Public Relations Writing: Lesson #12 - p. 2

Speechwriting (continued)

The Message Planner is a perfect tool for speechwriting, because speeches that work convey just one main idea. That would be your message. In order to convey that idea, speeches need to make a few supporting points, in the most persuasive order. Sound familiar?

In other words, speeches use the same organizational principle as other PR writings. Like a good press release, a good speech will

  • Begin by stating the message, clearly
  • Continue by making the points that support the message
  • Finish by restating the message in forceful, memorable terms

This is another way of saying what has often been said about public speaking --

You're supposed to

  • Tell them what you're going to say
  • Say it
  • Tell them what you just said

I always write a speech in stages:

  • First, I write a one- or two-sentence summary of the purpose/point of my speech. What BIG IDEA do I want to leave them with? (This is like the Message of a press release.)

  • Then I ask myself, If they are only able to retain three key points to support that BIG IDEA, what are those three points?

  • Then I outline the speech

    1. Introduction (my message)

    2. Body

      1. Supporting point

      2. Supporting point

      3. Supporting point

    3. Conclusion (my message again)

  • Then I write it out as a complete text

      I write it in paragraphs -- or sometimes, as a kind of "prose-poem" (on the page it looks like Whitman's Leaves of Grass.)

  • Then I outline it again, as "bullets"

      (We'll talk more about "bullets" later)

In any major PR campaign, I usually include at least one speech. This becomes what they call in politics, the "stump speech" -- the speech that the candidate delivers at each stop, when he or she gets up on a stump to address the crowd in each new town. I write the speech even before there are any plans to make a speech, because I know that speeches have other uses.

A good speech is the essence of an op-ed article, for example. It can be translated into a white paper or position paper, with little difficulty. As "bullet points," a speech becomes a good set of talking points for other spokespeople involved in the PR campaign. It is adapted easily into a newsletter article, or direct mail piece.

A good speech is the basis of a good planning memo or position paper. Since both a speech and a position paper are "children" of the Message Planner, they tend to resemble one another in style and emphasis. Actually, this can work in either direction -- position papers are easily converted into speeches, and vice versa. In some situations, it is easier to start with a speech, since speeches tend to require collaboration and the process creates consensus.

The reason a speech translates so well is that, since it is written to be spoken, it has an easy flow that adapts to any purpose. It is far easier to translate a speech into an op-ed article, than vice versa. As you know from earlier lessons, I always read my copy out loud, so in a sense I am always "speechwriting." Writing a speech is like all my other writing, only moreso.

But -- now that I've made these points about speechwriting, I have an even more important point to make about speechreading -- don't! Never -- well almost never -- should you read your speech. No matter how fluid it is, a speech that you read is not effective communication.

Instead, deliver the speech from bullet points, following the outline of the speech but not word-for-word. There are only occasional moments in a speech where the words you deliver should exactly match the words on the text that you give to the media.

Go on to the next page.

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