Literary quotes for PR writing skills
It was Oscar Wilde who suggested that “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
Being good at PR involves many skills, not least an ability to communicate a promotional direction that integrates corporate and marketing strategy.
Because the new PR is about business strategy; no longer on the periphery of the marketing mix but, in a new world order of social and digital channels, a central component in managing corporate reputation, driving engagement and winning customers.
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling
But there’s one timeless skill that anyone involved in PR needs above all others: an ability to write cogently, lucidly and persuasively – and that’s a skill not everybody has.
Or as Frank Lloyd Wright put it: “I’m all in favour of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
Good writing starts long before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).
"If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I'd spend it on PR!" – Bill Gates
The richest man in the world should know what he’s talking about. However, before you write anything you have to understand what the story is. Not the nuts and bolts of what the new product (or operating system) is: but the added value it offers customers. In other words, don’t simply communicate the technology, get to grips with what it does and why people should buy it.
It’s as well to remember Mark Twain: “The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.” If they don’t understand the value of your new product, they won’t buy it.
“A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Sir Richard Branson
Again, Sir Richard should know, but it’s worth setting out some SMART objectives for your PR strategy, and the metrics you’ll use to measure success. Interestingly, creativity is now being seen as a key element in how the value of PR is perceived, however you go about measuring its effectiveness. If you haven’t read the latest Holmes Report, have a look at its main conclusions.
Good writing needn’t always be creative writing, but it often helps.
“The formulation of a public relations strategy properly begins with listening, not talking." - Leonard Saffir
Wise words, because to write a perfect press release, blog or article needs a clear understanding not only of what it is you’re trying to sell – but what people are saying about it, or about competitor products. For example, what’s out there on social media? Or if your product solves a problem, first understand the problem.
Competitor analysis is also important, because you don’t want to copy the competition. You want to differentiate your product or service.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
Okay, few of us understand the theory of relativity, but we all know that part of Einstein’s genius was to simplify the hugely complex.
The trouble is a lot of PR material is written people who don’t have a clear idea who they’re writing for. Who is the audience you want to reach? If necessary, visualize your audience as a person who you actually know. Write your material for him or her personally.
Shakespeare is also worth quoting: “An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.” (Richard III)
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”- Mark Twain
Having sent out your material, keep a close eye on how it’s being received. That’s not just important for ROI, but making sure that you’re not being misrepresented on social media. Mark Twain was writing in a bygone age; but even then an untruth could very quickly gain currency.
A good tip is to make sure that nothing you write is capable of being misinterpreted. Check and double-check. Don’t exaggerate or make unfounded claims.
“If you don't tell your story, someone else will.” – Unknown
PR is no longer the optional bolt-on it once was. In the digital age, everyone can say anything about you – good or bad, true or false. It’s as well therefore to have a PR strategy to get your message across, before someone else does.
But how to learn how to write? Perhaps the last word should lie with the late, great American journalist Charles Kuralt. “I think good writing comes from good reading.” Or maybe author Ray Bradbury. “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles