Earlier today my co-workers and I had a 10-minute conversation on the difference between affect and effect. I was just about to send out a pitch when I noticed the green squiggly line of death so I asked my co-workers who were correct – Word or me. Summer hopped on Google, found the answer and informed me that Word was correct… shocker. She continued to read out loud saying that because there is so much confusion around identifying the difference between “affect” and “effect”, more people have started using “impact” instead.
It’s not uncommon for me to switch out words from one that I know sounds more intelligent to a word that’s easier to spell but it shocked me that this is a fairly common practice. Its pure laziness of course, I mean Google and Thesaurus.com are always at my fingertips. Despite being raised with spellcheck and smartphones we should never dumb ourselves down. Perhaps our generation just doesn’t care. We’ve been able to cheat our way through a lot of things older generations couldn’t.
I remember my mother telling me stories about typing papers for English class in high school on her typewriter. If she messed up one word she would have to retype the entire thing. That sounds like a living hell to me. I would have been so frustrated everyday, especially working in PR.
We truly are blessed with the technology at our hands. We are obliged to use the tools we have to help ourselves. Google it, ask Siri, literally anything. Don’t let yourself be dumbed down when you can easily and quickly find the correct words on your phone, tablet or laptop.
Lots of love,
Being dyslexic can be frustrating because you have a larger vocabulary than you can spell. When speaking out loud I think I sound intelligent and I understand the meaning of large words, but ask me how to spell them and I will just laugh. If you’ve read any of my previous columns you would know that spelling isn’t my strong suit, but I definitely have a lot of ideas. In college I would try to beef up my papers with bigger words browsing thesaurus.com for assistance.
As a PR professional I think it’s very important to understand the language of your field and the fields your clients work in. However, when speaking to journalists I find it is best to use plain language. Just tell them what you want right away and don’t leave them guessing. When I first started in PR I tried to fill my pitches with a lot of grand words and explanations, all with no responses. I’ve learned that if you speak “plainly” and get straight to the point in a short pitch you are way more likely to get a response. I will take a “no thank you” email over being ghosted any day!
So why is it that when I’m communicating with a journalist, who probably have a larger vocabulary and literary understanding than I do, I keep it simple? Well, because nobody has time for that! I know I don’t want to take five minutes to read an email that could have been explained in two. Neither does a busy journalist. Just keep it simple and everything will be easier.
Lots of love,
My first few days as a PR intern were filled with questions, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Every field has its own jargon and PR is no exception. Looking back I should have asked more questions because no one expects an intern to know everything. Now that I’m more seasoned in the language of PR I thought it would be nice to share what I have learned with ya’ll.
For all those struggling with jargon, you are not alone!
- Getting a Hit = Earning a media placement for your client.
- Traction = When your placement or press release has been picked up in the media and is getting widespread attention.
- Buzz/Trending = What everyone is talking about in the news and on social media.
- Branding = Using consistent language to describe your client or company and how you want the world to view you.
- Market = City.
- Pitching = Presenting an idea to a journalist, editor, or reporter.
- Media Contacts = Editors and journalist you have created good relationships with.
- Angle = A specific emphasis for a story being presented to the media.
- Bylines = Bio of the author of a thought leadership piece.
- Boilerplate = Short company description that usually appears at the bottom of a press release.
I hope you find this helpful! If you are still confused you can always use Google… I always do.
Lots of Love,
Working in the field of PR you get used to emails, typing out thought leadership, and spreading social media. For a dyslexic PR professional like myself, it can be intimidating to think of all the writing and all the opportunities to screw up. Nothing is more embarrassing than talking to a journalist about your client and misspelling something in an email. I mean these people are born grammar Nazis right? Maybe not, but all the same I’ve had to learn some tips and tricks of which I will share below.
- REOL (read-EVERYTHING-out-loud). Reading out loud helps you spot grammatical errors and will help you cut down a wordy pitch. Read it to yourself or a friendly colleague because 4 ears are always better than 2.
- Use your tools. Spellcheck is there to help you! Write your emails out in a word doc before sending anything out. Those red and green lines will save your butt.
- Google. Research what you are talking about. My clients are tech companies with a jargon of their own. I went to art school, so tech talk is neither my first nor my second language. If I’m talking to journalists about my clients they expect me to have an understanding of the field. I Google all the time! Tech jargon, abbreviation meanings and trending topics. Ignorance is not bliss my friend.
Good luck and lots of love,
The cardinal rules for writing an effective pitch that will appeal to journalists and is destined for the headlines rather than the trash.
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Writing is an art, but there are so many forms that they could practically fill a dictionary: Creative writing, technical writing, poetry, newswriting, etc. The list goes on and on and on. So when you set out to put pen to paper and crank out some truly great PR writing about company news, accomplishments or anything else, how can you ensure greatness (or at least garner interest)?
Step 1. Don’t write some wackadoo, over-the-top headline like the one that sits atop this piece. Headline writing is a tricky art, but if you want to get a journalist’s attention, it’s key. It’s like those greeting cards with scantily clad men and women on the cover: You just have to see what’s inside.
So to write an attention-getting headline, be sure to keep it short and sweet (nobody knows the name of your company’s new vice co-chair or cares whether it’s in the headline); include the gist of the story, but not every single detail (“customer and consumer engagement technology application” can just be shortened to “app” for headline purposes); and still try to make it interesting. Even though they may not want to admit it, journalists appreciate a good turn of phrase and even the occasional pun, so creativity is still important.
Step 2. Once you get past the ever-daunting challenge of writing a great headline, you reach the body. This may seem easier, as this is where you get to spill all the details of your exciting news and all the great things your company is doing. But sometimes, words are all you have to convince someone that what you have to say matters, and if you don’t say it well, the audience tunes out.
So first things first, you have to hook your audience with your lede – the meat of the story and the whole reason you’re writing to begin with. If a story or press release is to, say, announce company achievements but you start with a generic explanation of the company’s background, the audience will probably be left thinking, “Why does this matter and why am I reading it?”
It’s important within the body that a story is being told. By and large, press releases are boring, but essentially so. But if there’s a unique hook in what you’re writing about, capitalize on it. And if a company executive or someone in the industry has an interesting quote about the material, great. But if it’s what PR News calls a “happy quote,” most journalists will stop reading as quickly as they can answer a trivia question about AP Style. That is, a quote that says how happy they are to welcome a new personnel member, how happy it makes them to have placed in the top 10 companies ever by a niche magazine no one’s ever heard of, or if they just cured cancer. Make sure quotes have some meat to them.
Other useful tips to follow in the body text:
- Avoid hyperbole. Journalists can smell this from a mile away.
- Use uniform text formatting. Don’t ever use all caps and don’t over-use exclamation points.
- Spell things correctly and make sure everything reads well. Journalists are expected to do so to maintain credibility, and they expect you to, too.
Step 3. Wrapping things up may be the easiest part of PR writing, but don’t pay it any less attention. But if you’re following the inverted pyramid style of writing – a style that journalists know by heart in which the most important points are at the beginning of the piece and the least at the bottom – this is when you can include general company info and other items that aren’t as pertinent to the overall story.
OK, so journalists may not expect you to be Hemingway or the next Pulitzer Prize winner, but they’ll appreciate it when you hook them into a story that is well-written, grammatically correct and, most importantly, will be of interest to their readers. It may not be easy, but take a little extra time to do these things and you’ll start seeing your pitches in print.