Public Relations Writing: Lesson #2 - p. 5


5. The Angle is another problem area for many students. Keep in mind this cardinal rule:

Press releases are written for editors.

The editor is the gatekeeper. The client may love what you wrote, and it might be entertaining for newspaper readers -- but if the editor doesn't buy into it, it will never be passed on to a reporter, it will never be written into a news story, the newspaper readers will never see it and the client is sure to be unhappy. PR Writers write for editors. All editors care about is news. The angle is to help you convince the editor your story is news.

The angle is where you hear the editor say "So What?!" when you tell him your good news. You have to have an answer ready.

For example,

  • You: The students are going to have a food drive on campus starting this week, to feed the hungry and homeless of Turtle Bay.

    (Notice how this sentence is constructed entirely of the 5 W's?)

  • Editor: So what?

  • You: The problem of homelessness is getting worse since the closing of the Marshmallow factory. They're not just wringing their hands, they're doing something about it.

  • Editor: So what? I mean, good for them, really, that's great. They should put that in their association newsletter.

  • You: But they need help spreading the word, to get food and money donations.

  • Editor: I wish them luck, God bless them. But so what? -- what does this have to do with me? They should put up posters or something. I print news, not good deeds.

  • You: But it's unique. It's never happened before, not like this -- it's a human interest story of young people taking charge when civic institutions fall down on the job.

  • Editor: This is starting to sound interesting.

  • You: And they've got Mayor Cline in the act. He's going to put on a chef's cap and apron and take part, dishing out food.

  • Editor: Hmmm. A mayor who can dish it out. Mayor takes off his hat to student activism... you're starting to get my attention...

  • Of course, this is an internal conversation you're having with yourself, not with the editor.

    Your press release is going to have only about a 10- second chance with the editor... he or she will look at the letterhead, note that the format is crisp and professional (this will happen in a nanosecond) and then glance at the headline and the first graf. Most releases then go straight into the trash can. But because you've been well-trained at Columbia College, your press release will be assigned to a reporter -- if, and only if you've figured out, in advance, why this story is news and not just an appeal for the editor to help you out.

    Think of "So What?" as sharpening your angle . Every time you ask "So what" it's like sliding a knife's blade against a whetstone. You are bringing your PR message to a fine point, you are creating a sharp angle for your story. This is so important that I refer to the "So What?" question as the "6th W".

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