Public Relations is a tricky field because there are many PR writing basics that seem to contradict everything you have previously learned about writing. For example, from the time we are little, we are taught that in our writing we should always start with an introduction, support statements with lots of evidence and finish with a conclusion. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work in PR.
When you are working with reporters, you have about 2.5 seconds to grab their attention, (ok…maybe it’s more like ten seconds but when you’re feeling the pressure, it seems like 2.5) and after that its sink or swim. Once you have the reporter’s ear, you can go on and on with supporting statements, but you have to get them hooked first. That is why in PR so much time and energy is spent on creating the “hook.” We have to put the hook front and center – no skirting around the issue. When we compose a news release, the hook goes right into the headline…there is little room for build-up or fluff. In addition, the first paragraph is all about the hook – in two sentences or less. Oh by the way, don’t forget to mention who, what, where, when and why in the first two sentences as well. When talking to a reporter, the first thing out of your mouth should be the hook (and remember you have about ten seconds to get it all out).
So how, you might ask, do we do this? Well, we start by getting rid of all of the flowery words, and stick to the important things that get people excited about your message. It’s not about beautifully crafted sentences and paragraphs, it’s about clear, concise writing that gets right to the point. After the first paragraph, you can spend the rest of the news release providing your “evidence” – quotes, facts and examples. Just keep in mind that a reporter might not read to the end, so be sure to organize the release like an inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the top and the least important at the bottom.
One more note: Don’t use smoke and mirrors. Be up front about who you are and want you want to convey. You are not benefiting anyone by trying to hide these facts; a reporter will simply drop your news and move on to the next announcement.
The bottom line is this: PR is about telling a story quickly, so that a reporter can tell it eloquently and interestingly.