The opening session of the PR News Writing Boot Camp kicked off with quotes from some of the great ones—not public relations superstars, mind you, but literary geniuses such as Sylvia Plath, Herman Melville and Gabriel García Márquez.
Before all else, PR professionals are storytellers, crafting content for journalists, employees and consumers, just to name a few stakeholders. Yet, a compelling narrative often falls by the wayside when you write up a press release about a new hire or publish the results of an industry-specific survey.
Guest speakers Stephanie Corns, director of corporate communications at Charles Schwab, and Beth Haiken, VP of corporate citizenship and communications at Waypoint Homes, stressed that the gap between Dickens and brand communication need not be so vast.
Ape the literary greats and truly connect with your audience by considering these four factors.
1. Emotional: Employ sentiments like sympathy and joy in your writing, but don't be afraid to anger or shock your audience as well. Ask yourself, "What's happening in their world?" Find the answer and show how it connects to your message.
2. Rational: Perhaps the opposite of the emotional tactic, it can also be effective to highlight the functional aspect of the information you're delivering. If you're writing a press release about a new product, explain how it will make the lives of your readers easier instead of simply declaring it an "exciting new product.’
3. Values: What do you have in common with your audience? Find out what's important to them and address it in your communications. For example, it's not enough to say your brand is "transparent." Be specific: "transparency with cost to consumer" or "transparency with C-suite compensation."
4. Sensory: Make your content experiential. Put your reader in the center of the story and employ as many sensory descriptions as possible. Did your company recently launch a CSR program where employees plant vegetable gardens in low-income neighborhoods? Describe the whirring of hummingbird wings as they hover around new blossoms, the smell of broken-off leaves of basil and the sweet, acidic tang in a bite of homegrown tomatoes.
Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis.