10 Ways to Become a Better PR Writer

If you’re a PR pro then you probably pride yourself on being a good writer. But being a good writer is not the same thing as being a great PR writer who knows how to edge out the competition and connect with journalists, bloggers and consumers across all channels, including social media.

At PR News’ One-Day Boot Camp for Emerging PR Stars on March 18, Lynne Farber, assistant professor at Florida International University, and John Forrest Ales, director of global brand public relations at Hilton Worldwide, discussed ten ways to train your eyes and ears to “think like a journalist” within your organization or client.

  1. John Forrest Ales

    Discover stories: “Sometimes things that are usual to you are extremely unusual to others on the outside world,” said Ales. “A simple new piece of equipment can be a big new item and provide some story angles.”

    Ales said the holidays are a slow time every year for the hotel industry. That’s why Hilton decided to come up with the "12 Drinks of Christmas" campaign. The company issued a press release and started talking about it on social media and how Hilton would release a drink per day. Videos showcased internal training with bartenders and mixologists. Suddenly, Hilton had a social campaign with zero cost. “That's a result of being in touch cross-departmentally and putting writing and media behind an internal news story to make it compelling,” Ales said. 

  2. Make business data compelling: There are times when the mundane for some folks is interesting to others.

  3. Look for milestones: What are the days that are special to your organization that PR can get behind? When Hilton became the first hotel brand to earn a million fans on Facebook, Ales’ team launched an internal campaign to share social media best practices across Hilton. Externally, the team created press releases about its successes in a competitive space; the releases were then picked up by several media outels.  

  4. Listen to customers and employees at all levels. “A big function of PR is to be in the boundaries,” Farber said. “You need to be in touch with the CEO, but also the one in the trenches getting the info up to the CEO.”

  5. Have confidence that you know when something is not a story: You’re also the gatekeeper and you need to have the best nose for what’s newsworthy.

  6. Capture attention: Load up your copy with stats, emotion, urgency and testimonials (leaders, employees, customers); supporting materials should include photos, video, graphics, FAQs and guides.

  7. Write for SEO: “Improve writing quality by removing content that is duplicate or not relevant, and watch your Google ranking and reposition/modify words as needed,” Farber said. Use strong and relevant keywords words in headlines and leads and consider visually what accompanies your words—a wall of text is a death march for a reader.”

  8. Writing for social media: Speak the #language of your @channel. “Consider the informal nature of social channels,” Ales said. ”Grab their attention and keep it—remember brevity, be relevant, consistent and use first person.”

  9. Know the place for jargon: “With industry jargon you have to know it for your internal audience, but you have to know when to shut it down for your internal audience” Farber said.

  10. Revise, review and edit: Keep your style rules close—whether they’re from AP or your own internal guidelines. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg


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