason for living.

To achieve this, you may need to add some PR license to the stories you are writing.

If, for example, your client gives you a one-line brief regarding a new widget being released. And your task is to gather information from the product manager and quote the CEO (this is not unusual), then you can have some license with the quotes.

Conversely, if you have interviewed a client’s customer and some of the quotes are a little uninspiring, you can apply some license in enhancing words, as long as they remain true to the spirit of the interview and that you gain formal approval from the customer.

In fact, every PR story, brochure or project you undertake should be formally approved by all relevant parties before it is syndicated to the media or sent off to the printers.

That means sending off the finished draft and including an approval form, so that corrections can be made and the form signed. This will not only ensure quality but it will also protect you from any legal issues, if you have misquoted someone.

PR has gained a bad rap from journalists over the years. The mean reason is that some PR practitioners forget the first rule of marketing. Know your target audience. And, when it comes to PR, your audience is more than the readership of the publications ~ it's also the gatekeepers of that publication.

If you can learn to satisfy the needs of journalists and editors, you will find your PR releases making news and companies making inroads for your office.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I found this article helpful.