Public Relations Writing: Lesson #13 - p. 3

Writing for Internet sites -- the field is changing quickly but some principles are timeless. For example, here's an online article from 2010 that is still a good explanation of how social media is redefining PR: Writing the conversation: How social media is redefining PR?s content creation..

As a PR writer, you're not expected to be a Web designer, but as you have already seen over the past semester, there are a number of design considerations in all PR writing -- for example, coming up with a visual on your Message Planner. I'm not a Web designer, I'm a PR writer, yet here I am, communicating to you on the Internet, putting certain basics into practice.

The Message is a PR writing fundamental that is still primary in the world of 2.0. The essence of PR writing is the crafting of a solid message -- targeted to specific publics (audiences) -- and the creative art of story telling. Whether on paper, on line, on billboards or in skywriting from a biplane, getting the message right makes all the difference. Among the basics of message delivery are:

  • Strategy -- just as it's essential to plan your message for a press release, it's necessary to plan for a Web presence. Think: What can you do with a Web page that you couldn't do with a press conference, or a press release? We'll come back to this question shortly, but in my case, the Web site is the way I deliver each week's lessons to you.

  • Tactics -- What specific actions will you take to let the strategy play out? For example, how can I create a "classroom interaction" if there is no classroom? -- perhaps through the use of the Student Conference Area.

  • Style -- When you adapt any PR writing for the Web, you have to go over it and make sure you have simple sentences with few conditional clauses. Sometimes this means "dumbing it down" -- not because you're leaving out important stuff, but because you're always trying to woo the reader into hanging in there with you.

Two special points to make here:

    First, Web writing should be as much like broadcast writing as possible -- that is, like spoken speech. With the exception that unlike a PSA, on a website you can and should convey as much detail as will be helpful. That's one of the great advantages of a website.

    Second, this Web site is different from most of the sites you'll be writing for. When writing a Web site you don't usually have a "captive audience" as I do. Online courses are not like commercial sites where the customer is tempted to wander off... students are paying good money to learn an important skill and so teachers can make certain assumptions about both the comprehension level (no need to dumb down) and the motivation (you're going to be here once a week) -- which is why I break some of the rules for Web writing.

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