The Write Stuff

the-write-stuff

The importance of effective PR

When I was fresh out of college, I was taken out to lunch by a veteran copywriter as part of my induction into what was then my agency life. One thing he said that has remained with me forever was as follows: “Many people think they can write well, and many people think they can play the drums. Most can actually do neither, but I can do both!”

The fact is that he is correct, and most people can’t write well. There are no (credible) courses for learning it because it isn’t an acquired skill, but a natural talent. However, preparing commercial press releases does not require great creative writing ability. The majority of PR writers are rarely novelists, poets or even journalists. What they are is people who understand the skills required to get their very specific job done.

As journalists in a B2B space, we receive dozens of press releases. Many are superbly professional, but unfortunately many are also dreadful. And they are poor because they fail to follow some very simple rules. So, apart from (please) remembering to always provide a high-quality image – and not a company logo – here are the boxes that all of us in our world would like you to strive to tick…

Get the basics right

Creative writing brilliance not necessary for press releases. Your primary objective is to deliver factual information and what matters above all else is the basics. Simple sentences, straightforward language, correct spelling and good grammar and punctuation. Journalists are frequently fickle beasts, with big egos, and if you try to be too clever, they will dismiss your efforts.

Have a clear purpose

What do you hope your release will achieve? PR for the sake of it is almost always transparent and is a waste of your time and effort. Each release should be genuinely newsworthy to people outside of your own organisation and give the recipient a reason to care. Pumping out ‘pulp’ PR will not help you, in fact it may harm you as it may encourage journalists to ignore your future, more important, efforts.

Think like a journalist, write like a copywriter

Turning a sales message into a story is a challenge and those who are best at it have the minds of a journalist and the skills of a copywriter. Journalists identify interesting angles, instinctively steering away from overly promotional text. A good copywriter can introduce sales messages and demonstrate company expertise with subtlety, inspiring interest from journalists and action on the part of readers.

Stand out for the right reasons

When actually writing your releases, another huge challenge is writing in a way that will successfully break out of a crowded bunch. We receive ‘excited’ releases every day and this can lead us to be cynical and even distrustful of their content. We all heavily filter the content we receive, so you must provide information that earns our attention and convinces us that what you are telling us can actually make a meaningful difference.

Stimulate an emotional response

PR writing treads a fine line between what you want to talk about and what will resonate with the media you are trying to reach and influence. Being able to tell a story that stimulates a human response is a superb asset. As mentioned earlier, journalists are always looking for angles that add interest to each piece. We use language to create and add impact and the least we need from you is all the facts, all the information, solid quotes and strong visual images. If you can than tell us a (genuinely) interesting story behind that news, then your PR is sure to receive a favourable response.

Pay attention to SEO

And finally, in the case of 21st century PR writing, the final test of your skills is to remember that many of your most important readers are not even human beings. Search engines such as Google use ‘bots’ to index your (and our) web pages and rank them. Having ticked each of the boxes above, you must finally be pragmatic, and make sure that all the ‘keywords’ that you wish to be ranked for are included in your submission. In the case of Google, their current preference is for us all to demonstrate ‘E-A-T’ (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness), which hopefully means that the baddest bullsh*t is being banished!