Effective PR writing is crucial to the success of any PR campaign. As PR professionals, we rely heavily on our ability to craft compelling messages that resonate with our target audience.
Whether it’s a press release, a social media post, or a pitch to a journalist, our writing must be clear, concise, and persuasive. In fact, strong writing skills are often a prerequisite for landing a job in the PR industry, as employers seek out candidates who can communicate effectively and make a real impact. So, if you’re looking to excel in PR, honing your writing and copyediting skills is a must.
People often mistakenly assume that this niche is like any other, yet it has its own peculiarities and underlying principles. In this article, we’ve compiled a set of 10 powerful tips that will help you strengthen your PR writing skills in no time. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
1. Explore imperfection
There are certain things that are meant to be imperfect. I’m talking about the first draft. We often invest too much work in the first version of a text.
There is a great quote that allegedly belongs to Hemingway that goes something like:
The first draft of anything is rubbish.
The best way to work on a text is to “bleed out” all the words first and then take your time to trim and edit it to perfection. Aiming for perfection the first time round can often defeat the purpose of creating a compelling piece.
2. Don’t keep it to yourself
Reading your text aloud is a common practice that can help you assess how it actually sounds. There are many types of writing where reading your text back to yourself is absolutely imperative — a notable example is UX Writing.
UX writers often even delegate the reading to robots just to have a more impersonal attitude toward the text they hear. Natural Readers is an excellent tool for that. It’ll allow you to objectively assess how natural your wording is.
3. Be careful with deadlines
When estimating the amount of time we need to produce a piece, many of us make mistakes. Always give yourself the right amount of time to review your piece.
If you’ve worked on a 500-word piece for, say, two hours, take a break and revisit it. Take at least another hour to edit and improve the copy. At first, you’ll find it excessive, but eventually, you’ll become accustomed to spotting stylistic and grammatical mistakes on the fly.
Just give your copy some time to breathe.
4. Search engine optimization
One of the few rather technical aspects of modern PR writing is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Nowadays, it’s essential to be at the very least acquainted with the best SEO writing practices. More specifically, this is important if you want your press releases and other types of texts to be easily found on the web and rank high in search results on major search engines.
Here are a few basic principles that will help you optimize your press release:
- Use natural anchors when linking or citing sources
- Don’t use too many links
- Ensure that your text is 100% plagiarism-free
- Use media when possible
5. Embrace criticism
After you’ve taken the time to diligently proofread your text, give it to someone knowledgeable to review it for you. A good rule of thumb is not to accept answers like “Yeah, it’s alright” or “It’s okay.”
Always look for a thorough review of your work and only ask people who have good copyediting skills combined with an eye for subtle mistakes.
6. Opt for a succinct copy
In PR writing, brevity is critical. Always try to opt for strong explicit verbs rather than phrases. Limit your use of adverbs and don’t use too many adjectives. It is commonly known that journalists or editors often spend less than 10 seconds skimming through your writing before deciding to discard your press release altogether. This is why it’s essential to keep your press releases short and sweet.
Naturally, this begs the question: What is the optimal word count for a press release?
It is commonly recommended to opt for 300-400 words. Going beyond the 500-word limit will probably dilute the text and make it less impactful and dense, which is slightly problematic if you’re a beginner and you want to make sure that your press release will be noticed.
7. Ditch the jargon
Technical or professional jargon isn’t bad in itself. However, it is problematic when used in a text directed toward an audience that hasn’t specialized in your niche. Using advanced terminology doesn’t automatically translate to bad writing, as many critics assume. However, by doing this, you assume that your reader is as well-versed in a particular field as well as you are. You also risk alienating the reader if it turns out that they actually aren’t well-versed in this field.
Always choose to go with plain and simple English. This will prevent you from alienating a considerable portion of your readers.
8. Build a strong opening
PR copy needs to engage readers, to some extent – this is one of its essential functions. You need to grab a reader’s attention so that they are compelled to read the entire thing. In order to have a strong opening, you need to be brief and appeal to the reader’s emotions (don’t go overboard).
Similarly, your text needs to suggest that by reading it, your reader will gain value from it. It’s crucial to provide your readers with sufficient insight into the topic and the events you’re about to cover. This way, they can immediately feel initiated into the topic at hand.
A great way to do this is to apply the “5 Ws” principle so commonly used in journalism. It stands for “who, what, where, when, and why,” and it allows you to place your reader in the right informational field and set the tone for the text they’re about to go through.
9. Keep an eye on readability
Readability is a requirement for an engaging piece. People won’t waste energy reading a text that isn’t visually adapted to the current standards. Nowadays, the most common way of measuring readability is the Flesch-Kincaid Score.
To ensure that your text scores high on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, follow these recommendations:
- Keep your sentences under 25 words.
- Keep your paragraphs short as well. Large chunks of text will often dissuade people from reading. Keep them at 3-4 lines to make them less intimidating.
- Use transition words like “however,” “nevertheless,” “furthermore,” and others. This ensures that your text will be more cohesive.
- Avoid passive voice if you can.
- Avoid writing complex phrases and use a rephrasing tool to replace difficult words with easier synonyms. This will make your content less complex and easy to read for people.
10. Fact-check everything
Whatever claims you make — you need to back them up with evidence. Baseless claims are a faux pas when it comes to PR writing and journalism. Always support your writing with facts.
The reason why fact-checking is especially important in this day in age is the sheer amount of fake news and misinformation that is being spread by journalists both willingly and unwillingly. The issue of fake news has never been more acute in Western media than it is today. This in itself should dissuade you from contributing to fake news.
We hope you found these tips useful. By applying these principles on a regular basis, you’ll be able to continually improve your PR writing skills. Good luck!
Lori Jones is a passionate journalist, dedicated to travelling and teaching people to lead a better life. She’s curious about a host of topics ranging from marketing to SEO writing. Lori is currently an editor for Studicus.
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