The Blank Slate

October 22, 2010

PR writing is an art. Between giving clients what they want, impressing supervisors and of course — delivering something newsworthy to media — there’s a lot to think about and a lot of “masters” to serve along the way. As a result, getting started can be a challenge.

Just as a new painting starts with a blank canvas, most PR writing assignments begin with a blank page (or screen) just waiting to be filled. But, without a clear direction in mind before putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be – writers can end up confused, frustrated and wasting valuable time.

As a PR practitioner with more than 20 years of blank slates (mine and others’) under my belt, following are some tips I’ve picked up along the way for getting off on the right foot strategically and creatively when tackling pretty much any writing project.

Start with the 5Ws

We all know the 5Ws (who, what, when, where and why) of journalistic writing. However, what many PR writers don’t realize is that these same questions are the key to determining the strategic direction of any type of persuasive writing.

WHAT? What is the overall objective? What does the client want to accomplish? What is the news?

WHO? Who are you trying to reach? Also, who else will see your writing along the way (e.g., supervisors, clients, media, etc.)?

WHY? Why now? In other words, what do you want the target audience to do or think? What is the call-to-action?

WHERE? Where does your target audience go for news (magazines, newspapers, TV, online)? Having in mind the communication outlets you will be targeting can help determine what format your writing should take (e.g., press release, pitch, email, letter to the editor, etc.).

WHEN? Are there timing considerations that might impact the news or distribution strategy?

Once you’ve got a strong start — there are many other issues to tackle. I’ll address them in my next post!