Public Relations Writing - Rewrites

Top Twelve Takeaways for the Midterm


Your Midterm assignment is a natural opportunity to improve on these 12 pointers -- which will help you prepare for the next round of rewrites.


Baskerville Old Face #1

Format First! – Format is your all-important first impression. When editors handle hundreds of releases every day, they can simply toss out any that don't look professional. Just as important: your agency has a certain style that they expect all their PR writers to adopt; if you don't follow instructions, you're not cut out for this kind of work. That's why in my course poor format costs you five grade points. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #2

"Who" and "What" – This is where you make the first decision about what's important in your news story. Who is it about? What are he/she/they doing that will make news? It's just like casting a film – you need a central character. And if your "Who" and your "What" still don't fit together as a single sentence, you may just have a mental block. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #3

"Where" = Here and "When" = Now – Above all else, the editor wants "Proximity" and "Timeliness" or you don't make the cut. A March press release must tell a story that's happening in March, not April. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #4

"Why" (or "How") doubles your information about this story. We already know who's making news, and now we have insight into the motivations. This is how stories are told and it's what makes them so interesting. The difference between a boring tale told by your clueless uncle, and a sizzling good piece of gossip, is a fact of human nature – we care Why things happen. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face 
#5

Key Ideas are your palette of colors to work with. The more you spread out before you, the more likely you are to make interesting combinations, recognize patterns and themes, and craft a compelling story. Don't skimp – fill a page with impressions and ideas. Stretch your imagination: can you see the theater lobby on opening night, with Harold's posse and Laura's afficionados, making small talk? Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #6

Your news angle must be sharp. You bring the editor a story. The editor scowls "So What?" You need a comeback – so what is the most unique, unusual, significant, notable fact about your story? I call the angle "the 6th W" because you need to make a sharp point that the story of your first 5 W's is not just a list of facts, but a newsworthy tale readers will want to read. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #7

Your message brings it all together: combines the plain facts (the 5 W's) including the flavorful "Who" or "How" – plus the "6th W", which even a cranky editor will admit is newsworthy – into a succinct paragraph that sums it all up. Readers who never get past the first paragraph will still know the essentials of the story. As a news item (even a short one) it will become part of the "buzz" you're generating. Just make sure your message is a sound bite that conveys information, not your idle comment on the assignment. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #8

Your lead paragraph – The lead is almost the same as the message, but written in journalistic style (see #12 below) A summary lead might be identical to your message, but typically the message is like your personal first draft, and the lead takes shape as part of a finished release. Notice that we're straddling both the Message Planner and the Press Release here – crafting a message (and a lead) is a circular process: you might start with the 5W's – that would be normal – or you might start with, say, the Visual, or the Outline of Paragraphs. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #9

Speaking of your outline of paragraphs – Your lead is going to set the tone, making the announcement you want to share. then the next 5-7 paragraphs are going to support that message, in order of importance (not chronological order). Sketch it out, with brief descriptions of each point you're going to make; rearrange to suit yourself; and use it as your template for a coherent release. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #10

Quotes enliven your stories – Every press release benefits from a good quote or two. I often finish a press release with a good strong quote that restates the message in a fresh way. Every quote must be attributed to a person by name (and identification if necessary). Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #11

Spelling and grammar problems will automatically lower your grade by one point. That means that no matter how well you write, you can't make an "A" in my course if your final portfolio includes work with misspellings. Why? Because you couldn't send press releases with misspellings and grammar problems to editors and expect to be taken seriously. Continued ...


Baskerville Old Face #12

"News Style" is of particular importance to an editor. You are not writing a chatty newsletter, or posting fragments in social media. And you are not writing advertising copy, full of personalized hype that "you can't afford to miss!!". Your writing should flow – in news style, using the word "you" very rarely, and "I" not at all. The facts must speak for themselves. As a warm-up, read a solid page of news items in any local newspaper, before sitting down to write your release: get into a news style mindset that will help you rein in your enthusiasm so you don't sound like an excited amateur.Continued ...



So, review these pointers, which you will find useful for your midterm, and your eewrites..

The "Takeaways" are your fast track to understanding and completing this week's work, but for a deeper understanding you need to read further and in greater detail about each subject we cover. For more information about press release leads, look at this link.

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