Public Relations Writing: Lesson #1

This is the Tuesday session of Lesson One.

What is PR Writing?

I'm going to make several points in this lesson, summarized as:

  1. People like stories. PR writers get paid (and paid well!) to tell stories.

  2. PR writing is a particular kind of story-telling, requiring a particular discipline.

  3. PR writers write for a very specific primary audience.

  4. There are three basic concepts in PR writing:

    • 5 W's

    • Angle (the 6th W)

    • Message

But before we get into that detail, let's begin writing. Or rather, pre-writing. Read this story about WBEZ's Internet fundraising and answer the following questions:

Take a moment and THINK. Imagine you're watching a short news story or infomercial -- a two-minute film clip -- about this subject. As you imagine this story on TV, answer the following questions.

First, if it were a short film

    Who would it be about?

    What is the important thing that he or she (or they) is doing

    Where is it happening? locally?

    When it is happening? recently? today?

    Why is this significant or newsworthy?

You have just analyzed a news story according to the journalistic 5W's -- Who, What, Where, When, and Why or How.

Now, to show how news stories can vary, I want you to re-think the story presented in this article. Shift the point of view. Using the same basic facts, ask yourself:

    Who else could be the center of this story?

    What is it they're doing (or having done to them) that could make them the center?

    When is it going to happen (or when did it happen)?


    Why or how is this story newsworthy, with this new center of focus -- it could be the same as in the article, or it could have other significance.

Okay, first assignment: Send me your answers to these ten questions. You can do this by email, to Although for most assignments you will be sending me attached Word documents, for this assignment a simple email message is just fine.

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