Words are a lens to focus one’s mind. – Ayn Rand
Writing. The foundation of our class. To begin to practice good public relations writing skills, you have to first master a few foundational writing skills. I’ve compiled several articles that offer tips and resources to help as you tackle your assignments this semester. Remember, the more you write and read, the stronger your writing will become!
Check out these tips on recognizing and avoiding passive voice. UNC also offers a more in-depth look at understanding passive voice.
If you’re unsure, ask Grammar Girl. (And if you don’t know why grammar is important, here’s the answer.)
Become familiar with using Associate Press (AP) style, the standard stylebook for journalists and public relations professionals.
I could list a number public relations writing tips, but this article captures them well.
Find a peer and swap papers to proof read one another’s work. Outside perspectives help us improve our writing.
Create a checklist of what needs to go into each assignment! Like this one for press releases.
This PR News article could be called, “How to pass this class.”
What writing questions do you have for me? Are you running into challenges with the assignments completed thus far this semester? Let me know. We’ll work through them together. And remember—APU’s Writing Center is available to help as well. Take advantage of your campus resources!
12 thoughts on “Write. Write. Write.”
So the biggest question I have is if I am using passive voice? I am unsure what that looks like in a Press Release. Also the main problem I am having in class is that I thought there was one way to do a press release. Not being too sure about how press releases still work, I found out that almost every company has their own format. I looked at one for Tesla and it is super short and sweet with a few links and references. Those are probably the biggest things I have problems with.
Yes, as I mentioned in class, what I’m teaching you is the traditional release format so you understand the key components that make up a release. That said, yes, organizations often have their own style and may adjust formatting for online purposes as well. Once you work for an organization or PR firm, then you learn to adapt to their style of releases. But it’s important to understand the key components first! In terms of passive voice, check out the links again that I included, and we can talk more in class.
I had always wondered if it was appropriate for different companies to write their press release in different styles. For example, if a high earning companies to write in a more eloquent style than say, McDonald’s. Or are all press releases supposed to be written plainly and simply?
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It’s absolutely appropriate for companies/organizations to write in different tones. The basic format and style will be similar, particularly since a release is formal and journalistic in style; however, tone should reflect that of the parent company or brand. Some releases will have a lighter tone, or a more creative lead, especially for soft news stories. Others will remain formal and businesslike. The release needs to reflect the overarching voice of the brand, be appropriate in tone for the topic, and provide the key information a journalist or reader might need. Within that framework, flexibility exists!
I remember learning AP Style in journalism classes, but I was never taught that with PR. Is that the style that will always be used when writing press releases?
Yes! AP style is used when writing releases. It’s a great opportunity to apply what you learned in journalism!
I really hope that I don’t use the passive voice when I’m writing, well, anything. As a journalist, I want to be direct and blunt. It’s how I saw press releases most of the time. I really hope that I’m doing it correctly. I think all I need to do is add more information?
Overall, I continually want to improve and if going into the writing center will help me, then I shall!
Review the feedback I give you on your papers and that should help you see if you are using passive voice, or any other areas for improvement. Being clear and direct with your writing is important as well. Let me know if you have questions on any of the feedback I’ve provided on your assignments.
These are all really great tips to use as we begin writing more in your class (or any class for that matter). I find that I struggle with writing the lead of a press release. As a journalist, I care a lot about grabbing my reader’s attention. In order for me to move on in my article, my first couple of sentences have to be nearly perfect. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that it takes me far longer to write a press release than it does a news article of some sort, or an academic paper. I think I may have the concept of a press release all wrong. I know that my job is to report the facts of an upcoming event, or product but I almost feel like I’m supposed to sell it too. I spend a great deal of my time trying to persuade my readers. This however, isn’t the kind of writing I do often. I don’t persuade, I inform. The more practice I’m getting though, the more aware I am becoming of my mistakes and the areas in which I need to improve in this writing form.
To take advantage of the writing center is in my future because I strongly anticipate to be an expert of press releases by the time this course ends!
Releases use many of the same aspects of journalistic writing. While we want to persuade, it’s a subtle persuasion. My tip for you is to focus first on getting the information down. What needs to be included in the release? Then go back and shape the lead. Sometimes getting everything down in an initial draft helps you identify what’s most important, or what the strongest parts of the story are that can help grab the attention of the reader.
I notice that it is easy for me to accidentally switch between active and passive voice when writing papers. I often make the mistake when I am trying to implement more sentence variation. When I do so, I unintentionally create passive language using be-verbs. That being said, I do not have any questions, but I do have commentary. When I was working on my first few press releases, I searched multiple websites for formatting under the assumption there was one primary layout. However, I was surprised to find out that every website had a different way to do a press release. I now know the layout you teach, but I found it interesting that there is not one specific way commonly practiced.
You are correct. Organizations and businesses use varied forms of the press release and tend to shape it into their own style, particularly when adapting for web. I teach a specific format to help with understanding and consistency of the components, and to learn the traditional release format so that you know the key elements. Then, if you work for a company or organization, you can more easily learn to adapt to their style. We learn the rules first so we can know how to appropriately break them later! 🙂