Writing for public relations (PR) can be a powerful skill to master as a freelance writer. If you know how to write pieces that boost the way the public perceives others, you will have more clients lining up for your services. After all, businesses need a good image to secure customers. In fact, you can even use PR writing yourself to build your own reputation as a freelance writer.
Don’t know how to write for PR? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this article. Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Public Relations Writing?
Writing for public relations entails coming up with content that promotes a positive image of a company or person. This includes numerous written materials, including press releases.
The purpose of PR writing is to communicate facts, influence opinions, and build support among key stakeholders. PR writing can also be used to manage potential crises or unfavorable attention. That’s why individuals and companies consider investing in PR services. With good PR, overall, they can ensure professional success and business growth since the public is more likely to choose them over their competitors.
Resources to improve your writing:
- The Associated Press Stylebook: 2022-2024 Paperback; $14.99
- Media Relations Writing: A Guide for PR Pros (and those who just want publicity); $14.99
- Writing PR: A Multimedia Approach 1st Edition; $6.98
- The PR Styleguide: Formats for Public Relations Practice 3rd Edition; $49.23-$88.93
5 Effective PR Writing Tips
But how do you ensure effective PR writing? Here are five tips to enhance your PR communication skills and create impactful content.
1. Research the industry and establish goals
You need to establish your PR goals before writing your content. Your goals will determine what you’ll write in the first place.
Do you want to boost your client’s brand reputation during a PR crisis? Do you want your client to build good relations with the community? Or, as your primary goal, maybe you just want to raise awareness of your client’s brand? Use these goals as your guide in content creation. Once you have them, it’s time to do your industry research.
Industry research empowers you to generate effective messages that connect with your PR audience and meet your goals. It also keeps you abreast of recent industry developments. So, you can ensure your content establishes your client as a thought leader and authority in the field.
Industry trends and the strategies of your client’s competitors must all be incorporated into your industry research. You can collect this information via:
- Focus groups
You can also analyze industry reports for more insights. For instance, if your client runs an Italian restaurant and wants you to issue a press release to raise awareness about the business’ new dish, you’ll want to check out known food publications and databases such as Food Network Magazine or Food Data Central. You might come across relevant statistics–how many prefer Italian food, for example—which you can then incorporate into your press release.
To analyze your client’s competitor activities, just do a quick Google search of these rival companies. You should find a list of press releases they already distributed. If you see these press releases were picked up by media outlets, then you’ll want to emulate how these companies presented their information there. If the releases weren’t picked up by media, then you’ll want to do something else.
The subject or announcement to be made must also be well-researched. Read e-books, articles, studies, and interviews related to the topic. In our example, you could read scientific studies that prove that a specific ingredient in the new dish is good for the health, for instance. Just make sure you assess each source’s trustworthiness. The e-books and interviews you read should have been made by known entities like food influencers. Look for articles and studies in reputable publications and academic journals like the Journal of Functional Foods and the Journal of Food Science.
2. Understand your audience
Your research should not be limited to your client’s industry. It should also include your PR audience.
Different audiences may require different approaches and messaging. So, understanding your audience will help you tailor your writing style and content to resonate with them. Additionally, understanding your audience allows you to choose the most appropriate channels and platforms to reach them effectively.
You can know your audience by asking them straight through polls, interviews, or focus groups. Identify their demographics, interests, and values.
Additionally, analyze data from your client’s website, CRM, or social media analytics. These tools can give you information about your target audience’s online behavior. If you don’t have access to these tools, just ask your client for this information.
You can also examine the comments and discussions of your audience on your client’s social media platforms. They can give you firsthand knowledge of your PR audience’s preferences and interests. That includes the topics and content formats they are most interested in.
3. Produce an interesting lead
A lead in PR writing is that opening sentence or paragraph that immediately grabs the reader’s attention. It should be concise and provide a compelling hook that entices the reader to continue reading. The lead should also give readers a clear understanding of what to expect.
Check out this example of a bad lead. One look at the paragraph, and yet you still don’t know what the press release is about!
Now, check out this excellent sample lead. It contains some of the essential information the reader needs to know.
It answers the who, what, when, where, and why–or the 5Ws—in the introductory paragraph. Let’s break those down:
Who: Andrew Anagnost
What: He will join the board of directors
When: Effective Sept. 5
Why: He brings more than 15 years of product, business, and marketing experience
If you can, include the “how” (or the H) in your lead as well.
But that doesn’t mean your lead should always be as straightforward and complete as the 5Ws and 1H lead. You can also leverage your solid writing skills and get creative with your introduction.
Say you want to announce the results of your latest study in your press release. So, your lead could be:
“Did you know that 75% of people judge a brand based on its website design?”
“If a brand has an ugly brand website design, it should probably kiss those conversions goodbye.”
Whether it’s a straightforward 5Ws and 1H statement, a compelling statistic, a thought-provoking question, or an engaging statement, the lead should pique the reader’s interest immediately. This will set the tone for the rest of the PR piece and ensure the reader stays engaged throughout.
4. Tell an engaging story
Storytelling makes your PR writing more impactful in capturing attention and achieving your desired results. Statistics show that 72% of PR pros believe storytelling will be their most essential skill in the future.
That said, incorporating personal anecdotes, success stories, and real-life examples can make your PR piece compelling.
This news release by Jellysmack, for instance, while written in straightforward language, works because it includes real-life examples of creator couples people can relate to:
Furthermore, as part of your storytelling, use vivid and descriptive language that paints a picture in the reader’s mind.
See how this news release above by Baker Tilly makes you feel like you’re in the state-of-the-art facility being announced.
The key to effective storytelling is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. People aren’t interested in boring and complex academic papers. They want to experience action movies and love stories with happy endings.
5. Organize your information
PR writing requires careful consideration and planning. Remember, your goal isn’t just to build your client’s credibility and establish their positive reputation. You also want your PR content to be noticed by the right news outlets that can give your client better exposure.
So, prepare your information in a way that is easy for journalists to pick up and use. Include relevant sources in your writing to add credibility to your messages and build trust with the readers. It’s also a good idea to use relevant quotes and visuals to support your writing. You can also use bullet points like Hootsuite did below to make it easy for people to scan your content:
Follow the inverted pyramid structure–placing the most critical information at the beginning and gradually including less crucial details as the writing progresses. This ensures that readers get the key points upfront and can decide whether to continue reading. See this example of a press release following this structure:
Finally, ending with a strong conclusion that summarizes the main points and includes a call to action can leave a lasting impression on the reader.
Remember to keep your content focused, ensuring that every detail serves a purpose in conveying your message. AI templates like the one below can be a valuable tool for guiding your writing process and ensuring that you stay on track.
These templates can also help you in maintaining a consistent tone and style throughout your writing. As a result, you enhance the overall coherence of your story. To customize a template, you just need to specify the type of PR content you’re writing, your audience, and the announcement you wish to make.
Examples of Good Press Releases
Now that you know how to write a good press release, here are some more good examples that can inspire your writing.
1. Kentucky Community & Technical College System
Who says your press release needs to be complicated?
This one by KCTS is simple and straightforward, but it gets the PR message across perfectly.
Want to be more creative with your lead? Do what this UK-based rubbish removal company did.
It found a way to link the new waste collection scheme it wishes to announce to Valentine’s Day, which, at that time, was just around the corner. With such a creative lead, you can easily get journalists–and ordinary readers—to notice your PR content.
Skittles sure knows how to immerse readers into their world with its press releases.
See how the vivid and descriptive language in the PR content above helps you visualize the new product being introduced: The colorful visuals help, too!
Boost Your Client’s Image with Good PR Writing
PR writing plays a vital role in conveying key messages, managing crises, and promoting products or services. It can shape your client’s image, and help them build trust with their audience and engage with stakeholders.
However, PR writing requires solid skills and techniques.
As a freelance writer, you’ll need to research the industry and establish PR goals, so you have a clear direction and purpose for your writing. Understanding your audience is also crucial to tailoring your client’s message to the audience’s interests and needs.
You also need to produce an interesting lead to capture the attention of readers. Tell an engaging story that will make your writing more memorable and impactful. Finally, organize your information wisely and present it in a way that is easily understood by your audience.
Following these five effective PR writing tips will greatly enhance the success of your public relations efforts.
About the author
By Chris Norton, host of the UK’s 7th largest marketing podcast, Socially Unacceptable, and Founder of award-winning B2C specialist PR agency Prohibition. His social media training blog is listed in the UK’s top 10 PR blogs. For tons of digital PR tips, you can follow Chris here @chris_norton.