2013 September

Back to Basics: Writing for PR Professionals

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By Lauren Emmett, Senior Writer

Most public relations professionals consider themselves masters of communication, spending their days crafting campaigns on behalf of clients and sharing their news with the media.  While PR practitioners often feel that speaking with reporters, editors and producers is second nature, many still struggle with writing assignments – particularly when it comes to basic grammar rules. With countless press releases, FAQs and talking points to draft, even the most seasoned PR professionals may feel overwhelmed with writing tasks and conquering fundamental rules.

Below are some of the most common mistakes I see in communications materials. Master these few simple rules now and spend more of your time creating compelling messaging and communicating with journalists.

1.    Lead with Your Message

Regardless of what you are writing – a press release, pitch or memo – always lead with your main takeaway or call to action.  With the amount of emails and documents that come across the desks of reporters, clients or even your coworkers, place your key points at the top so they are the first thing your recipient reads.

2.    Stay Active

Many PR professionals fall into the trap of writing in a passive voice. This happens when an action is being done by someone, rather than someone doing the action. See the difference here:

Passive: The new building in New York was developed by ABC Company.
Active:  ABC Company developed the new building in New York.

Keep your writing in the active tense to create clearer, more powerful messaging.

3.    Control Your Prepositions

While it is likely one of the first rules of writing we all learned, even good writers may ignore it. In formal writing, avoid ending your sentences with a preposition – a word that links nouns and phrases to other parts of a sentence, such as “for,” “with” or “about.” Simply rearrange your sentence to sidestep this mistake:

The company found a new partner to develop products with.
The company found a new partner with which to develop products.

4.    Correct Comma Splices

Always check your writing for comma splices, when a comma is used in between two full sentences, rather than a period. These complete sentences could also be connected by a semicolon:

The company fired its CEO, he had failed to increase profits.
The company fired its CEO.  He had failed to increase profits.
The company fired its CEO; he had failed to increase profits.

5.    Always Proofread

Make sure to always leave time to proofread any piece of writing before sending it to a reporter or your client. Printing out the document, rather than reading it on a computer screen, and reading it out loud are two easy strategies to help you catch any lingering mistakes. Better yet, if you have enough time, come back to a document several hours or even a day after you wrote it for a fresher perspective. Also, try to enlist the help of a coworker, who may be able to catch mistakes that you missed.