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Laura’s Language: Visual Language

Emojis have become a normal way of communicating through text messages and social media, especially for young adults and teens. Are we evolving backwards by allowing ourselves to use images instead of words? According to a survey by Talk Mobile, 72% of 18-25 year-olds find it easier to express their feelings in emoji form than through written words.

You can’t help but compare this version of visual language to that of ancient Egyptians hieroglyphics and even prehistoric cave art. Emojis can be great for expressing emotions that simple text messages cannot and saves us from a lot of misunderstandings. There is a great Key and Peel sketch about this that you should check out.

This visual language has become a huge part of modern life with articles on Buzzfeed quizzes that tell the plot of a movie using only Emojis. Emojis are in modern advertisements, films, and even on clothing! Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber have created their own Emojis, but they come with a price. That’s right for just $1.99 in the app store you can send a booty-shaking, pole dancing KIMOJI (aka Kim Kardashian’s emoji set)

Even with all these emoji options there is still a limit on what you can say, a problem the ancient Egyptians ran into. Those who could read and write had to learn the 2,000 hieroglyphic characters each representing one common object or idea. Is this our future? Will there be more and more Emojis created until the use of written words is unnecessary? It is doubtful but not impossible, it’s scary to think we could be evolving backwards.

They say every picture is worth a thousand words but how many words is an emoji worth?

 

Lots of Love,

Laura

 


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Laura’s Language: Using Plain Language In PR

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,

Laura

 

 


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Be a PR Prose: How to Be the Industry’s Hemingway

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.