7 Ways to Improve Your PR Writing
I recently read a blog post, tweeted by Mark Ragan, Publisher of PR Daily, titled “Why is PR writing so atrocious?” In it, Ragan laments the sad state of writing in the PR industry – so bad that he has to “sit down with a jug of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Advil” when he reviews press releases.
Ragan makes some good points – an overabundant use of buzz words, write-by-template releases, and publicists who don’t really understand the topic or industry about which they’re writing.
But here’s the really important question – how can PR writing be good? Here are my answers – 7 tips to make your writing, and your overall media relations work, better.
- Know Your Client: The biggest recurring issue I see in the PR industry is publicists not taking the time to understand what they’re representing. You must research and understand the client, their work and their industry in order to write about and pitch them effectively. And the good news is – this can be a lot of fun! I think of my work in PR and marketing as being a perpetual student.
At Canary Promotion, we work with arts, culture, entertainment, and mission-driven clients. We have researched such far-flung topics as the work of famed children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, Anton Chekhov and the history of Russian society, Arctic Exploration, and even 1970s horror literature and movies. Do your research, and you’ll start to see how your client fits into the bigger picture.
- Know Your Audience: Sending personalized pitches, tailored to each press contact will always garner better results than blasting out the same pitch and press release to a big list of unnamed contacts. You may need to write slightly different versions of your pitch and press release, depending on the type of media outlet you’re contacting. Think about what aspect of the story will most appeal to the editor or reporter in question and lead with that angle.
- Read, Read, Read: How do you learn about your audience and your client’s industry? Read as much as you can on relevant topics. How is the media covering the industry? You may find that your client has a great companion story to a previously published article. Contact the writer of that article with a well-written pitch and let them know about it.
- Be a Journalist, Conduct Interviews: The best way to find great story angles is to sit down and interview your clients, their collaborators, and maybe even their audiences or customers. At the beginning of any new client engagement, we meet with key people at an organization to talk about their mission, their vision and their goals. This immediately gives us a more personal connection to the work. It provides insight into the client’s identity and how we can shape their message in our writing.
- Make Outlines: Have a bit of writer’s block? Start with an outline. While filling in the blanks of a template can produce a pretty bland and poorly written release, mapping out the flow of your release and the main points you want to hit upon can help keep your writing more focused.
- When in Doubt, Edit: Self-editing can sometimes be a challenge. You’ve written three pages, and you’re not sure what information in your release could be cut. Walk away from what you’ve written for a few hours and come back to it with fresh eyes. Think about your intended audience. Do they really need that extended client bio or all the technical specs of the product? In some cases, they might. But if it’s not crucial to telling the story, it might be time to turn those three pages into two.
- Tell a Story: How do you want to see your client portrayed in the media? What is the story you’re trying to tell? Make sure you’re conveying a compelling but focused message with a press release that highlights your key story points and guides members of the press toward the story you want to tell.
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