Writing Bootcamp: Storytelling and Editing are the Pillars of Successful PR Communications

Pamela Baker-Masson
Pamela Baker-Masson at the podium

From communications professors to the PR managers,  every speaker at the May 14 PR News Writing Boot Camp at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. had one piece of advice: Edit, edit and edit again. It seems obvious, but in the bustle of a breathless information age, writing's left-brain counterpart can fall by the wayside. Dan Ronan, senior director of communications at American Bus Association, put it best, saying, "Great writers need editors."

For communications professionals, the breadth of the content that needs to be created, edited and curated is incredibly vast. In addition to traditional press releases and in-house content, PR pros need to hone their digital skill set, whether it's understanding the posting etiquette of various social media platforms to mastering search engine optimization (SEO). The boot camp addressed all of these formats, providing insights on topics like writing for mobile and pitching journalists. Some key takeaways from the former were keeping messages short to avoid frustrating readers with excess scrolling and considering how peole consume content on mobile devices.

Press releases dominated the sessions, beginning with a step-by-step guide on how to write compelling content. With tailor-made tips for headline construction, quotation choice and enlivening copy, attendees walked away from the conference armed with an enhanced writing skill set. They put their new abilities to use right away during the press release writing clinic led by NYU professor Don Bates and Pamela Baker-Masson, associate director of communications at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Danielle Leitch, EVP of MoreVisibility, conducted the second hands-on tutorial, which focused on choosing keywords to optimize PR content for search.

The importance of storytelling in PR communications came up time and again. Jim Holtje, author of "The Power of Storytelling: Captivate, Convince or Convert Any Business Audience Using Stories From Top CEOs," said: "For most of us in the corporate or agency arena, we mostly hear the analytical, but we remember the stories the most." Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton's VP of global relations, amplified Holtje's comments, taking attendees through the luxury hotel's rebranding process, which revolved around storytelling.

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis