Tips and Tricks for Effective and Exceptional Communications
When my colleague and Cal State Fullerton professor Ken Hagihara recently asked me to speak about writing to his Advanced Public Relations Writing students, I jumped at the chance.
The incalculable value of good writing in our profession – and, indeed for every business – is close to my heart. Despite my fear of public speaking, I prepared slide show bullets and condensed my tips and tricks for Ken’s class.
In doing so, I’m helping ensure that excellent writers run the next generation of public relations agencies, toil in journalism and publications positions, and carry their skills into many different workplaces.
It’s part of the work I began in my first editing position: hiring and mentoring interns, students, or part-timers. I find enriching young writers’ careers particularly gratifying.
Working in newsrooms for more than 10 years – then spending
considerable time managing myriad publications and magazines –
gives me an edge in writing and reporting expertise.
Indeed, journalism taught me the importance of research, inspired
my ability to work well on tight deadlines, and prompted me to
develop excellent interviewing skills, making me an award-
Most recently, I’ve worked with a university client to mentor his
Athletics writers, thus improving their news releases, game
recaps, and features. It’s rewarding to see their steady
improvement based on my editing suggestions.
Why is good writing important?
This question always reminds me of an angry student who resented the graduation requirement that Chapman University PR majors work one semester in the public relations office.
He chose the PR major because it was the fastest way to earn a degree, he told me through gritted teeth, and this requirement was nothing short of slave labor for our office.
I thought for a moment, initially shocked into silence. Then I said: “No matter what profession you ultimately choose, good writing skills will be invaluable. Writing helps you develop key business skills, such as critical thinking, research, organization,
communications, and interviewing. If you write well, you’ll be invaluable to any boss you may work for in the future. This semester will ensure that you develop these skills and more.”
I’m pretty sure he dropped out of the public relations major; regardless, I stand by my statement.
Strategy is the first step in producing a product that serves your client, ensures newsworthiness, and focuses your message to the right audience for the best results.
Prior to writing, here are some suggestions for honing in on the best strategy for your client and message.
Consider the question
Get to know your client. Establish a good rapport. Consider doing a communications audit to determine what publications and approaches have worked well and which haven’t. Ensure you have access to all the sources you need, both internal and external.
Ask yourself and your client:
● Agree on goals, objectives, and measurement
Drilling down on goals and objectives can help you write well, make clients happy, and even make the media pay attention to your pitches.
● Determine evaluation criteria
Measurement is critical; ensure the client is getting their money’s worth every time so that they will pay your invoices.
Everything you do in advance – interviewing, research, client discussions, studying the client’s competition – will inform your writing and ensure your successful draft.
Before you write
Consider the next logical steps as you evaluate your piece for effectiveness and potential ROI. What’s the next logical step? Can your piece be used as a multifaceted approach to magnify or retell the story? Knowing the many ways a client can repurpose your work makes you invaluable.
This is when you follow up an especially successful piece with a pitch for more business!