Summer is finally here and school is out, but learning for the rest of us continues. Whether you're a seasoned PR professional working for a top agency, a novice just beginning a career, or a mid-level manager working in-house at a small business, the time comes when we all could use a refresher course in properly writing suitable copy for the press.
My lesson occurred recently upon reading an interesting interview with retired Wall Street Journal assistant managing editor, Paul R. Martin, Sr., in The Bulldog Reporter, a public relations trade newsletter. Reporters and public relations professionals alike greatly admire Mr. Martin's experience, and they should because his advice for avoiding common writing mistakes is the best primer available for writing great press releases.
Allow me to share with you what I learned: ·
Keep your press release short and simple. Try to use one word instead of two, and ask yourself if what you've written is redundant. If in doubt, have a colleague or friend read your release. Reporters want to understand your key points immediately. They don't want to call you multiple times for clarification. ·
Write plainly and avoid company-insider phrases, clichés or industry-specific jargon. Unless you are targeting the trade press, avoid all jargon because it has have no meaning outside of the company or industry. An example phrase would be "state of the art." ·
Do not capitalize titles to elevate your boss or company. Never capitalize titles like "President" or "Chairman". Capped titles should only be applied to things like the names of countries or political heads of State.
Refrain from creating new words or phrases. Instead of saying, "grow the economy" verbs like 'expand,' or 'increase,' still work just as well. ·
Write in active voice. Remember that no one likes to read poorly written copy. Brush up on your grammar and never use the passive voice, which is boring.
Whether you are a PR professional or a small-business owner writing press releases in-house, you must know how the media writes. Keep in mind that journalists expect the quality level and same attention to detail in your copy that their editors demand from their own stories. If you violate these rules, here is yet another instance where your release will receive a one-way trip to the reporter's trash can.
Notable PR Resources:
The Bulldog Reporter
Steven R. Van Hook's All About Public Relations