Convincing a journalist that your latest byline or press release is the most exciting story since ‘Lord of the Rings’ can be tricky. When competing against countless other PRs, separating yourself from the rest is a challenge. In the competitive and fast-paced world of tech PR, stories can be particularly at risk of becoming jargon-heavy and self-serving.
Here are just 6 key points to ensure your own story is a PR op and not a PR flop:
- Ask yourself the key questions
Before you start writing, take the time to focus on the mission of your piece. What is it trying to achieve? Is it interesting to your audience, does it have an angle? If not, how can I make it interesting? Once you’ve identified a purpose to your piece, you can identify the unique objective behind each section and paragraph.
- Knowing the difference
Different types of content have their own unique character: blogs can be written with flair, be personalised and have opinion and charisma; news releases should contain only facts, avoiding all subjectivity, unless in the quotes of course. Generally, you can’t include a general introduction as you can in an opinion piece, you just need all of the punchiest facts placing at the very beginning. Before you start, make sure you’ve got a full understanding of how each form should be written.
- Who exactly are you writing for?
Unless you have an established professional relationship with the journalist, or you have an amusing/unfortunate name, chances are they won’t pick your email out of their swamped inbox. So, how do you write for a person you’ve never met? You learn more about who they are and what they have written about previously – what is this journalist’s specific focus and news history? Whether their niche is mobile workforce optimisation or transport ticketing technology, find the angle to suit their interests, and if nothing else you should have read their last few articles.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, all the research you’ll ever typically need for a piece is at your fingertips. It’s good to back up your piece with statistics or opinions, and referencing other influencers could start more of a conversation. Obviously, any piece you write needs to be factually correct – you need to be a credible source.
- Write short
The Spanish novelist Enrique Jardiel Poncela wrote, “when something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”. Even the most highbrow pieces should be easily accessible and concise. Keep the focus on your story and how you can communicate it as efficiently as possible. Avoid conjunctive adverbs like ‘therefore’ and ‘however’; these make your piece sound like those formulaic essays you wrote on The Great Gatsby in school.
Use short sentences with no waffling or extra words. A great piece of advice to think about and which the media reference, is: “an eight word sentence is easy to understand”. Try to stick to that and your piece will remain concise.
- It’s your job
Sending weak drafts to a client lowers their quality expectations over time, so proof, proof and proof again. For some writers, it helps to print out their piece and read it through as a physical copy. Make sure you find a technique that works best for you. Use a second pair of eyes as a rule. There will always be something others see that you don’t.
Making the journalist’s eyes light up when they read the first few lines of your pitch or press release doesn’t need to be a complex process. It just needs to be personalised, read easily and well-researched, and ideally based on the latest industry news. So remember to think carefully about how each of these points apply to the specific journalist or outlet type you’ll be pitching to. Your writing will not only be clear and sharp, but also appealing to both target journalist and audience alike.