The Message Planner

The Message Planner is the PR writer's principal pre-writing tool. It is also a good way for a PR professional to keep track of work for various clients.

(Click for a full-size worksheet but use this format for class assignments.)
  1. Objective: After you've identified your client, the project you're working on, and the date you began, specify the objective of this PR writing -- that is, what do you want people to do, once they've been successfully targeted by your message?

  2. 5 W's -- who, what, where, when and why/how -- the basic information of your story is where you cast your leading character(s).

  3. Why/how will lead you into a consideration of many Key Ideas... list as many as you can think of.

  4. Angle = news value. Think like an editor -- what makes your story newsworthy? This is the "6th W" or "So What?"

  5. Outline of paragraphs: What are the main points that support your message? In what order?

  6. Visuals: If your story plays on TV, what is the picture you want people to get? Knowing that image will help you paint a verbal picture in the words of your release.

  7. Message: Finally, What's the short version of your story? Start by asking yourself, What's the headline? Then go on to draft the 20-second soundbite you will want people to take away from this news item.

Remember, there's nothing mystical about this process. Sometimes I go straight to the message first, then work my way back around (tweaking the message in the process.) You can do it however it works for you. The idea is to get your creative flow jump-started. Just make sure you touch all the bases.