Writing is one of the most important parts of a successful public relations campaign. To quote Malcolm Gladwell, “Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.”
People with the skills to write a wide range of content – from bylines and features to blog posts and pitches – are invaluable to their internal teams and business partners. Writing for public relations differs from other types like newspaper, magazine, essay or novel writing. The main purpose is to gain positive exposure, or get a message across to the public.
And no matter how well you write, there’s always room for improvement. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you become a better public relations writer.
Open with a strong, compelling lead. When writing any type of PR copy, the first step should be coming up with an engaging lead that grabs the reader’s attention. A good lead will set up your copy in a way that doesn’t overwhelm a reader but offers just enough insight to make them want to continue. We strive for brevity, unlike this overly wordy version. So devote some time and attention to your lead and make sure you get it right – it can make or break your piece.
Read your copy aloud. You can spend hours editing and proofreading your copy but still manage to overlook grammar mistakes, run-on sentences and awkward phrases. While many public relations writers often skip this step, reading your copy out loud before submitting to your editor or client is a helpful way to catch any errors that you might have missed. Following this step will help you avoid gaffes like these.
Say more with less. Sometimes, PR bylines and articles come with strict word counts. That’s why writers often feel the need to add unnecessary words to their copy. Instead, try tightening up the copy to give it a clean, natural flow and make it easier to read. Some things to look for include empty phrases and words that don’t add any value to the piece, simpler ways to get your points across, and wordy sentences.
Immerse yourself in written content. The best writers are usually the ones who are obsessed with the written word and love to read. Reading content from other writers is a simple way to help you improve the way you write. Whether you prefer books, magazines, newspapers or any type of online content, any type of reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary and enhance your overall writing skills.
Eliminate passive voice. If you’ve ever submitted copy to an editor, you know that use of the “passive voice” is one of their biggest pet peeves. Passive voice – “The Phillies were beaten by the Mets” conveys less than active voice – “The Mets beat the Phillies.” It’s good practice to use active voice throughout your copy to make it cleaner and less wordy.
Let your copy breathe. Reading the same thing over and over again can cause you to miss mistakes. Try stepping away from your copy for a few hours, or even a day, and coming back to it with a fresh mindset. This strategy can help you spot any extra words that don’t belong and allow you to trim and tighten up your copy.
Keep writing. The last tip to help better your PR writing is an obvious one, but it’s just as important as the others — practice. From driving a car to learning a sport to perfecting an instrument, the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it. No matter how much advice or feedback you get, repetition is the easiest and most efficient way to improve your copy.