Image of woman thinking. Words next to her are: "5 Keys to Effective PR Writing"

5 Keys to Effective Public Relations Writing

If you work in public relations, or if PR responsibilities fall to you by default in your company, it’s a good idea to keep these keys to effective PR writing in mind.

Think First, Write Later

Ideas should precede expressions. Let yours bang around your brain a while before putting anything on paper. Answer these questions:

  • How does this relate to members of my audience?
  • Why is it, or should it, be important to them?
  • How can I grab and hold their attention?
  • How can I best engage and persuade them to be concerned or take action?

Develop a “Creativity System”

A lot of creativity – some would argue most creativity – is the result of building on an idea that’s been around a while or combining two existing ideas to make something new. Borrow systematically and keep files of good materials. Make notes when ideas hit you and so on.

There’s a caveat here.

Creativity for the sake of creativity is not only wasted time and effort, but could actually detract from your message. Your idea might be amazing, awesome, never before seen, but if it rubs your customers’ or your clients’ customers the wrong way, it could have exactly the opposite effect from what you intended. If it’s bad enough, and if you’re a PR service provider, you could lose your client. I’ve seen it happen.

Be creative, but only in the context of what appeals to the target market, and make sure the creative complements the overall communication strategy.

KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

It’s amazing how hard it can be to adhere to this rule, especially if you have a boss or client who insists on including every last nitty-gritty detail in the ad, press release, video, e-blast, social media post… whatever. I call that kitchen-sink marketing. When you throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into the ad, press release, video, e-blast, social media post… whatever… your main message is lost. And there goes its effectiveness.

Another part of this involves the most basic of basics. Understand what motivates the members of your target audience, write to them, cut out unnecessary words and paragraphs, avoid industry jargon, off clarifying examples and so on.

Love the Draft/Comp

As much as we’d like to believe we’re the best communicators in the world, that the first draft or comp is right on the money, we’re not. No one is perfect; it’s not likely any of us gets it exactly right the first time. Perfection is achieved through the process of retakes, revisions and rewrites. So write, shoot, design, then revise, revise and revise, then revise again.

Less is More

Keep it short, sweet and to the point. The public relations materials you produce will be stronger and more memorable. Most importantly, they’ll communicate your message more effectively and spur more people to the action you and your boss or client desire.

Graphic icon for Fredricks Communications

 

 

 

* Based on “4 steps to better PR writing,” by Fraser P. Seitel.

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

#TipTuesday – Break This Rule in Advertising, Marketing & PR Copywriting

Provide Work Without With

Sometimes rules are made to be broken. That’s often the case when you’re talking about “proper” grammar vs. advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting. And it’s definitely the case when using “proper” will undermine “effective.”

Consider these two sentences:

  • I will provide Fredricks Communications with access to my Google drive.
  • I will provide Fredricks Communications access to my Google drive.

Get rid of that proposition, “with,” and nothing really changes. People still get it, and the sentence is shorter. And those who pay any attention to this blog know I push brevity as Rule #1 for clarity and keeping hold of readers’ short attention spans.

According to several “proper” grammar sources like the English learning website VOA, “with” is necessary:

With is a preposition, and the verb provide has two different subcategorization frames:

  • Provide somebody with something. – The recipient of the thing (Fredricks Communications) is the indirect object.
  • Provide something (to somebody). – The thing provided (access) is the indirect object.

Subcategorization frames? Recipients? Prepositions? Indirect objects?

Clear as mud in the eye to your average Joe.

Here’s the important point – nobody cares, except your former English teachers. And, with all due respect, they never had to sell a widget.

You and I and our bosses and clients care about selling that widget, and we know we need lively, engaging copy to do it. So keep your copy clear, keep it brief and work without with in your advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting.

Graphic icon for Fredricks Communications

BankNorth TV - BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking by Fredricks Communications

BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking

For the first time in its nearly 115-year history, BankNorth has moved beyond the borders of its home.

BankNorth TV - BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking by Fredricks Communications

Click image to watch TV spot.

Today, First State Bank of Warner, S.D., opened its branches in Aberdeen and Warner, S.D. with its new name, BankNorth. The acquisition announcement is supported with print, radio and television ads, media relations and direct mail. Fredricks Communications provided connecting, scriptwriting, art direction and project management services.

The message –

“First State Bank of Warner is Now BankNorth, and we’re excited about the direction we’re headed. We’ve been First State Bank of Warner for a long time, and over the years, honesty, loyalty and integrity have been our guide. We’re still the same people in the same locations, and those same values still drive how we work with you every day.”

The acquisition announcement is part of a larger rebranding campaign for BankNorth, which was formerly First State Bank of North Dakota. Check out additional campaign elements and the new BankNorth website.

Thank you to BankNorth for allowing Fredricks Communications to be part of this project, and to all Fredricks Communications partners who helped pull everything off so beautifully: Bock’s Office Transformational Consulting, Creative Monke, Kelner Communications, Knight Printing, Midco, Solberg Design and Video Arts Studios.

Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

Copywriting: To Split or Not to Split

It’s the second day of the work week, and you know what that means: It’s Tip Tuesday!

This Tuesday we’re talking about splitting infinitives and other verbs in marketing, advertising and public relations copywriting.

Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

youtube.com/fredcomm

Let me start out by saying I absolutely love The Grammar Girl and grammarist.com, two grammar sources that have given me some peace of mind lately.

You see, once upon a time I had a boss who had a hard-and-fast rule about split verbs and split infinitives. Split infinitives are verb phrases, like “to increase” that are split by a modifying word (usually an adverb).

<watch the video>

 

  • We plan to increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months incrementally.
  • We plan to incrementally increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months.

Split verbs are split by a modifying word (again, usually an adverb).

  • We will respond to any issues that might come up quickly.
  • We will respond quickly to any issues that might come up.

It wasn’t just a rule, either; splitting a verb was verboten. With extreme prejudice. I started having nightmares about a grammar monster with huge, sharp, teeth coming to viciously devour me and the sentences I’d written that day.

<See what I did there? “…to viciously devour…”>

Thing is – and The Grammar Girl, grammarist.com and several other sources back me up on this – there is no such rule in English grammar. Turns out the boss was being a grammatical snob. Which – hey – who am I to criticize? That would be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

Thing is – and I say this to aspiring advertising, marketing and public relations writers all the time – in our world, we need to write like people speak. We need to build a rapport, a comfort level with the people seeing, reading or hearing our copy. And we’re never going to connect our clients to their audiences – even retired English teachers – by copywriting like pompous professors.

Besides, people split verbs all the time in everyday conversation. Which sounds better? You tell me –

  • I’m going to run to the store for some milk quickly.
  • I’m going to quickly run to the store for some milk.

Get beyond the split verb issue, and the sentence becomes even less academic –

  • I’m gonna quick run to the store for some milk.

But that’s a subject for another Tip Tuesday….

In your advertising, marketing and public relations, your copywriting needs to sound like you speak. Have a conversation with your audience. And, by all means, split away.

Graphic icon for Fredricks Communications

Graphic of a cartoon bomb

Tip Tuesday – It’s Not Literally Dangerous in Copywriting, But…

Let’s be clear. No limbs will go flying when you use the word “literally” in your copywriting. Never in the history of the world has a written word literally caused an explosion.

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicNevertheless, beware of using the word in your advertising and marketing content. Literally means something is fact, so using it to intensify a word or statement that follows is almost always incorrect.

“Our service will literally blow you away,” indicates your customers will, in fact, be lifted from their feet and tumble down the highway like so many tumbleweeds in a bad old Western when they experience your service. Or they will, in fact, be thrown back dozens of feet by a bomb blast.

Let’s be clear again. No one is going to take you seriously and expect to be lifted off of their feet, by wind, explosion or anything else.

But here’s the thing. What you’re trying to say, in a figurative way, is that your company’s service is incredible and your customers will be highly impressed and pleased.

Unfortunately, “Our service will figuratively blow you away,” doesn’t carry quite the same punch.

You just need to find a way to work that into your copy without resorting to literally or being insufferably dull.

Saying suspects, prospects or customers literally will be blown away isn’t dangerous – it won’t cause cancer and no one is going to get electrocuted – it’s just absurd. Your company won’t just look less than professional, it’ll look silly, like a company that really shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

If you see literally in your copywriting, a rewrite is in order. Seriously.

Graphic icon for Fredricks Communications

 

 

 

 

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

Tip Tuesday: In Order to Achieve Greater Impact…

To be more concise and effective, always edit out “in order” and simply leave “to” in your advertising, marketing and public relations writing.

You’ll improve the impact, the POP!, of your writing without changing meaning almost every time.

Example:

  • In order to achieve invigorating writing, use active voice.
  • To achieve invigorating writing, use active voice.

Example:

  • We provide technical training in order to increase your efficiency and reduce overall costs.
  • We provide technical training to increase your efficiency and reduce overall costs.

But what about that pesky “almost” above?

Purists will spew some grammar mumbo-jumbo about how “in order to” is a subordinating conjunction. Huh? They’ll also say that when you drop “in order” you lose the underlying meaning of the phrase, which more clearly conveys intent than “to” alone. Your intent is to achieve invigorating writing, they’d say, and “in order to” conveys that more clearly. Same goes for the desire to increase efficiency.

They’re right. After all, they’re purists; being right is their job.

But who the heck even knows what a subordinating conjunction is. Right? Plus, here’s the thing –

Randomly ask 100 people which is more correct in those situations – “to” or “in order to” – and I’ll bet 99.99 percent of them won’t know the difference. Or give a rat’s patootie.

Which brings us back to Rule #2 for marketing writing: brevity.

(Rule #1 is to answer the Golden Question of Marketing – What’s in it for me?)

Dropping “in order” keeps your copy shorter, punchier.

It might not seem like much,  but over the course of a longer brochure or training video, dropping the two extra words makes a difference.

If you’re writing a novel or an in-depth assessment of foreign affairs, by all means, write “in order to.” I don’t want you starting any wars because the intent of your sentences wasn’t absolutely clear.

Otherwise, go with “to,” especially in advertising, marketing and public relations.

Graphic icon for Fredricks Communications