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Lecture #14
List 5 examples that a PR professional can
use public relations writing.
Even with the growth of the internet, public
relations writing is still a critical part of this
PR professionals are professional
communicators, and often that means
communicating through writing.
PR professionals should write and speak
better than any of their colleagues.
The ability to write easily, quickly, and clearly
is what classifies the role of PR professionals
from others in an organization.
Upper management often have finance, legal,
engineering, or sales experience, but when
they reach the top, it is important that they
are able to write articles, speeches, memos,
and testimony.
They often need advisers, those being the PR
There are many PR professionals who are
poor writers.
Writing for the eye must be able to withstand
the most rigorous scrutiny.
Writing for the ear gives the audience the
chance to only listen to the message and
comprehend it.
PR professionals must understand the
difference between writing for the ear and
writing for the eye.
Writing takes patience and hard work.
The writing must precede the expression:
relate to the reader
engage the readers attention
concern the reader
be in the reader’s interest
It is key to come up with clever ideas, it isn’t
always about inventing the wheel, but rather
reinventing the wheel.
Don’t be Afraid to Draft: the writer should
produce a draft once there is an idea for a
purpose to communicate– not matter how good
an individual is at writing, it can usually use a
second look.
Simplify and Clarify: Simpler is better, use
Standard English, avoid jargon and “in” words.
Writing Must Be Aimed at a Particular Audience:
the writer must have the target group in mind
and construct messages accordingly.
Rudolf Flesch believed that we should write just
the way we talk.
He thought that by doing so we write simpler.
His seven suggestions for making writing more
Use contractions- it’s, doesn’t
Leave out the word “that” as much as possible
Use pronouns- I, we, they, you
When referring back to a noun, repeat the noun or use a
pronoun. Don’t create eloquent substitutions
◦ Use brief clear sentences
◦ Cover only one item per paragraph
◦ Use language the reader understands.
Jim Ylisela- journalist and organizational
writing instructor
Believes you should make the words count
◦ Be specific: corporate writing is too vague
◦ Use more words: stretch your vocabulary
◦ Find better verbs: action oriented verbs drive
◦ Pursue the active voice: PR writers should not use
passive construction
◦ Omit needless words: cut words in a sentence by
Embrace simplicity and clarity: avoid big
words and long sentences. Rid hype and
Tell a good story: use examples, illustrations,
anecdotes, and personal experience to make
Find interesting voices: quote people who are
interesting and say interesting things
Take chances: go out and write the daring. Be
Rewrite: everything can be improved.
Form of a newspaper story.
Climax is at the beginning.
Tell the most important information at the
beginning of the story and end with least
important facts.
Designed so that if the reader only reads the
first paragraph they will know the key facts
and what the story is about.
The “lead” usually includes the who, what,
when, where, why, occasionally how.
The news release is the original vehicle for PR
PR Newswire is a wire service used by
Distribute over 1,000 news releases to 170
The release may be written to document or
state an organization’s official position.
Used to influence a publication to write
favorable about the material in the release.
Most releases are not used word for word, but rather
to intrigue an editor to consider covering a story.
Reasons why releases aren’t used
◦ Releases are poorly written- complicated to read style that
isn’t used in most news stories
◦ Releases are rarely localized- 10 times more likely to be
used when localized
◦ Releases are not newsworthy-
Based on impact (on community)
Oddity (unusualness of the story).
Conflict (a significant dispute or controversy)
Known principle ( the greater the individual the great the chance
of it being used- President, Governor, Mayor, etc.)
 Proximity (how localized the stories is)
 Also, Human interest stories
Have a well-defined reason for the release.
Focus on one central subject.
Make certain the subject is newsworthy in the
organization, industry, and community.
Include facts about the product, service, or issue.
Provide the facts without puffery.
Don’t use jargon.
Include appropriate quotes.
Include product specifications- ship date,
availability, and price.
Include a brief description of the organization at
the end of the release.
Write clearly and concisely.
A sloppy writing style can kill any great story
ideas an organization might have.
◦ Capitalization- use caps sparingly
◦ Spelling- have a dictionary with you at all times
◦ Abbreviations- months when it is with a date, whole
month then it is by itself or with a year, always write
out the whole name of days of the week, use a
whole name once and then abbreviate.
 Dec. 11, 2012, December 2012
 Thursday, not Thurs
 Public Relations Society of America, then use PRSA
Numbers- spell out zero through nine, use
figures for 10 and up. Numerals are fine for
times, percentages, speeds, election returns,
heights, ages, sports, ratios.
◦ Colon: introduces listings, tabulations, and statements
◦ Coma: used before connecting words, between two
words or sentences that may be misunderstood.
◦ Exclamation Point! Don’t use unless absolutely
◦ Hyphen: overused, can change the meaning of the
◦ Quoted Material: enclosed in double or single quotation
marks. The single marks are used for a quote inside a
“Press Release”- For immediate release, includes a date.
Headline- should be catchy
Sub headline
Cutline- states what the photo is up and any accreditation
Copy- what the message actually is
Website- may link to more info about what the release is
sharing with audiences or could just be organization
About paragraph- short paragraph about the organization
Contact- information for the person of contact AKA you,
the PR person.
PR professionals can now upload press
releases online, completely avoiding the
traditional method of contacting an editor
and setting up an interview with a reporter.
The vast majority of journalists today prefer
to be contacted via email.
Electronic Etiquette:
◦ Only put on reporter in the “To” line. This makes
reporters feel like individuals, they want to feel
◦ Limit subject line headers- 4-6 words.
◦ Boldface “For Immediate Release”- Goes directly
above the dateline. Since media is 24/7 releases to
be used in the future are rarely accepted.
◦ Hammer the headlines- Boldface, upper and
lowercase- 10 words or less.
◦ Limit Length- email releases should be shorter than
print versions. Print-500 words, email shorter
◦ Observe 5W format- who, what, when, where,
◦ No Attachments- NO ATTACHMENTS
◦ Link to the URL- use the link to the organization’s
◦ Remember readability-short paragraphs, varied
length, bullets, numbers, lists– they make the
release more eye catching
Writing for the eye emphasizes written word.
◦ Anything written- media, pitch letter, release,
round-up article, backgrounder, op-ed, standby
Writing for the ear emphasizes spoken word.
◦ Anything Spoken- speeches, VNRs,
◦ Just as important today as writing for the eye.
Media Kit: serves the purpose of introducing the
organization to the media.
◦ Most include the following:
 The Biography: facts about the organization or individual.
 Straight Bio: lists facts in a straightforward fashion, most to least
important, chronology of an individuals work/ history
 Narrative Bio: tells the story using the facts. Can also be a speech
 Backgrounder
 Provides additional info. A company announces a new social responsibility
initiative- backgrounder could provide previous SR work. Could also
provide more general info about the organization
 Fact Sheets, Q&A’s, Photos:
 Fact Sheet- facts concerning product, issue, org., individual in a quick and
easily accessible fashion
 Q&A’s- address the most likely questions from the media
 Photos- show the subject, should be in color.
 CD’s, DVD’s, speeches may be included– remember less is sometimes
Pitch Letter: used to interest an editor. Lets the
reporter know about a possible story, interview,
or event.
It is best to be short and to the point.
Creative- story like.
Straight- more or less just says exactly what you
want out of the reporter.
Tell the reporter early what is in it for them.
Always be respectful.
Depending on your relationship with the reporter
address them as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Or you may be
able to address them as “Bob,” “Mary” etc.
Pitch Letters That Typically Sell:
◦ Open with a grabber, interesting statement the
intrigues the reader.
◦ Explain why the story is relevant to the editors
◦ Should be written to a specific person.
Round-up Article:
◦ Reporters get rewarded for two things: scoops and
◦ Round-ups summarize the experiences of several
organizations within an industry.
The Case History: frequently used to tell
about a customer’s favorable use of a product
or service
Present a problem
They indicate the dimensions of the problem
Indicate the solution
Explain the advantages of the solution
Detail the user company’s experience after
adopting the solution
Byliner- a story that is signed and authored
by an officer of a particular firm.
It is often ghost written by a PR professional
Allows corporate spokespeople to express
their views without being subject to major
reinterpretation by the publication.
Positions executives as experts.
Use byliner reprints as direct-mail pieces to
enhance their images.
The Op-Ed:
◦ An editorial written by an organizational executive
and then submitted to a major newspaper or
Chain of Evidence- facts that support the evidence
Summation- summarizes the argument
Good bye zinger- leaves the reader with something to
think about
Standby Statement:
Used across the organization when answering to the
media when an organization faces a tough situation.
Usually are defensive.
Not meant to be spoken about freely unless asked by
media, consumers, stakeholders.
Brief and unambiguous.
Should have several standby statements ready.
Used when:
Price Increase
Extraordinary losses
Employee Layoffs
White Paper/ Position Paper: the facts or
assumptions that lead to a particular position
that the organization takes.
◦ Background- brief historical section that has brought the
organization to its current state.
◦ Statement of the Challenge- simple and states the
challenge that confronts the entity
◦ Alternative Solutions- briefly lists the pros and cons of
the alternative
◦ Recommended Solution- states the solutions or position
the organizations is taking.
◦ Blueprint and “key messages”- describes the next step
for carrying out the proposed solution, then lists several
key messages that will help reach the desired PR result.
Audiences need to be persuaded.
Two main public relations activities designed
for the ear are speeches and presentations.
Speeches- speechwriting has been one of the
highest skilled tasks for PR professionals.
Executives must defend their policies, justify
their prices, and explain their practices.
Speeches are:
Designed to be heard, not read
Uses concrete language
Demands a positive thought
Have objectives
Tailored to a specific audience- must seem as
though the speaker cares about the audience
◦ Who- who is speaking, who is the audience, to use
humor, what manner?
◦ What- the subject/ topic OR the object to convince
the audience to take a specific action
◦ Where- determine where the speech will take place,
this could set the tone of the speech; casual or
◦ When- what time of day? You will have to determine
how to grab the audiences attention.
Interview: interview speakers in advance– can
make a good speech bad if you don’t. Can be
as little as five minutes before or a day before
◦ Determine the object of the talk
◦ Determine the speaker’s main points
◦ Capture the speaker’s characteristics
Research- helps when you cannot put
anything to paper
◦ Look at literature, books, pamphlets, articles,
speeches, etc. to get ideas.
◦ Think about the subject- personal thoughts,
emotions, nostalgia.
◦ Seek opinions of others- ask someone else about
the topic if you are not a pro yourself.
Organize your writing- it makes the speech
more easier to write and more fluent.
◦ Introduction- grabs and holds the audience’s
◦ Thesis- purpose or idea of the speech
◦ Body- evidence or what you want to say in the
◦ Conclusion- do it quickly, restate key facts and the
Presentation- Used often in professional sale,
used to sell a product or service.
◦ Be organized- 4Ws.
◦ Get to the point- know the purpose and what you are
trying to say.
◦ Be logical- organize your presentation so one thought
leads to the next.
◦ Write it out- have the words in front of you in case you
lose your train of thought.
◦ Anticipate negatives- there will be objections.
◦ Speak- don’t simply read from a Power Point, practice.
◦ Be careful of the use of graphics.
◦ Be convincing- enthusiastic, animated, interested
◦ Keep your presentation shorter, rather than longer- you
will lose the interest of your audience.
To be successful in PR you must be a good
communicator, you must be able to convey
what you mean to say both verbally and in
PR professionals are responsible for
completing a wide variety of writing tasks.
The press release is the most widely used PR
media tool today for both print and electronic
Writing must me clear and simple.
Seitel, F.P. (2011). The Practice of Public
Relations. Prentice Hall: Boston.

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