Public Relations Writing: Lesson #2 - p. 4


Here are some typical problem areas for message planners:

1. Spend some time thinking about objectives. Too often, students tend to skimp on this. Think about the things you want to accomplish with your story, including

  • Getting people to bring food
  • Getting people to donate money
  • Enlisting volunteers
  • Good publicity for the Student Association
  • Good publicity for Westland College
  • Getting other civic groups to pick up the other nights
  • These were just some of the ideas students had. You may have other ideas... don't be skimpy, be creative!

2. The 5 W's are an important place to start. Remember, this is where you do the "casting" of your story... Who's at the center of it? What's going on? Here's a very important formula:

W+W=Sentence.

That means that your Who joined together with your What should always become a sentence.

Something like this is always wrong:

    Who: Westland College Student Association

    What: Food drive to feed the homeless

Why is it wrong? Because put together, like W+W, it comes out

Westland College Student Association food drive to feed the homeless

and that is not a sentence.

The Who/What combination forms the most important sentence of your pre-writing because it's what orients everything else.

For example, "Mayor Cline is pledging city support to a food drive at Westland College..." -- if your client were Mayor Cline and you chose this combination of Who and What it would take a very different spin from, say, The Westland College Student Association is sponsoring a food drive..." -- wouldn't it?

3. Your "Where" and "When" should always somehow be translated to "Here" and "Now" When editors are polled to learn what they look for in news -- that is, what makes a story newsworthy -- they have a lot of answers but they all agree that the top two factors are Proximity (is it a local story?) and Timeliness (did it just happen, or is it just about to happen, or is it happening as we speak?)

4. Your "Why/How" -- the 5th "W" -- is where your story gets interesting. You will have more than one "Why/How" as you get warmed up. For example,

    ...in order to feed the hungry families of Persimmon County.
    ...in response to the crisis caused by the layoffs when the Marshmallow factory closed.
    ...in order to begin a program of free hot meals every Wednesday at the Anodyne Center.
    ...to demonstrate that students are neither apathetic, nor binge-drinking party animals, but caring citizens who want to make a difference
    ...to inspire civic organizations of Turtle Bay to pitch in and help with the other six days of the week.

Again, as you consider "Why/How," let your creativity flourish. You will have so many ideas that they will flow down into the Key Ideas area just below the 5 W's -- and they will spill over onto the next page.

Your key ideas can begin as a list -- or as a brainstorm mess of information -- but sooner or later you're going to need to put them in list form. This is so you can begin to order them and put the dominant key ideas -- Mayor Cline will be on hand, in chef's cap and apron -- with subordinate key ideas (which are no less important to include), like the address of the Anodyne Center is 450 Eastlake Drive.

This is a good time to remind you: you don't have to actually use a Message Planner form -- I'm not asking you to "fill in the blanks" -- so long as you include all the information, from "Client" at the top, through "Message" at the bottom, and everthing in between...

Go on to the next page...

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