4 keys to effective PR writing

Eloquence is nice; clean, concise copy that sparks action is better. Here’s how to achieve the latter.


Writing successful public relations copy is no simple task.

PR pros must address and satisfy the priorities of three audiences at the same time:

  • The journalist or influencer
  • That gatekeeper’s audience
  • The company/cause/organization/client

If you miss the mark on any one of these three, you run this risk of ending up with beautiful writing that’s utterly useless. Effective PR writing requires a strategic use of words and ideas to motivate and change behavior. It’s about creating action.

How do you start? Here are four steps to effective PR writing:

1. Prioritize clean copy.

Just one grammatical error or spelling “fo paw” gives your audience an excuse (and a valid reason) to discount everything else in your piece.

You’re probably thinking, “I know that already.” No one plans on being the person who has to call the client CEO and apologize for spelling her name wrong in a news release.

Take your time to thoroughly edit every piece you produce. It’s not just your reputation on the line.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: 10 punctuation essentials]

Keep in mind that the spell-checker didn’t catch these errors:

  • It’s the perfect way to show your love and infection for your significant other.
  • Your going to be sorry if you miss the gala.
  • Florida is comprised of several fine counties.
  • Piece be with you.
  • He is a person that wants to achieve greatness.

2. Focus on informing—without the clutter.

Once you’ve edited for clarity, focus on brevity. Make your point in as few words as possible. Trim extraneous words, sentences and paragraphs.

Another metric to track is average sentence length, which you can review by running the grammar and spell check in Word. Strive for 20 words per sentence.

3. Emphasize persuasion.

Much of our writing ends up in front of journalists or cynical social media users, which makes persuasion a challenge. The hard sell doesn’t work on these folks.

We must persuade using objective, data-driven tactics that resonate with skeptical gatekeepers. For more persuasive copy, replace hot takes and opinions with facts, statistics and hard data to bolster your claims.

4. Finally, add flair and color.

Once your copy is clean, concise and persuasive, then you can dress it up a bit.

Most people try to start with wit, flair and color, and it falls flat because they don’t have the foundation of the first three steps to hold it up. Once your copy is polished, sprinkling in humor and lighthearted plays on words can breathe life into otherwise snooze-worthy content.

However, no amount of sizzle can salvage a lousy steak.

Michael Smart is a speaker and communications trainer. A version of this post first appeared on Spin Sucks.

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