Public Relations Writing: Lesson #2 - p. 6

Planning your Press Release (continued)

Items to include on your Message Planner (continued):

  • Message -- this is the most important element of the Message Planner, and it is the culmination of your entire pre-writing process. Look back at your original objective (at the top of the planner), and think about the 5 W's and the news angle ...

    Now put your entire story into a sentence or two -- the main points of the story, what makes it newsworthy, and anything else that you want to communicate for your client, all phrased compactly in a paragraph of one or two sentences.

    One way to think of it: as a short news item. Imagine you're driving home after the press conference, which was a big success. A radio station who received your press release has boiled it down to a short broadcast news story -- 30 seconds or less. What is it that you're hearing on the radio? That's your message.

    Or you can think of it as a sound bite. Imagine your client is the mayor of Turtle Bay, Jimmy Cline. He wants your professional advice: when a reporter asks about this project, what is the 20- or 30-second sound bite -- a couple of sentences -- that he should be prepared to say, that will communicate everything essential about this story.

    Another way to approach it: ask yourself "What's the headline?" That's a common phrase among PR people. It's a good shortcut to the central point. Sometimes a well-crafted headline can help you frame the rest of your message.

  • Visual -- Take a moment to picture your story on TV. What do you want to see on the screen. Hint: You don't want simply a talking hairdo giving your news story. You want the TV crews to have something interesting to film and you want the newspapers to run not just a story but a photo as well. So think creatively, now, at the beginning of the pre-writing process: What kind of visuals will help put your message across?

After you've completed the Message Planner, you're ready to write your press release. You'll start with a lead paragraph.

How do a message and a lead paragraph differ? In the same way that your rough draft differs from the final copy of a love letter. Since you're doing your pre-writing for yourself -- no one else (but me) is going to see your Message Planner -- you can feel free to use whatever hype or exaggeration you please. When you turn from pre-writing to writing, you'll "clean up your act," and make your lead more journalistic -- keeping the hype toned down. But your message should be unabashedly enthusiastic -- it should be the theme of your press release, the "take-home" point that you want people to be talking about when your successful PR campaign has done its job.

Now return to Moodle and get into the Lesson Two assignment. You're ready to write your first real press release. .