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Better #PR Writing? Yes; Here’s How!
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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How hard is it to do better when writing press releases and other communications? I think most of us would likely agree that, at times, changing our style or tone can be difficult. However, according to Julie C. Lellis, an associate professor and associate chair of the School of Communications at Elon University, it is not that daunting a task. She notes:

“For PR writers, the pressure may be on you to simplify a complex idea into a short tweet, position a difficult topic in a white paper or create an unexpected surprise for your audience during a creative campaign—all while under deadline. Want to be more efficient, strategic and creative with your words? Here are some brainstorming techniques that you can use to push your thought patterns in new directions and challenge your own assumptions before and while you write.”

Put pen to paper.
What? No laptop? No smartphone to look up possible ideas? Nope! You will be surprised how creative you can be when you put pen to paper… that is, once you still all the noise in your head. If you think this will be difficult, set an alarm for about five to ten minutes as a start. Simply jot down what comes to mind and remember, you are not writing a press release at this point. You are simply brainstorming with yourself for ideas with a goal of becoming a better strategic writer.
Put values into concrete expression.
What does your brand stand for? What drives your client organization? What is its mission statement, if it has one? All of these can help you translate the values into concrete expression. Ms Lellis suggests writing one to two key messages “that describe the most important things that audiences need to know about your client or organization in any piece that you write. Use this as a guiding voice—no matter what you say, it will need to be uniquely like you and only you.  Remind readers of who you are.”
Change your voice.
Simply put, get out of your own head. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Or, while you are at it, make a list of all the questions your intended audience has or will need answering with what you write.
More lists are good.
Ms Lellis notes: “Take a few minutes to simply list words and phrases that connect to the topic. If you are writing about a product, you can list product attributes or identify phrases that people would say to describe the product. If you are writing in response to crisis, you can make two lists: one of negative words or phrases that could be used and another of the positive choices. Lists can become a thesaurus of sorts, showing you new ways of saying the same thing.”
Look for the “Wow” factor.
As you write, look for those sentences or phrases that may make even you sit back and go “Wow.” If you have done that, the process can help you identify where your writing is boring or redundant or, even better, push you to do more “wow” writing… which is a good thing.
We’ve all heard one major criticism of brainstorming is that it typically is a group project. In this instance, however, you are brainstorming with just yourself. As writers, us flacks need to break our of our writing boundaries and obtain fresh perspectives. Oh, and while we are at it, let’s approach our writing with a truly open mind. We might just surprise ourselves with the results.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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