Week 1 – PR Writing

Public relations professional perform a multitude of duties. From coordinating events to managing budgets, but a key skill of every PR professional is writing. Media releases, memos to colleagues and executives, communication pieces with clients and vendors, copy for brochures, reports, social networking, emails – yes even emails need to be carefully crafted!

We need to write clearly and succinctly. Our success depends on how well we write and communicate. As we enter this new semester let’s discuss the various forms of PR writing and what they entail for you as future writers.

Discuss which forms of writing that  you are most excited to learn about, which forms you have the least familiarity with, and which forms you are most comfortable with.

If you need to get started use a three-pronged approach when responding each week.

  • What did you learn?
  • What surprised you?
  • What do you want to know more about?

Since we have only just ran through the syllabus and will really delve into the text next week I’m looking for you to recall what you learned in Intro to PR and also flip through your text to become more familiar with the various types of writing PR professionals do in an effort to take part in these discussions.

There are 27 comments

  1. Kathryn Summers

    In Intro to PR I learned how to put together many different types of PR writing such as a press release, feature article, backgrounder, timeline, media list. I also got familiar with how to write a blog as well as how to respond to blogs. Writing hasn’t always been my strongest suit but the only way to become more comfortable with something is to keep trying.

    To write successfully for PR a lot of research must to come into play. The target audience must be identified and well known to the writer in order for the message to be received in the best way. The type of information that is gathered through research on the target audience affects the type of approach used to reach out. When writing a blog it should have more of a comfortable, conversational feel. That way the audience can respond and feel able to bring up more issues to bounce off the blogger and get more people to comment.

    Going along with figuring out whom the target audience is and how to connect with them, the right message has to be chosen. It needs to written the same way the audience will read it, whether it needs to be professional, fun, exciting, funny or possibly a compilation of everything. The material itself needs to be in order and make sense. Important or vital information needs to be at the top, in order to pull the audience into reading more.

    1. ginaluttrellphd

      Katie, consistency is key. While how we interact via the modes of communication (press releases, brochures, blogs, social networking) are different we need to have similar messaging. Just like we saw in Intro to PR with the social media assignment -one message across various mediums – we will see in this class too.

      As PR practitioners we are story tellers – we tell with word, images, videos – and so much more.

      1. rsierkow

        In my case, I have little experience with image, and almost no experience with video, so it will be interesting to see how they vary from the written word that most of us are familiar with already.

        I definitely think that grabbing the attention of the audience from the start in writing is important, but how do you go about that in an image or video? Photo captions and short public service announcements will be a new challenge this semester.

        As students in the writing programs (communication program, journalism or PR program or whatever program you may be in) it is important to become familiar with all forms of media that are available to us and use them to the best of our abilities….I have a long way to go before I am comfortable with using all of them!

    2. Kristen

      I like what you said about using the most important information first. I agree—it’s of the utmost importance to grab the attention of the audience with a good hook. I think it’s quite entertaining to bounce ideas around and come up with catchy campaigns.

  2. deeeunicemoorepublication

    I must admit since entering the world of public relations I have struggled as a writer. That should come as a shock being that I am journalism major. The two fields are really distanced cousins in my opinion who don’t care to claim each other as family.

    I struggled with idea i was not longer able to tell a story in the way in which the journalist in had once done. Now i had to become more directed in my writing it was okay if my writing was a little bias. Once i got a grip on how to write press release my confidence as a writer grew over time. I’ll admit i’m a little rusty but i will be just fine as the semester progress.

    I look forward to sharping up my pr skills. It will be tough because my default settings are journalistic. However, i am learning to turn a blind eye to old habits and using them when needed.

    I know coming into this class we as student should already have certain skills.

    But things such memos to colleagues and executives, communication pieces with clients and vendors, copy for brochures, reports, social networking, emails int the since of pr are not my strong suits.

    This semester i will be doing a great deal of listening getting a full understanding of each assignment so i can produce a great product.

    I do plan to be active in class just a little less social then in past classes! i really want to get a good grip on these skills.

    -Dee

    1. ginaluttrellphd

      Dee, Intro to PR is like putting your toe in the water. You kind of get a feel for a little bit of everything PR. PR writing is like jumping right in. I’ll be there though to teach you what you need to know!

      1. deeeunicemoorepublication

        Gina,

        Exactly why i am glad i am taking these classes with you because i know i can trust you. No matter how often i make mistakes you’ll work hard with me to grasp the concept. I agree intro to Pr was indeed intense it was like a foreign language. a foreign language i have grown very fund of over time!

        -Dee

    2. Kristen

      Dee, I can definitely relate as far as sharpening PR skills. It’s tough to juggle PR and journalism at times. They seem so similar but are vastly different in so many ways—one being the fact that PR is much more conversational and less rigid. (This doesn’t negate that PR is equally strict about AP style! Haha)

      1. deeeunicemoorepublication

        Kristen,

        Yes, the are both are very strict about AP style. which i have yet to fully master but i will one day hehe! I must say pr is a bit more exciting at times than journalism. Pr professionals get to more walks on the wild side than journalist. At time i feel we as journalist are a bit prude but pr professionals can be just as prude! I just need to learn to balance both journalism and pr skills because they are so similar yet different as you stated. that some times can be the annoying part! but i have a very fund love for both professional and look forward to growing in both!

        -Dee

    3. cmickbride

      Oh Dee!

      I feel exactly the same way… minus the whole “journalism is my default setting” thing…. my default setting is definitely in PR…. but the way you talked about making things to the point and how your still feeling weak in some areas pretty much sums up my thoughts walking out of the first class, which was pretty much “maybe i didn’t pay attention as much as I though last semester.”

      I’m so excited to learn and grow with this class and become better PR people! To touch on what Gina said about jumping in the water…. I’m hoping not to drown!

      -Clare

    4. jdotson8

      I’m glad I’m not on my own here! I agree Dee – it is very tough maintaining our journalistic views in the world of PR. What I’ve found interesting is how many journalists go to PR at some point in their careers, and you don’t find it happening the other way around very often.

      I guess me being such a hardhead doesn’t really help my position. Maybe some others will be better at it than me. I really do hope so!

  3. jdotson8

    I’m interested in the differences of the styles of writing between journalism and PR, at least seeing it more in depth this time around. In journalism, writing is very factual and to the point. In what I’d seen in intro, the writing was also factual, but more about an event and company’s background. If you took articles about an event and saw them from each standpoint, they would be very different.

    I made it very clear in intro, and will do so again, that I’m a journalist by nature, and for me to do a PR view is tough. I actually enjoy it, in a way, because I get to see both sides of the coin and know a bit about each, compared to just one.

    It’s fairly obvious by now that journalists and PR folks have a “rivalry” so to speak, and don’t really get along with each other, but something surprising to me was the fact that some journalists make the jump to PR.

    It’s been said that you’re of one mind or the other – either you’re a journalist or PR person, and not both. I decided to take another shot at PR to see if I want to give PR a shot at some point, or stick with the path I’m on.

    – Joel

    1. ginaluttrellphd

      The difference for journalists is that they are writing for a mass appeal. The information they share is for everyone. Think about it- it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or where you work – news is news is news is news. However if you are PR practitioner and work for the Milk industry is your company news something mass audiences want to hear about? Not necessarily. If milk was contaminated then yes, but what if the farm you represent developed a new pasteurization method – who would be interested in that story? Maybe everyone, but more likely this would be a targeted story to trade publications. Does that makes sense Joel? We can discuss this further in class because the points you bring up are valid.

    2. megandcary

      Joel,
      I’m the debating type, and spoke frequently with a student in my Intro class who felt strongly about journalism PR differences like you. Like the professor said we serve different audiences. At the same time I think a lot of the rivalry comes from when we compete for the same audience. In this case it is more friendly rivalry, or it can even lead to collaboration. Let’s be honest though, we are all the more competitive type. It seems the more negative rivalries come from crisis events where a company has either made a mistake or there has been an accident. In these cases the PR practitioner jobs become to protect the company, whereas the journalists’ jobs become to expose as much as possible. In all other cases I think journalists and PR folks work together quite well. To be honest they both really need each other. I think you are a much better journalist or PR practitioner if you strive to have good relationships with the other.

      1. jdotson8

        Gina – yes, all of that makes sense. PR is a little more “behind the scenes” or “closed-door” than journalism.

        Megan – you’re very dead on. I definitely agree. Both sides compete for the same audience, and they take two very different approaches. Journalism with the “truth” element, which can expose negative things (just take a look at the Penn State scandal), and PR with the protective-positive element.

  4. rsierkow

    My experience with PR primarily comes from my current job. I frequently work with social media, such as updating Facebook, editing and posting on the website, as well as working with outside organizations doing things such as sending emails, creating flyers, and coordinating events.

    I took the Intro to PR course a few semesters ago, and learned the basics about press releases, as well as formalities when emailing, PSA’s and press kits. However, it has been a while since I have dealt specifically with a PR course (this only being my second out of two) and look forward to touching base with these processes and more that I have not learned from the intro course.

    I have learned a lot about specific writing styles through my journalism courses as well as my written communication courses and I am excited to expand my knowledge of writing styles more into the PR realm where I am not as familiar or as confident in- such as writing speeches, knowing how to properly set up an email pitch, and a refresher course on press releases and PSA’s. All of these styles of writing only help to make you better as a student, as well as a professional in the work force, and finding out how professionals handle these documents (or writing styles) and use them in “real world” experiences is the best way to learn how to write them- so using these styles specifically toward a client of our choosing will be good way to gain some experience with these writing styles.

    1. ginaluttrellphd

      It’s good that you have familiarity with the forms of social media. As I discuss in my Intro to PR course, SM, in many cases, has fallen under PR. For many reasons, but the most basic reason is because SM is about sustaining relationships. Therefore PR and SM go hand in hand.

      Images in PR are so very powerful. In Journalism there are people who are photo-journalists. That’s what they do – tell stories with images. As PR practitioners we do the same. Our jobs are not as simple as being one thing or doing one task – we are mufti-faceted and constantly evolving. Our profession is much the same.

    2. megandcary

      I completely agree with your comment about learning the different writing styles to become a better student and job candidate. Like you, I do a lot of PR at my job. When I first started, and first started learning AP style, I never thought I would need to use it as much as I have. I thought only journalists needed AP style. You never know what the future holds and what skills you might need in a job. Having a diverse set of skills also makes you a better candidate for jobs and promotions. I have been in many positions where something needed to be done and I got put in charge simply because I knew how to do it.
      I also agree with your comment about writing in a real world experience. I think I will want to put more effort into the assignment and will get much more out of it. I always appreciate real world examples as well because I tend to remember them better. In psychology this is called the proximity effect. We are much more likely to pay attention if something is connected to us either geographically, emotionally, or intellectually.

    3. Kathryn Summers

      As I am diving more into the PR program and taking more classes that are hands on, I’m am getting really excited to be doing stuff like this for a living. This past spring I took social media with Gina, and we really got involved with how PR practitioners use social media sites (which there are 1,000’s!) to become engaged with their audience.

      Where do you work? That’s awesome that you can to work directly with the sites that they use and operate them.

      The intro class we all took briefly looked into all the types of writing and aspects of PR and I’m excited to really get into it so I can become a better writer.

      1. rsierkow1

        I am taking social media with her this semester, and I think it will definitely help sharpen our skills. Since the majority of us are already familiar with a large portion of the media styles being used today, knowing how to use them in a business appropriate manner is important.

        I work at a bike shop in Ann Arbor, and the owners of the shop really give me the creative space to do what I want with the posts I make and the subject matter as well-as long as it relates to cycling! It is my first job, and I am learning a lot about the programs and about design/style as I go along, so a lot of it may not be perfect, but I definitely feel that my skills are growing as a communication/media “specialist.”

  5. cmickbride

    In intro to PR I learned about how different writing for PR was then any other writing i had ever done. For instance when writing the press release was unlike anything I had ever done and I remember it being very intimidating at first. I know that as I learn more about writing for PR I’m sure I will begin to get the hang of it and it will seem less scary.

    I am also most surprised to learn how many different aspects of a event a PR professional is involved in, and from what I learned in into to PR they are involved in everything! From writing to planning the event, and even coming up with a budget. I was also very surprised to learn the number of different written pieces someone has to come up with!

    I would like to learn more about writing in general because I still feel a bit intimidated by things. Through this class I hope to gain confidence which I will need when I get a “big girl job” working in PR. I’m so excited to learn all the different types of writing, and hopefully by the end of this class I can’t stop asking Gina, “is this okay?” every 5 seconds…

    1. cmickbride

      Okay so I just need to clear a few things up in this post i just wrote because obviously i should have read it first…. my fault…. never happening again!

      First things first I meant to say, writing the press release was different from anything I had ever written because everything had to fit on one page and be so clear in only a few words, which is hard for me because I tend to be a little wordy sometimes.

      Second, i meant to say hopefully by the end of this class i CAN stop asking Gina “is this okay?” every 5 seconds.

      obviously I also need to work on my proof reading skills because looking at the post i have none…..

      please forgive me! 🙂

      1. Kathryn Summers

        Clare, I agree 100%. Public Relations writing is very unlike the type of writing I was used to. Especially learning to write press releases was a huge task for me to learn. Like you said, it is hard to fit everything onto one page and to get your message across in the most clear and straight forward way. After our little activity today of writing a press release on the spot I realize I have lost a bit of my knowledge since the winter semester!

        I’m sure throughout this class we will learn a lot from not only Gina but from each other as well, because everybody makes mistakes. It’s good to make those kinds of mistakes now, while in class, so we can remember those little steps for the future!

  6. megandcary

    I feel I was lucky enough to stumble upon PR. I’ve done lots of different things throughout my life from musical theatre to business. I changed majors four times in my first three years here at EMU. It was not until I landed my internship at Consumers Energy that I realized PR was the perfect blend of, not only my skills, but my interests as well. It was every college student’s dream come true.
    I consider myself a growing expert communicator. Writing was a large part of my life, but I always enjoyed taking it beyond and into speaking. I competed in writing and speech contests growing up amongst many other interests. I value the written word probably more than most. I frequently catch errors in written publications and I’m tempted to mark it with a red pen and send it back to the editor. I never ever use “text” talk in emails or documents, or even on Facebook.
    The main thing I learned once in this major was how to write in AP style. This was completely foreign to me, and it still takes some getting used to. I am grateful for learning this skill since I work closely with the writers at my company to get their approval on my work. I’ve received many a high-five for my proper use of numbers, hyphens, and commas.
    At this point I would say I am mostly comfortable with AP style, writing for broadcast, email, social media, websites, and blogs. I do not feel entirely comfortable writing a press release, mostly because of formatting. I took Intro during the summer and only had one chance to write a release.
    I am very excited for this class, this major, and a career in PR!

  7. amanda grant

    I thought the video was funny. I like the way they depicted social media and helped to get viewers to relate to the video by using a story that all of us remember from our child hood and adding a funny twist. This was a great way to keep the audience’s attention. Social media has changed us as consumers of news because the possibilities of how we can receive news are pretty much endless. With the age of laptops, iphones and ipads, people can access news and information at any time of the day nearly anywhere. I think this is a good thing for news, PR and companies in general because getting there information out to the public is simpler than ever and they don’t have to try as hard to reach a large audience as people did back in the day before internet was so accessible. With this being said, I think it also makes the business world much more competitive. Because it is so easy to divulge information to the public, every company is going to be that much better at doing so and in turn, will require people to act quickly and think of new and creative ways to do things that make them stand out from the other guy. If 5 similar companies all have the same resources and are trying to get out the same information, the one that is the most inventive and creative and get’s it out the fastest will be the most successful. In the PR business, grabbing the audience’s attention is just the first part, holding on to it is key.
    One item from chapter 11 I chose is blogging. Blogging has become so huge today and I think it is a great tool. I learned about different ideas to blog about and how blogging can really help a company in a positive way. It’s surprising to me the things some people will blog about, it often times follows the saying “he just likes to hear himself talk,” well it’s the same thing today with blogging, only it’s writing instead of speaking. I would like to learn more about how certain companies have increased their success by implementing blogging throughout their company and find some examples.
    Twitter is the second item I chose from chapter 11. I am still trying to get used to twitter, I don’t love it yet, but maybe that’s because I haven’t been very active on the site. I learned what the definition of micro-blogging is, communicating in messages of no more than 140 characters. It’s surprising to me just how many people use twitter and are obsessed with it. It became popular very quickly. I guess I would like to find out more about the benefits of using twitter and try to familiarize myself with it deeper.

  8. cmickbride

    One thing I learned from the book was that 53% of professionals say that the increased amount of information and new technologies has in fact increased personal rapport and relationships. I thought this was interesting because I feel like people always talk about how the rise in social media and communicating with people solely though technology makes it somewhat impersonal . I also thought it was interesting to learn that writing for the internet was so different then writing for other platforms, i always think of internet as the new newspaper but it’s actually its own entity. Also to see that there where even sub categories of writing for the internet, such as how writing for a blog is different then writing for a website. It seems as though writing for the internet is geared at fast comprehension for those reading.

    It surprised me most that there where headings for writing a blog post and tweet, or even that Twitter was in our book for that matter. I guess I sometimes take for granted that Twitter is something that seemed to effortlessly fall into my social media life where as others it seems like a completely foreign language. I liked the explanation of using as hashtag as well, sometimes I forget that hashtags are not just for “added humor” but actually for categorizing tweets that one can later search.

    I want to learn more about how public relations is now integrating into the internet and social media. I think this is the future of our field as well as our world as a whole, it’s not hard to think that a few years from now everything will be done via iPhone, where currently there seems to be an app for everything. I want to see what other social media phenoms come along and if Twitter will overcome Facebook the way Myspace was stomped out. This is an exciting time for technology as a whole I’m I’m always excited to see whats next.

  9. thebusystudent

    Here you are being great yet again. I decided that I am going to resurrect my blog that I created in your class, rebrand it slightly and start writing again! I’m excited for this new journey.

    Orlando

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