By: Kelli Griffin
Throughout our time in the Manship School of Mass Communication, one lesson has been stressed over and over from day one: the importance of impeccable writing.
In public relations, the written word is at the core of everything we do. from memos and talking points, to news releases and media advisories and from video scripts and research reports, to tweets and Facebook posts, everything comes back to writing.
I have put together a few simple tips that can help anyone improve their PR writing skills.
- Make sure you always use AP style. Because so many of a public relations practitioner’s deliverables are sent to the media, it is important to write the same way as the media. This means you should use active voice whenever possible, should always use parallel construction and should never use the Oxford comma unless leaving it out would cause confusion.
- Inverted pyramid is your friend. When writing a news release, make sure you use the inverted pyramid style. This means that the most important information comes first, and the least important comes last. Newspapers have limited space and newscasts have limited time. Reporters and editors will just cut information off of the end of your news release to make it fit within their story parameters.
- Know your medium. The writing for social media will look much different than the writing for a sponsorship package. Tweets are limited to 140 characters and can be more casual, while an annual report should be more formal and professional.
- Know your audience. When doing work for clients, keep in mind that not only are you giving your work to them, your work will be passed on to their audience. Our client, Connections for Life, is a nonprofit in Baton Rouge that helps women who have recently been released from incarceration to transition into an independent life. Connections for Life also runs a thrift store. We have to find balance in our messages. What appeals to thrift store shoppers may not appeal to people who donate to nonprofits. Knowing who is likely to receive our messages will help us shape our stories to have the greatest impact.
- Edit, edit, edit! Always check over your work at least once, if not twice. Then have someone else look at it too. Careless errors detract from your message and make you seem less credible.
Writing skills are a key component of any PR practitioner’s toolbox. Taking the time to think through what you write will pay off in the long run, and remember, as with any other skill, practice makes perfect.