Public Relations Writing: Lesson #1 - page 1




The Primacy of Public Relations

Before we get started, a pep talk:

Here is Columbia's mission statement... notice the text I've highlighted in red:

      Columbia College Chicago is an undergraduate and graduate institution whose principal commitment is to provide a comprehensive educational opportunity in the arts, communications, and public information within a context of enlightened liberal education. Columbia's intent is to educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public's perceptions of issues and events and who will author the culture of their times. Columbia is an urban institution whose students reflect the economic, racial, cultural, and educational diversity of contemporary America. Columbia conducts education in close relationship to a vital urban reality and serves an important civic purpose by active engagement in the life and culture of the city of Chicago.

You probably thought this was an "arts college"... yes, that too, but the fuller picture is that we are a college of "arts, communications, and public information" -- putting public relations right at the heart of our mission, with special emphasis on the skills necessary to "shape the public's perceptions of issues and events"...

Since about 1900, PR has developed as a professional discipline to help change the world for the better. It has sometimes been twisted to other purposes -- into unreasoning propaganda, for example, or divisive rhetoric. But in your hands, PR can provide the tools you need to change your world. Regardless of your major, or your life plans, PR writing will help you take creative control of your career, and join the media entrepreneurs who will flourish in today's Information Age.

Over the first few lessons you will learn to tell stories:

  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 -- editors. Editors aren't interested in ideas. Editors are interested in stories.

  4. There are three basic concepts in PR writing:

    • 5 W's
    • Angle (the 6th W)
    • Message
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