Public Relations Writing
Top Ten Takeaways for Lesson Six
(These are the essential facts you need to complete this assignment.
Click on each link below and read for further instruction about the PSA and the broadcast release.)
- Getting your public relations message on the air is almost always a factor in PR campaigns. So "writing for the ear" is some of the most important PR writing you will do. Most people get their news from radio and television. As readership of newspapers continues to decline, broadcast audiences just keep growing.
- Radio reaches 90+ percent of everyone in the U.S., with more than 16,000 stations across the country covering 50 different formats, radio is also a hyper-local medium serving every unique community. Audio consumers are listening for more than 2.5 hours every day. These findings are reported in this Nielsen report, "State Of The Media: Audio Today 2014," (You can (download the full report.)
- Of all the traditional media -- newspapers, magazines, the Internet, radio and television -- the most "believed" is television. Studies show that a story on the TV news has more credibility than the same story in newsprint. This is probably because of human nature -- "seeing is believing."
- So, between the reach of radio and the credibility of TV, broadcast PR writing includes several tools: Broadcast releases, video news releases, interviews, public service announcements, and podcasts among them. Some of these are for news producers, and others are in a special category called PSA. We've already covered interviews in the Pitch Letter assignment. In this lesson we'll focus on PSA's and broadcast releases, since they are good representatives of two superficially similar -- but actually quite different -- approaches.
- Start with the fact that PSAs are available only to non-profits ... but in an arts and media college like ours, that includes performing arts companies, visual arts galleries & studios, and just about every non-profit social cause you can think of. When you ask a broadcaster for a public service announcement, you are essentially pitching for a free ad. Your 30-second story should be of interest but it doesn't have to be hard news. You don't send it to the newsroom, -- it goes to the station's community relations office, who will send you guidelines specific to each station.
A PSA can be a simple one-page "rip and read" -- or or you might produce a digital version that rivals Hollywood for production values. Here's a PSA from the high end (but beware -- it's a very graphic PSA against texting while driving)
- A broadcast release is news, or it will be once you succeed in getting it on the air. Like all news it needs a strong news angle -- what makes it newsworthy? And, like everything written for the ear, it needs to be streamlined, easy to read, easy to grasp quickly, focused on a single point, using repetition to hammer the point home. A broadcast release (like a print release) will be rewritten in the station's newsroom, but you should still write it as though it's going to be read live as is (which it might be.)
- Broadcast matter, like milk, should be "stale-dated." For both PSAs and broadcase releases, use the "Begin" and "End" format to show the "shelf life" of your copy. That's your promise to the on-air personality that your material can be read during that date range without risk of embarrassment (if you mislead a DJ into reading a release promoting last night's concert, he'll never completely forgive you).
- Language when writing for the ear is more conversational -- more short sentences, fewer dependent clauses. Favor short Anglo-Saxon words -- "ask," not "inquire," "use," not "utilize" -- and don't be afraid of contractions: won't, can't, don't. You're also more likely to hear the word "you" in a PSA, compared to a press release.
- Read more about the PSA and Broadcast Release before beginning the assignment for this lesson.
- Your sixth assignment is to write a 30-second PSA & broadcast release, with message planner, about the Westland College "From the Heart" food drive. Remember, when you do a message planner for something other than a press release, you use the "Outline of Paragraphs" as an outline of key points you need to make, to support your message. In the case of a PSA, you won't be able to use more than one or two, but you should still line them up so you know which one (or more) to pick. Here's the link to the facts of the story.