Writing in a PR context:
PR – The deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain
mutual understanding between an organisation (or individual) and its (or their)
Roles of PR practitioners:
- Internal communication.
- Corporate communication.
- Media and community relations.
Purpose of media relations:
- Promotion via news media – proactive e.g. a new product launch.
- Advocating for client/employer – proactive and reactive e.g. anti-
- Responding to media queries – reactive e.g. police media.
- Managing issues/crises – reactive and proactive e.g. company
Media relations tasks:
- Organising interviews.
- Spokespeople briefings.
- Press conferences.
- Media contact lists.
- Media releases/media kits.
- Building block of PR writing activity.
- Written like news stories.
- Achieves a communication goal regarding reputation.
Difference between PR and advertising:
PR Both Advertising
Use of 3 party Seek to make Paid for media to inform
endorsement to inform something known to an and persuade e.g.
and persuade e.g. news audience. advertisements.
3 party usually a
PR writing for the media:
Planning process (before we write):
- Public (who we want to reach).
o Different publics have different needs and preferences.
o Shape your message to suit.
- Message (what you want to say). o Reduce to a simple key message/s.
o Keeps you and the audience on track.
- Medium (what‟s the best way to do it).
o Characteristics of the medium/media.
o Technical qualities and requirements.
- Whom you wish to inform or make aware.
- Whose attitude/s you wish to change.
- Whose behaviour/s you wish to modify e.g. employees, members,
voters, and customers.
Key message or messages:
- What the organisation wants to make known to a target public.
- The focus of the 1 paragraph, repeated in different words throughout
- Reflects strategic intent.
- Communicated via a range of PR tools.
- The supply of information on issues and events to the media, usually in
- Used for:
o Thought leadership (survey, speaker).
o Statements concerning events affecting the organisation.
o Responses to external events.
Write like a journo:
- PR writing for the media is journalistic writing.
o Your goal is to have your material used completely intact, but a
responsible expectation is that parts of it will be used.
Media release writing:
- A media release will only be used by a media outlet if:
o It has news value.
o It has audience appeal.
- Affects lives of media outlet‟s audience.
- Out of ordinary/bizarre.
- Timeliness, proximity, novelty.
- Public interest.
- Tragedy, humour.
- Romance, sex.
- The future, money. - Human interest.
o An appeal to emotion.
o Messages that affect people‟s emotions.
o Different for each public.
o An appeal to intellect.
o Messages that inform with facts, examples, statistics.
o Different for each public.
ABC of PR:
- Accuracy – Check the facts and details.
- Brevity – Say a lot in few words.
- Clarity – Easy to understand.
Media release components:
- Letterhead and title.
- Lead paragraph/intro.
- Body (supporting facts and quotes – least to most important).
- Contact information.
- Should communicate key message.
- Approaches to writing leads:
o Classic – „hard‟ news story style.
o Narrative – feature or „soft‟ news story.
- Should answer (in lead or 2 nd paragraph):
o Who, what, when, where, how, why.
Media release structure:
- Classic approach – who, etc.
- News angle/newsworthy.
- Must communicate client‟s key message.
- Must have audience appeal (emotional or rational connection).
- Less than 30 words.
- Information that needs to be communicated to target publics.
- Summarise the lead.
- Less than 8 words.
- No subheads.
- Say it straight. The body:
- Most important to least important fact.
- One sentence per paragraph.
- One idea per sentence.
- Facts that support key message.
- Letterhead and MEDIA RELEASE title.
- PR person‟s contact details.
- One page, Arial.
- „Ends‟ or „more‟ at bottom of page.
- Only capitalise proper nouns.
- Don‟t capitalise titles.
- Lower case headlines.
- No full stop after headline.
- Past tense or future tense.
- Lead or 2 ndparagraph.
- Then quote them.
- Use conversational language and tone inside quote marks.
- Develop quotes to support the key message and communicate
- If quote runs over more than one paragraph, don‟t „close‟ it in the 1 . st
- TV news and current affairs.
- Radio news and current affairs.
- Trade press.
- Social media.
Grammar, writing and punctuation boot camp:
- Write in 3 person.
o Avoid „I‟, „we‟ or „our‟ (except in direct quotes).
- Avoid 2 person:
o Avoid referring specifically to the reader.
- Active and passive voice:
o Active – subject of the sentence performs the action e.g. school
bus hit the wheelie bin.
o Passive – subject of the sentence has action done to it e.g.
wheelie bin was hit by the bus.
- Wherever possible, write in active voice. - Past tense:
o Used when referring to quotes.
„Said‟ not „says‟.
o Individual organisations are singular entities.
E.g. „Myer is hosting‟, not „Myer are hosting‟.
o Omit „that‟.
o Indicate possession or missing words.
o Not in dates:
1990s not 1990‟s.
Used as a mark of introduction for a word, phrase,
sentence, passage or list.
Avoided in MRs.
Used to set off a quote.
If sentence is long use a colon instead.
Sometimes aren‟t required.
o Names and titles:
Mr Joe Bloggs, then Mr Bloggs thereafter.
Avoid caps whenever possible.
E.g. chief executive officer or CEO, not Westpac
Chief Executive Officer.
Italicise publication, TV program, book, film and play
o Full stop:
If in doubt, try a full stop.
Inside quote mark, except if quoting a phrase.
No exclamation marks.
Write out 1-9.
Use figures for 10-9999.
$1, $10,000, $1 million.
Always use figures i.e. 3 per cent, not three per
Monday 21 March 2011, not Monday 21 March 2011.
Beyond the MR and ethics:
PR writing tactics:
- Two key approaches:
o Uncontrolled. Controlled communication tactics:
- When you control the content of the message and its delivery.
- E.g. websites, brochures, email, speeches, etc.
Uncontrolled communication tactics:
- When you don‟t control the outcome – you put the wheels in motion.
- Movement away from reliance on these media relations tactics
because of new ways of reaching target publics e.g. digital media.
- Have a strong credibility factor.
- E.g. MR, feature stories, social media, media conferences.
The client brief:
- All PR tactics should be based on a client brief.
- Clients can be both internal and external.
- In large organisations, PR teams often act as an internal „agency‟.
Research and the PR writer:
o Guidelines on acceptable organisational behaviour.
o A considered statement of purpose, position or direction.
o E.g. employee policies, CSR policies.
- Background material:
o A body of facts and ideas that varies depending on the situation.
o Answers the questions who, what, etc.
o Provided by the client on independent research.
o Information collected about target publics.
o Demographic information i.e. income, sex, education.
o Psychographic information i.e. lifestyles, attitudes and
- Key message/s:
o What you need to say with your communication tactic.
o Reduced to a simple idea.
o Not just a PR activity, performed in conjunction with
o What is the best way to reach a target public/publics:
o Which media characteristics suit the message?
o Which technical qualities are important to know about?
- Research sources:
o Secondary sources – government records, databases, research
o Primary sources – interviews, surveys, focus groups.
Types of media relations:
- What is the purpose of media relations?
o Achieving publicity – proactive.
o Advocating for client/employer – proactive and reactive. o Responding to media queries – reactive.
o Managing issues/crises – proactive and reactive.
Ethics in action:
- Both proactive and reactive media relations incorporate constant
- PRs have great power.
- PRs have great responsibility.
Ethics in PR:
- PR ethics are the application of knowledge, understanding and
reasoning to questions of right or wrong behaviour in the professional
practice of PR.
- PR ethics are NOT:
o What has become accepted practice.
o What you can get away with.
o Just following the law.
What do ethics do?
- Set parameters in everyday conduct,
- Shape what you do without thinking about it.
- Checking facts for the MR.
- Treating clients and the media with courtesy.
- Apologising for an error.
An ethical approach:
- A good rule of thumb:
o Don‟t lie.
- Shades of grey:
o Don‟t tell journos/target publics confidences of present/former
employers and clients.
o In some circumstances information about people/organisations
is private/secret – other people/organisations respect and
ensure this is the case.
o These circumstances might be specified by law/rules or simply
because the person/organisation specifies it.
o Such privacy/secrecy must be maintained unless there are
compelling and justifiable reasons not to.
Media kits and our client brief:
- What are media kits?
o A pack of material about an organisation for distribution to the
Used for both proactive and reactive media relations. Not just for media, can be used for publics.
E.g. announcement of a senior executive, organisation
launch, mergers and acquisitions, issues and crisis
o Often distributed at a media conference or major event e.g.
- Media kit components (one approach):
o Cover letter.
o Fact sheet.
o Photos and graphics.
o Corporate approach:
Backgrounder/s: company, project, issue.
Fact sheet covering major points: company structure,
Biographies on key personnel.
Past media coverage e.g. press clippings.
Photos of key personnel and other relevant graphics.
o Arts and entertainment approach:
Information about project – artistic, technical, contextual.
Profiles of artists involved, including history.
Photos of key personnel and other relevant graphics.
Dates of performance.
Video interviews with key personnel.
o Where do you start?
Media kit structure.
Finishing your MK:
o One page.
o In-depth information on a topic relevant to MR.
o Often a general news story containing background or research
o May also be used as an independent document. o Consider w