Why PR Pros Are The Most Versatile Writers

As a profession, public relations evokes images of media pitching or crisis management. But according to the 2018 USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations Global Communications Report, writing is the skill most valued by PR recruiters.  That makes sense; persuasion is fueled by artful storytelling, and despite the growth of video, many stories are still told through the written word. Successful PR people tend to be good writers; yet even more impressive than the quality of good PR writing is its versatility. From blog posts to media pitches, we shift gears constantly, adapting to many different kinds of written content.

Less is more

Media pitches and social posts require writers to pack the most punch into the lowest word count. We must convince a reporter that our story is relevant, important, and entertaining enough to publish – often in no more than three sentences. More accurately, we have to convince them in one short sentence: as most PRs know, the email subject line is critical. For more fundamentals on how to pitch the media, see this earlier post.

Bylined articles

One of the most effective engines of executive visibility is the bylined article, which B2B PR experts routinely help craft. When penning a byline, the writer must simultaneously capture the voice of the executive and adhere to journalistic style. It can come down to a compelling, non-promotional point of view in 500-700 words, with both editors and readers in mind. On top of that we must keep SEO and PR messaging in mind while trying to write entertaining prose that dazzles the reader. Bylines are harder than they look; if you want to know the secrets of byline best practices, see this earlier post.

Am I boring you?

There’s an ongoing debate about the role of the press release, which is pronounced dead every few years. It’s not the most creative PR product, but the news release is still essential for announcements – and don’t forget the power of SEO. One of the first documents PR people learn to write, press releases are ideally a single page, written in sound journalistic style (give ‘em the 5 Ws), peppered with an executive quote or two, and ending with a company boilerplate. Clearly they aren’t designed for home runs, but they’re PR’s utility player, useful for building a record of company progress. See this earlier post for more on uses for the modern press release.

The long game

The white paper has its own specific audience and purpose that separates it from other PR content. White papers offer insights in a long format and they’re generally written in a more academic style than a press release or byline. White papers are key collateral in the B2B world, as they can enjoy a long life as educational documents designed to move sales prospects toward buying decisions – while remaining overtly non-self-promotional. PR writers can afford to get further into the weeds in white papers, since they aim for an educated and narrow audience. Although often used to develop sales and marketing leads, white papers can also boost credibility and the perception of expertise or authority for company executives.

Making your case to hoist the trophy

Winning industry awards demands one of the more highly specialized type of PR writing. Most tech industry award competitions like those put on by the Drum, Digiday, and many other trade publications require entrants to compose 500-1000-word essays that persuade judges you have the best product, service, team, or software. PR pros must pivot from journalistic or academic styles, instead writing with a storyteller’s hat, detailing how the product or service solved a customer’s problem – otherwise known as a case study. See this earlier post for tips on winning business awards. PR writers often help write case studies used on the company’s website, and if the customers or accomplishments are high profile enough, can be pitched to reporters as a success story.

A blog-eat-blog world        

PR people can relax the journalistic muscles when writing blog or LinkedIn posts for clients’ owned media channels. While blogs can fulfill lots of different of objectives, some formats allow PR writers to add a little flair, be more opinionated, and even a bit self-promotional. Blog posts can be key thought leadership assets and even help reflect the personality of the executive and the brand. Further, many companies use blogs content to communicate directly with both internal and external stakeholders, requiring more carefully measured tones.
At one point or another, PR pros must write like reporters, professors, salespeople, teenagers (social media), and novelists. When not working on the types of assets above, PR pros are busy writing emails and slack messages – requiring another whole brand of finesse. Do you know a professional that demands more versatile writing chops? For some simple tips on improving your PR writing, see our earlier post.

6 Benefits Of Long-Form Content For Brands

In this age of short attention spans, it may seem counter-intuitive to champion long-form content for PR and marketing. But in recent years, data has shown its efficacy. Longer content like books, white papers, podcasts, eBooks, and video can take more time and effort than shorter bites, demanding greater depth and creativity, but it can prove very effective.

6 benefits of long-form PR content

Business books create long-term opportunity

Content like business books can serve as a strong visibility platform and a route to new opportunities like conference speaking gigs and contributor positions. Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners penned one of the first in-depth books about performance marketing, which led to a national television appearance, podcast guest ops, and keynotes at marketing conferences. And being a best-selling author can’t hurt when pitching bylines or features to the media. Whereas it was once important for a book to be printed and distributed by a traditional publisher, today self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable route. But note that a high-quality book isn’t (overtly) self-promotional; instead it will offer real expertise and subject-matter authority, and visibility that can last for years.

Content shapes a personal brand

Content like blogs and opinion pieces allow a CEO to show depth and personality, which helps build a distinct personal brand. Authoring a weekly blog allows a leader to write in her own voice – which becomes part of the voice of the brand. WordPress founder and current Automattic chief Matthew Mullenweg pens a popular and long-running blog (his blogging predates WordPress by 15+ years) where he covers topics from business (The Importance of Meeting in Person) to fun/personal (What’s in my Bag 2017 Edition). CEOs can let their personalities show. Mullenweg comes off as a highly intelligent but also an emotional and relatable guy. Since we’re on the cusp of 2019, CEOs should also consider the well-documented ascendance of video and go a step further with a video blog. Speaking of showing personality, CEO John Legere of T-Mobile has a weekly YouTube series called “Slow Cooker Sunday” that is, yes, a cooking show. It has helped Legere define his personal brand as smart, accessible, and a little goofy. Consistent production of longer PR content allows control of one’s public image instead of leaving it to sound bites, a LinkedIn summary, or “official” channels like annual reports.

Long-form content bolsters authority

In addition to crafting one’s personal brand, long-form content enhances the credibility of the executive and the company.  Long-form written material allows an executive more scope to display expertise that an occasional news quote or social post cannot. If a full-length business book seems daunting, a leader can author a regularly published educational blog or video blog on his topic of expertise. Two blog posts each week becomes a permanent SEO-friendly knowledge base. It takes time for writing and filming — and a strong, informed point of view. Video publishing platform Wipster’s CEO Rollo Wenlock launched a daring use of video when he began “The Daily WIP” video blog series in 2017 with the intention of making 100 video in 100 days. Wenlock succeeded in making 97 video posts (3-10 minutes) over the next few months, on which he offered various insights into video marketing and publishing. The CEO exudes a smart but down-to-earth persona. Consistency and quality are key when building a reputation as an industry expert or authority.

Packaging a differentiator

The brand-building and authority that longer content confers can can be key elements that differentiate a company from others. Longer content works harder than other forms to help a corporate leader convey a distinct point of view in the service of both personal and company brand-building. Trailblazing Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard outlined his notable business philosophy in his first non-fiction book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, the first of a trilogy detailing Patagonia’s one-of-a-kind ethos. It was a strong first step toward separating the company from competitors and winning the loyalty and attachment of customers. But the most practical advantage of long form content is improved search rankings.

Longer content boosts SEO

SEO has to be optimized in almost every aspect of PR content production today, from social posts to case studies. Multiple studies including one by Moz found that Google favors longer blog posts in search rankings, with the top 10 searches coming in all above 2000 words. But this doesn’t mean you should start keyword-stuffing without regard to quality or purpose. Long-form posts of all kinds need to be of significant depth and offer real value to readers; only quality earns the organic traffic and social shares that is the holy grail of content. Don’t forget, video boosts SEO as well. Additionally, good longer content keeps readers on the website longer and strengthens website domain authority.

Long-form helps close the deal

In the B2B realm, when the basic parameters of offerings are equal such as price, specifications, and product quality, the more subjective measures of value can become deciding factors. Long-form PR content can help decision makers on the buyers journey when emotional factors come into play. A buyer searching for cyber-security software who has narrowed down the choices to two or three vendors may be inspired (or have his anxiety mollified) by the CEO’s book, a demo video series, case studies, or white papers – or by their cumulative effect on the company’s reputation. While not the primary factors in B2B decision making, such content can be a factor in elevating a company into the highest consideration set.

How To Drive PR With Long-Form Content

In today’s fast-paced digital media landscape, long-form content is easily overlooked for driving PR. But there’s a growing consensus — especially among content marketers — that says longer content is coming into its own, gaining in both popularity and effectiveness in generating leads.

From a public relations perspective, longer content is an effective way to establish authority as a thought leader or build a reputation for expertise. Balanced with other aspects of a PR program, it can also work for SEO and in lending credibility for earned media placements.

And, because it often has a longer shelf life than shorter pieces or placements, the content is valuable for sharing, re-sharing, and revisiting later on down the road.

Here are our best tips for developing long-form content that helps drive good PR.

Create content that’s a delight to read. Regardless of whether the content is long or short, quality matters. To borrow words from an editor we recently worked with, would you put down your coffee to continue reading the piece? Chances are if you’d enjoy the content, your peers — or those you’re trying to reach — would like it, too. Compelling, quality material is what gets read and shared, and it’s what drives engagement. 

Don’t sell. An overly promotional piece is an instant turnoff for both readers and editors, if dealing with an earned media placement. Tell a story, explain what something does or how it helps us do what we do, and let the merits of the piece stand on its own. The draw of public relations lies in earning kudos through authenticity, not a slick, commercial approach.

Show authority. Bylines, white papers, and other types of long-form content are the core of a thought leadership program whose main purpose is to set yourself up as an expert. The content should demonstrate a strong command of the category or subject at hand, showing deep experience, knowledge, and the ability to offer insight and enhance understanding.

Include tips that add value. One way to be an authority is to offer actionable advice as a takeaway for readers. Use tips based on your experience, real life examples, or data and research to earn even more credibility. If the tips actually do work and help people, the positive PR naturally follows.

Do consider SEO. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that shows longer content can be effective for SEO purposes, especially over the long term. It’s true that publishing shorter, multiple posts a day is probably the quickest way to gain rank in organic searches, but long-form content can yield “long tail” traffic that can be more valuable over time because it attracts more specific queries that often represent stronger business leads.

Interested in more on how to pitch longer content? Download our free tipsheet:
6 Sure-Fire Steps to Pitch and Place Long-Form Content

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