Public Relations Writing: Lesson #12 - p. 6

Speechwriting (continued)

Keep in mind these points emphasized by Doug Newsom and Bob Carrell in their book,: Public Relations Writing: Form and Style

  • With speeches, the medium is the message -- you are more dependent than ever on your collaboration with Jessica Haddaway, or whoever it is you're working for, to put the message across. That requires a close working relationship with your principal.

  • A speech is all about "one main idea" -- i.e., your message. Make sure all your points are lined up to support that message -- just as you do when you're writing a press release. In a speech, the points are the main items in your "talking points," or "bullet points"... in a release, the points are each the subject of a separate paragraph.

  • Keep it down to just 3-5 points -- ideally just three,, but sometimes that isn't possible. A press release can cover 7 or 8 points (7 or 8 paragraphs between the lead and the final quote) but you should be able to tick off the points of a speech on the fingers of your hand. (I actually named my thumb "financial mess" and my first finger "corruption," etc., when I used the talking points on page 4 of this lesson. I have been known to write one-word reminders with a ballpoint pen on the tips of my fingers, so I can work without my notes!)

  • Always read your speeches out loud as you're writing them. Your writing is always improved when you read it aloud, but this is especially true with speeches. Bad phrases pop right out at you -- tongue twisters, phrases too long to allow the speaker to take a breath, repetitions and other things that "sound stupid" -- you'll catch them when you hear them, but you won't hear them if you don't read them out loud.

  • Presentations -- speeches that are essentially scripts, to accompany elaborate visuals -- are a separate "art form." I'm not covering them in this fact, they're a whole separate class offered in the Marketing Communication Department of Columbia College, called "PR Presentation Skills."

  • Brief remarks are an important category of speechwriting. There will be many more opportunities to speak briefly, than there will to give a formal address. When you have equipped your clients with a set of bullet points they'll be able to state the message, tick off 3-5 examples, and restate the message, almost as effectively as if they were a short advertisement or PSA... for example, if you're at a public meeting but not on the list of speakers, you can make an effective statement during the question-and-answer period... and the bullet points are also useful for a short response to an interviewer's question.

Keep up the good work,

Alton Miller

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