Posted by Tom Gable
I participated in a lively Bulldog Reporter audio conference on “Advanced PR Writing for the Web: New Media Wordsmiths Reveal Copywriting Secrets to Grow.”
The 90-minute session was packed with good advice and enhanced with Tweets from participants and the audience (search for the hashtag #webwrite). Moderated by Jon Greer, it featured: Don Bates, Instructor and Founding Director, Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations, The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, @batesdon1; Debbie Weil, Corporate & CEO Blogging Consultant; Author, “The Corporate Blogging Book,” @debbieweil; Sarah Skerik, Vice President, Distribution Services, PR Newswire, @SarahSkerik; Ken O’Quinn, Corporate Writing Coach, Writing With Clarity, @influencewrite; Nettie Hartsock, Principal, The Hartsock Agency, @nettiehartsock; and Tom Gable, CEO, Gable PR, author of “The PR Client Service Manual,” @tomgable.
Common threads from the participants on how to break through in writing for the new media could have come from senior editors at the world’s leading publications: be relevant, useful, insightful, interesting, focused, topical and jargon-free.
Debbie Weil stressed good story-telling – bringing characters and company stories to life – and planning for future posting. Create an editorial calendar for major themes and stories, which can be enhanced with breaking topical news. Ken O’Quinn said to start with brilliant headlines. Think like a copy editor or the editor in charge of writing the table of contents for a magazine. Can you be interesting in a dozen words?
For short items, Don Bates said to be “snackable” – where readers can take short bites and be pleased.
Sarah Skerik provided insights into search engine optimization and using key words in releases that would tie into common search terms being used by media or anyone interested in the space.
Nettie Hartsock counseled against getting too carried away with search terms so the headers and copy turned into gobbledygook. There is also the downside of technical people getting too caught up in the process, which results in what critics call “typing not writing.”
In addition to the big ideas, yours truly went over the Gable PR seven-point litmus test as a starting point for issuing real news stories with topical, relevant information and evocative and provocative quotes. This was adapted from an earlier PR University teleseminar and workshops at various PRSA and Counselors Academy conferences.
1. Is it really newsworthy to anyone other than the company and, perhaps, the CEO’s family and a few friends?
2. How big is the impact: company, community, region, market niche or category, industry, technology or science breakthrough, nation, hemisphere, humanity?
3. Has the same or similar story already been told (quick database research will answer the question)?
4. Can the premise be supported by valid data, third party sources, real case histories and ongoing proof of principle?
5. Does the company have credible “gurus,” or spokesmen and women who can bring the story to life and become valuable and trusted resources for the media?
6. Can the company be further differentiated by its people, technology, culture and personality? Or if you lined up all the companies in the space would they all look and sound alike?
7. Can the story be summarized in a compelling headline, Tweet or one or two-sentence sound bite or elevator pitch? If posted through social media, will it generate interest and action (Re-tweeting, links, etc.)?
This quick test can help create a smart, compelling and interesting story or posting that breaks through the clutter, communicates to key audiences and supports the long-term image and reputation of your client or organization.