How to Use Great Writing to Draw Stakeholders In, Not Scare Them Away


Image via austringer
Image via austringer

Let’s just acknowledge this from the beginning: Great communicators are usually great writers, and great writers create great PR. Between the dozens of daily emails and limitless press releases and bylines, the ability to craft a compelling sentence is crucial. Don Bates -- NYU instructor, writing consultant, and a speaker at our upcoming Writing Bootcamp -- has some tips for PR professionals looking to step up their written game.

Headlines and subjects

According to Bates, articles like "a, an, the” should be avoided, as should “to be” verb forms. In general, write out the headline and then trim out the non-essentials. For example:

Don't do this: “A national CBS poll says the presidential election is too close to call at this time because of a surge in late West Coast voting.”

Do this: “CBS poll says election still too close to call.”

Ledes

"Be brief," says Bates. "Readers want to know why story matters to them and won’t wait long for answer. Leads are typically one sentence, often two, and 25-30 words. They're rarely more than 40."

In addition, Bates stresses how important it is to consider the audience's knowledge. "In today’s media culture," he says, "most readers don’t need lot of background. Context is key."

Quotes

"When spoken, most quotes sound free and easy," Bates says, "When they're written, they often sound stiff, even false." A PR professional's job is to breathe life back into the quotes. One method Bates suggested was to "use conversational expressions, not read-only jargon."

Nothing turns off clients and consumers like bad writing. Incorporate these tips to ensure you're drawing them in, not scaring them away.

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis.