PR writing: How to be a person of few words and big thoughts

Topics: Media Relations, Public Relations


Reading Time: 2 minutes

PR writing is simple. Factual. Thought provoking. Concentrated. Intentional. Active.

Any sesquipedalian can pontificate on the idiosyncratic aggrandizement of public relations trends with run-on sentences, #hashtags and a cacophonous clatter of coruscant alliteration whilst utilizing industry clichés such as “synergy,” “leverage,” “turnkey” and “groundbreaking,” with reference to excogitated ideas from FOB—(because front-of-book is too long)—to flex on the perpetuation of knowledge that most incontestably flows from the capaciousness of young anomalistic minds, all the while believing that people like you and me are still following the circumlocution once we finally discover a PERIOD… period.

Listen, writer-of-long-sentences-and-big-words:

Journalists don’t have time. YOU don’t have time.

Here are five tips to PR writing. (And life).

1. Know your stuff: Be an AP style wizard.
Do you know your state abbreviations, how to write numerals one through 10, and the difference between farther and further? The AP Style Book should be your desktop bible, regardless (not irregardless) of “what sounds good.”

Make journalists take you seriously. Take the time. Look it up.

2. Limit your words: Use active, not passive tense.
In active tense, the subject performs the action with a strong verb. In passive tense, the subject receives the action with a weak verb phrase. Use active tense to shorten 17-word sentences into something more palatable.

  • Passive: The award was received by the mayor. (7 words)
    Active: The mayor received the award. (5 words)
  • Passive: The building of the water park was voted on by the the Reno Planning Committee. (15 words)
    Active: The Reno Planning Committee voted to build a water park. (10 words)

This includes future continuous tense vs. present simple tense:

  • Future continuous: I will be giving a speech on my birthday. (9 words)
  • Present simple: I give a speech on my birthday. (7 words)

3. Don’t get to the point. Start with it.
We love pyramids, especially inverted ones. Start with the most important information, and work backwards.

  • Example Press release: [Subject + Verb + Location + Month, Day, Year, time]
    The First Electric Space ship deploys from the Reno-Tahoe Airport, Saturday, Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m.
  • Example Pitch: [Greeting + intro + ASK + background]
    Hi Brenda, I saw your story on modern, fall cocktails and know Davidson’s Organic Tea would make a great mixer. Would you like to test our new holiday teas in a seasonal cocktail roundup?

4. No bright, shiny objects: Stay focused and know your audience.
Remember the five paragraph paper you wrote in fourth grade? It still exists. Assume the voice, behavior and interests of your audience. The Editor in Chief of Bloomberg does not want to hear the same bubble-gum-chit-chat pitch for Seventeen Magazine.

  • Intro: 5w’s + Thesis
  • Prove it: Person No. 1 quote + detail
  • Prove it again: Person No. 2 quote + detail
  • Prove it one more time: Supporting detail + facts
  • Wrap it up

5. No Fluff. Ever. That’s for Build-a-Bear.
This doesn’t mean you can’t write descriptively or have a titch of fun. Just do it in short, intentional sentences. Make every word count. Eliminate clichés, fillers and typical PR jargon.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I drive my point in one paragraph or one sentence?
  • Do I need all 17 words? (No, no you don’t.)
  • Can I utilize a thesaurus? (Yes, yes you can!)

No one likes long-winded friends unless they’re winning a filibuster or playing the trombone.

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