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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.

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

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#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.

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Tip Tuesday – Is Your PR Writing Overqualified?

 

Like using qualifiers? A lot of them, perhaps? As professional copywriters, we need to do a little better.

That’s the advice of Stunk & White, authors of the bibles on grammar and style.

In “The Elements of Style,” William Strunk and E.B. White put it eloquently: “Rather, very, little, pretty – these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”

Harsh, even without the vampire imagery. Harsh, but right on.

Besides, copywriters should always cut unnecessary words. It’s the “Less-Is-More Principle.”

Which has more life?

  • “It’s rather important to be honest. vs. “It’s important to be honest.
  • “We’re very excited about this product.” vs. “We’re excited about this product.”
  • “I’m pretty sure I gave you the right medication.” vs. “I’m sure I gave you the right medication.”

This isn’t a life vs. death deal – except maybe in that last example – but for a prospective client, neither is hiring you. Take the advice of Strunk & White for your public relations writing:  be a life-giver, not a leech; throw the qualifiers back into the mucky slough.

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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.

A bridge at sunrise

Tip Tuesday – What Advertising, Marketing or Public Relations Costs

The Bridge to Everywhere

Everyone asks the question. “What’s it gonna cost?” for <this or that advertising, marketing or public relations service>?”

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicFew are ever happy with the answer – “That depends.”

But it’s the most honest response, even if it is lacking precision.

Asking a creative firm, “How much is it going to cost to get a (your need here),” is like asking a construction company, “How much is it going to cost to build a bridge over the Red River?”

Neither the creative agency nor the construction company will be able to provide a reasonably accurate answer before finding out precisely what you want to get done and defining the scope of the work it’ll take to get you there.

A colleague recently gave the best answer I’ve heard in nearly two decades in this business:

“Somewhere between affordable and optimal.”

I understood precisely what she meant.

Ask me the question, and I’ll ask you a bunch more. We’ll talk. We’ll hash over the big picture. We’ll go back and forth on the details.

I’ll recommend advertising, public relations, online marketing, blog posts or a combination of those and a bunch of other communication tools, whatever I believe will build the best bridge between you and your customers or prospects. Then I’ll tell you what it’s going to cost. The number will be somewhere between affordable and optimal (good-better-best, anyone?), and I’ll stick to it, no matter how much time it takes me to do the job well. (Learn more about FredComm pricing.)

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