by Susan Shelby
Marketing and business development are about positioning your firm to win work through the pursuit of specific market sectors and clients, whereas public relations (PR) is about establishing your firm’s image, and then spreading the word to increase visibility. There’s a clear distinction in the style of writing that is appropriate to each.
For marketing vehicles such as websites, proposals, project sheets, brochures, direct mail, social media, and paid advertising, the content is self-promotional and typically written in the first person. Think pronouns like I, me, my, mine, myself, we, us, our, and ourselves. Plus, your firm has 100% control over the look, tone, messaging, and placement of marketing-related content.
PR output, on the other hand, is written in the third person, using the pronouns he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. Press releases, which may be distributed broadly or to niche publications, focus on facts: the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of a newsworthy event or story. For a byline article, which identifies the author, the goal is to present a firm or author as an expert on a specific topic and to share useful information, tips, and tools with a publication’s readership.
PR Content Best Practices
Unlike marketing materials, PR output is hyperbole-free; it’s all fact, no fluff. Busy editors are not interested in receiving, let alone publishing, content that is wordy, unclear, incomplete, or self-promotional. But if an article tells a story that cites challenges, solutions, results, and client benefits, your firm’s expertise is inferred and its publication by a respected industry source confers a priceless – and free – third-party validation that lends instant credibility. In its published form, a byline article can also serve as a valuable piece of marketing collateral with the benefit of the publication’s masthead at the top.
The following best practices are integral to creating a press release or byline article with a higher success rate of grabbing and holding an editor’s attention:
- Is it newsworthy? Would you find it interesting and want to read about it? If the answer is no, then stop right there and wait until you have genuinely important news or a compelling, relevant story to share with receptive media outlets and their readers.
- Organization matters. Every good story has a beginning, a middle, an end, and more importantly, a point.
- Be clear and concise. Avoid jargon.
- Incorporate quotes, but don’t quote yourself if you are the author.
- If you are writing about a project, obtain client permission to do so and be prepared to have them review the draft before finalizing and distributing to media outlets.
- Remember that no one is an adept enough writer to judge their own work: even Stephen King has an editor. Plan to share your draft with someone with the expertise to catch and correct grammatical and punctuation errors, and who will provide candid feedback on structure and content.
While PR is almost never a direct line to new business, it is integral to building a long-term presence in the industry and establishing and maintaining top-of-mind awareness among current and potential future clients.
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations.