Copywriting Basics - Public Relations Writing Tips
In this article, we will focus on the interesting and remunerative world of public relations writing. This is a field offering many opportunities for copywriters. It requires a different approach from advertising copywriting, however, and in this article, we will try to explain the important differences.
This begins by explaining what is meant by public relations (or PR) and how it differs from advertising. We set out the differences between advertising style and PR style, which any copywriter hoping to work in this field must understand. We take an in-depth look at press-release writing, probably the biggest single source of work for PR writers. After that, we look at advertorials – what they are and how to write them. The article concludes by examining a range of other PR writing tasks you may be asked to perform, including case studies, newsletters, forward planning notices, and so on. But before we get to that, we need to answer the most basic question of all...
WHAT are PUBLIC RELATIONS?
The fundamental difference between public relations and advertising is that PR does NOT attempt to sell anything directly. Rather, it aims to create goodwill and understanding for the business concerned and its products/services. Advertising and salesmanship then convert this into actual sales.
Viewed in this light, PR might sound like a luxury for the average business. That is far from the case, however. One reason is that, like it or not, every business has to have public relations if you define this simply as 'relations with the public'. Relations may be good, bad or indifferent, but if a business has a bad reputation, then no amount of expensive advertising will overcome it. Conversely, if a business has a good reputation (bolstered by strong, positive media coverage), word of mouth alone may bring in a steady stream of new customers, with advertising just 'the icing on the cake'.
Public relations is really all about protecting and improving a business's reputation. Effective PR creates goodwill and ensures that advertising and other forms of promotion are effective. In addition, PR can provide valuable, low-cost advertising in its own right. We will look at this in more detail in a moment, but before doing so we need to define PR a little more precisely.
We have already suggested one, rather simplistic, the definition of public relations: relations with the public. A more scientific definition is offered by the Institute of Public Relations. Their definition is as follows:
Public relations practice is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.
The IPR definition underlines the point that public relations are not about selling but creating goodwill and understanding. Other aspects of the definition may require a few words of explanation.
In PR-speak, the word 'public' is used in a rather different sense from the usual one ('the general public'). A business's publics are the various interest groups with which it must communicate. A typical organization has up to a dozen different publics. In the case of a small to medium-sized business, these might include:
- Potential customers
- Potential employees
- The local community
- The money market
- Local opinion leaders
Each of these groups has a different interest and role in the business and must be communicated with in a different way. It follows that public relations address a larger and more varied audience than the target market segments addressed in advertising (as discussed in Copywriting Basics - Advertisement Writing Tips).
Planning and Objectives
Another point made in the IPR definition is that PR is a 'planned and sustained effort'. To be effective, public relations has to be planned on a long-term basis. If a company is launching a new and innovative product, for example, they may need to prepare in advance an extensive PR program, including press releases, articles, press conferences, and so on.
All PR activities should have clearly defined objectives. This involves identifying who are the business's target publics and tailoring a PR strategy to reach them. As far as possible, as with advertising, objectives are defined in measurable terms. One method of measurement is the amount of media coverage obtained (usually measured by the column inch). A successful PR campaign may generate the equivalent of many thousands of pounds of paid-for advertising.
Using the Media
You may have noticed that one item not included in our list of a business's publics was 'the media' (newspapers, radio, TV, Internet etc.). That is because the media represent the channels through which a business's publics are communicated with, rather than being the publics themselves (though some journalists may be included in the category of local opinion leaders, in which case they become a 'public' in their own right).
In order to communicate with their publics, businesses must use a range of media. To communicate with staff a noticeboard or newsletter may be sufficient, but reaching other groups such as potential customers requires the use of external media. These may include local and national newspapers, the trade press, TV and radio, ezines and so on.
With advertising, a company buys space in the media of its choice and can – within reason and the law – say anything it likes. PR operates rather differently. For one thing, the aim of PR is to inform and educate rather than to persuade. A business can, of course, buy space in a publication then use it for PR announcements, and indeed businesses do sometimes do this (e.g. when a faulty product has to be recalled). However, this has the drawback that it will cost just as much like an advertisement - and, in addition, people will see that the coverage has been paid for by the business, and may, therefore, be inclined to take whatever it says with the proverbial pinch of salt.
For small and medium-sized businesses in particular (who are likely to comprise the great majority of any freelance copywriter's clients), most PR activity involves attempting to gain free coverage in the news and feature pages of the relevant media. Editors are always looking for material to fill their pages, and if a business has a good story which they think would interest their readers, there is every chance that they will run it. PR involves bringing such stories to editors' attention and making it as easy as possible for them to find out more. The great advantage of obtaining coverage in this way is that the information will appear as a news or feature story rather than an advertisement. Readers are therefore more likely to see the information as truthful and unbiased.
As a copywriter, by far the most common type of PR writing you will be asked to do is preparing press releases, so we will look at that task in more detail now.
PRESS RELEASE WRITING
We said above that much PR work in small businesses involves attempting to gain 'free' editorial coverage in newspapers and other media. By far the most common way of doing this is by means of a press release. A press release is a short article which (you hope) will be published by the newspaper or magazine concerned or prompt one of their reporters to write a story based on it. Press releases are sent out by post, fax or (increasingly nowadays) by email.
Press releases must concern something newsworthy, as papers will not simply print a piece saying how wonderful a particular business is. Nevertheless, trade magazines and local newspapers, in particular, are often under-staffed and welcome good stories they can use, even if the news they contain is not particularly earth-shattering. Some events which would certainly justify a press release include:
- the opening of a new business
- the launch of a new product or service
- winning a big order
- export success
- winning a prize or award
- celebrating an anniversary
- appointing a new manager
- moving to larger premises
- installation of new plant or technology
- good financial results
- success of trainees or apprentices
- involvement with charities or other good works
All of these, potentially, offers a business the opportunity to gain some news coverage. As a freelance copywriter, you could well find yourself asked to write a press release about any of these occurrences.
How to Write a Press Release
There is one crucial thing you need to understand about a press release: it must be written in journalistic style and not in the style of an advertisement.
The idea of a press release is to achieve news coverage, so you should try to imitate the style used for features and news stories in your target publication/s. This will usually be balanced, concise and factual, avoiding any hint of advertising 'hype'.
Your aim in writing a press release should be to produce a story which could be used by the editor without requiring any changes. If your release is published more or less as you wrote it, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done! In most cases, however, the publication will use your release as the starting point for a story, and that's fine as well.
The main principles of press release writing are summarised below.
- All press releases for distribution by mail or fax should be printed on the company's headed paper. Use one side of the paper only, and double-spacing (alternating 'empty' lines). You should leave at least 2.5 cm left-hand right-hand margins, and indent the first line of every new paragraph except the first.
- Under the company, letterhead type the date and the heading PRESS RELEASE in block capitals. If you do not wish your story to be printed until a certain date you can write EMBARGO followed by the date on which you would like the story to go out. It is best to avoid doing this unless you have a very good reason, however. Newspapers do not like embargoes, although they will usually respect them. Otherwise, to give your release a sense of urgency, you can include the phrase FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
- Below this, write a heading for the release. This should explain in a nutshell what the release is about – for example, NEW RESTAURANT OPENS IN BRIGHTSEA or STAR MOTORS WINS NATIONAL AWARD. The heading should be centered and written in block capitals.
- Below this, write the text of your press release. This should be in news story rather than an advertisement style. Aim to answer as concisely as possible the five Ws - WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. That is to say, WHO the release is about, WHAT they have done, WHEN they did it, WHERE they did it, and WHY they did it. Try to cover all the main points in the first couple of paragraphs, as the lower paragraphs may be cut if the editor is short of space. If possible, keep your press release to a single page. If you have to go on to a second page, write at the bottom of the first page 'more follows' and at the start of the next 'continued'. No press release should be longer than two pages.
- If possible, include a quote from your client or another senior person in the business. This can lighten the tone of the release and also make it look more like a 'proper' news story. If you want to include matters of opinion in a press release, they should always be put in quotations (e.g. 'We are now the best-known widget-making company in Europe,' said Managing Director Bill Smith). Matters of fact, as opposed to opinion, can be given straight without the need for quotes.
- It will help if you can include a photograph to accompany the release. Sharp, glossy prints with good contrast are preferred. Avoid dull mug-shots and formal group pictures – if at all possible, show something interesting and unusual taking place. Alternatively, if the press release concerns a special event, you could include a note at the end of your release that photographers will be welcome at the presentation at 12.30 pm, or whatever time is appropriate.
- At the end of the release, include a contact name and phone number where a reporter can get further information (an email address is also useful). This contact will usually be your client, but in some cases (by prior arrangement) it may be yourself.
Below is an example of a press release to give you an idea of what they look like.
START OF SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
[SUBJECT] NEW THAI RESTAURANT OPENS IN LITTLETOWN
A new restaurant serving Thai cuisine, The Summer Palace, opens on Tuesday 1st August in Bridge Street, Littletown. The Summer Palace is named after the ancient and beautiful building of that name in Thailand's capital, Bangkok.
Among the attractions on the menu will be 'steamboat'. This is a traditional Thai dish, where diners cook strips of meat, fish, and vegetables in stock on a small burner in the middle of the table, and eat them with rice and noodles.
The proprietor of The Summer Palace, Anne Sereywath, says: 'At present, the choice of places to eat out in Littletown is limited to Indian and Chinese. We aim to give people here a wider choice and introduce them to some new foods, and new ways of eating them!'
The Summer Palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 11 pm. Both fixed price menus and à la carte are available. Advance booking is not essential but recommended at the weekend in particular.
As a special opening offer, every diner at The Summer Palace during the first week will be given a complimentary glass of red or white wine. Bookings are now being taken on 0302 87543.
Further information: Anne Sereywath
Tel: 0302 87543 (day/evening)
Note to Editor: Further information, including a sample menu, can also be found on the restaurant's website at www.thesummerpalace.co.uk.
END OF SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
There are a couple of additional points to note here. First, you may have noticed that the writer of this press release has included details of the restaurant's launch offer for customers in the last paragraph. This is a sales promotion, and there is no guarantee the paper will print it. However, there is no harm trying, and it also makes the story a little more newsworthy.
Second, at the end of the press release you will have seen a line beginning, 'Note to Editor'. The writer has used this to refer journalists to the restaurant's website. However, you can equally use this device to mention any supplementary information which would not fit into the release itself, e.g. about the availability of photographs, interview opportunities, and so on. There is no objection to including several lines of 'Notes to Editor' on your press release, although if you have a lot of such details to pass on, it may be better to produce a separate background sheet. You can enclose this with the press release but separate from it so that anyone interested can find out more (and those who only want the basics can ignore it).
Another increasingly popular option is to copy the press release along with other background details on the company website, and in the printed release provide the URL for the relevant web page. This means you don't have to enclose the background information with the printed release, and has the additional advantage that journalists can copy and paste text from the website – they don't have to retype it, as would be the case with printed information. And anything that makes the lives of journalists and editors easier will improve the prospect of your press release achieving publication!
Electronic Press Releases
As mentioned earlier, it is also possible to send out press releases by email. This approach has both advantages and drawbacks, as set out below:
- Saves a lot on printing and (especially) postage costs
- Same day delivery
- Much less time-consuming than organizing a postal mailing
- Electronic press releases are easily ignored
- They may be filtered out by anti-spam software
- Many newspapers and magazines dislike them
Electronic press releases are written in a similar style to conventional ones, though they tend to be a bit shorter (normally under 400 words). They are usually submitted in the body of an email rather than as attachments. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that magazines and newspapers use a variety of software, and they may be unable to open attachments created in some programs. In addition, emails with attachments are more likely to be intercepted by spam filters. Publishers may also decline to open attachments in case they are infected with viruses. And finally, opening an attachment takes up more of a journalist's time than simply scanning a few lines of text in an email.
Many press releases are still sent by fax or conventional mail, with the latter especially likely to be used if photographs are to be included. Electronic distribution is becoming more widely accepted, however, and we expect this trend to accelerate in the years ahead, as environmental concerns grow over the 'waste' of natural resources involved in sending printed materials by post.
Press Release Distribution
In addition to writing the press release, your client may ask you to suggest suitable media to send it to. He may even ask if you will send out the release yourself.
If you are willing to do this - and of course you will add all costs to the fees you charge your client – it can boost your income substantially. Some writers have even gone on to set up their own small-scale 'PR agency' by offering this and related services to their clients. Of course, it is entirely up to you whether to go down this route or not, but in this section, we will set out the basic principles of press release distribution, should you wish to offer this service to your clients.
The publications to which you should send any press release, depend on the target publics you wish to reach. The main choices are as follows:
Trade press - These publications are generally receptive to press releases concerning their area of interest. Research has shown that 40% of buying decisions in large firms are based on information from trade and technical magazines - so if your client hopes to sell to such businesses, it is important to feed the trade press with regular press releases.
Consumer magazines - These are bought by members of the public rather than businesses. Again, they are generally receptive to press releases concerning their area of interest. A press release concerning a company's new range of fishing tackle, for example, would be well worth sending to angling magazines. This can be a good way of reaching consumers with an interest in a particular product or service. It may be most effective when combined with advertising in the magazine concerned.
Local press - Local newspapers are always keen to receive 'good news' stories concerning businesses in their area. Information concerning new appointments, awards, anniversaries, celebrations and export successes is well worth passing on. Local papers are read by most people in the area they cover, so sending them regular press releases can be a good way of ensuring that, locally, your client's business remains in the public eye.
Regional press - As with local papers, regional newspapers and magazines are always interested to receive press releases about businesses in their area, but the news they contain needs to be a little more substantial. A major export order from Russia would stand a fair chance of inclusion, a move to new premises less so.
National press - These are likely to be a poor bet for stories concerning technical developments, new appointments, anniversaries, moves, and so on. On the other hand, if you have a good human interest story they may be worth trying. The tabloid press, in particular, often picks up on quirky stories about people and businesses doing unusual things.
Broadcast media - It may also be worth sending a press release to local, regional or national TV and radio companies. This applies especially if the release concerns an event which would come across well on TV or radio. Again, quirky human interest stories may have the best chance of success here. And, though it should hardly need saying, if you hope to attract the TV cameras, your story will need to feature something with visual appeal.
You can send press releases to the editor, or to the reporter who covers business matters for the publication. If you work regularly for a client you will soon become aware of the publications that cover their area of business, but if not there are several media guides and directories you can consult. Probably the best known among PR professionals is Benn's Media Directory (www.hollis-publishing.com). This is published annually in four volumes, covering the UK, Europe, North America and the rest of the world. In total, it lists 16,000 newspapers and over 35,000 business and consumer publications. Benn's also lists TV stations, radio stations, online media, and so on. It doesn't come cheap, though, with even a single volume (say the one covering the UK) costing over $200, and having to be renewed each year.
If you don't want to fork out for a copy of Benn's, you may be able to find a copy in the reference section of your local library. If you intend to offer press release distribution as a regular service, however, you will probably need to buy at least one volume yourself.
Neither you nor your client should expect to succeed every time you send out a press release - yours may be competing with hundreds of others - but when you do manage to get coverage the amount of interest it generates can more than justify the effort (and cost to your client) involved.
As the name suggests, advertorials are advertisements which have been presented to look like an editorial (i.e. articles). They are therefore a kind of a cross between advertising and public relations.
Advertorials are a popular variation on display advertising, although some publications refuse to accept them. To avoid any confusion, the newspaper or magazine will normally place a heading such as 'advertisement' or 'advertising feature' above the item concerned.
Writing advertorials should not present too many problems for you, so long as you understand that the style is meant to approximate that of a news story in the publication concerned. As when writing press releases, a good tactic can be to include a quote from your client or another senior individual at the company (notice how this is done to good effect in the example advertorial above).
We said that the style of an advertorial is meant to approximate that of a news story, and that is true. It will never be exactly the same, as the aim is different. Whereas with a news story the primary aim is to inform (and maybe entertain), with an advertorial it is to sell. As a consequence, advertorials typically include more 'you copy' than news stories, and they may include certain claims and descriptions you would be unlikely to find in a real news item ('a remarkable money-back guarantee'). Nevertheless, the tone is more measured than that of a typical display ad. There is also much more text, and the presentation is similar to that of a news story, i.e. neatly set out in grammatical paragraphs. At first glance, certainly, an advertorial looks just like a news story – though once you start reading, the differences may become obvious. If you start reading, however, the advertorial has of course done its job!
Opinions vary about the merits of advertorials. Those in favor argue that because advertorials look like news stories, readers are more likely to (a) pay attention to them, and (b) believe the message they contain. They also say that in an advertorial there is more room to put across your message than in an equivalent-sized display advertisement. Others, however, argue that it is foolhardy to assume that readers are unable to tell the difference between an advert and an article; and that if readers feel an attempt is being made to con them, they are likely to respond negatively to the advertisers' message.
We cannot offer a definitive answer to this debate, only comment that, with the right product or service, advertorials can undoubtedly be effective.
Writing advertorials can provide a steady, interesting source of work for copywriters. Your one challenge may be ensuring that your copy is persuasive enough to generate a good response rate (however that is measured), yet at the same time meets the requirement of looking similar to a news story. It is well worth studying other examples of published advertorials - local newspapers can be one very good place to look - to see how this is achieved in practice.
OTHER TYPES OF PR WRITING
Writing press releases and advertorials are two of the most common PR writing tasks. There are, however, many other items you may be asked to produce as well. We have set out below a range of other PR items that may require input from a copywriter...
We have, of course, already mentioned case studies in the section on writing sales letters, but as this is really a PR writing job, we need to look at them in a bit more detail here.
Case studies are typically used to illustrate the benefit to a potential client of using a company's products or services. They can be used in a wide range of ways. They may form part of a press pack (see below), or be used in a mailshot, advertorial, marketing email/website, etc.
It follows that the format in which case studies are written will vary considerably from project to project. In particular, the length may range from as little as 50 words to 1,000 or more. To give you a flavor, here are two examples. The first comprises three short case studies, which were actually used in a leaflet advertising volunteer bureaux (local agencies that match up would-be volunteers with organizations needing their services).
Each of these case studies was illustrated with a portrait-style photo of the person concerned.
CARL – 'I was working in engineering, but wanted to change. Through my local Bureau, I started voluntary work at a 'Halfway House' and with the Probation Service. It made me realize I really wanted to work with young people, and my experience as a volunteer helped me get my present job as a detached youth worker on the streets of Birmingham.'
LIBBY – 'I was a volunteer youth worker, then obtained a paid part-time job in the same field. Now I'm doing a one year course in Youth and Community Work at a local college. I do two days a week placement in the Volunteer Bureau. It's the ideal place to find out more about volunteers and the huge range of work they do.'
ANDY – 'I was invalided out of the police force and wanted to do something to stop myself moping. Driving was something I could do just as well as before, and I became a volunteer driver with my local Bureau. This year I've already done 2600 miles and given lifts to 120 people. It's given my life a whole new purpose, and I enjoy it as well!'
Press packs are handed out to representatives of the media at press conferences, product launches, special events (e.g. the opening of new business premises), and so on.
They usually consist of a branded folder, in which are enclosed a press release and photographs. They may also include other items, such as CD-ROMs, case studies, company leaflets and brochures, and even free gifts or product samples.
If you are briefed to produce a press pack, the first thing to do is find out what items will go into it and what will be the copy requirements for each.
These are (normally) one-page documents with information in bullet points. They are also called fact-sheets. For businesses, a backgrounder might include such details as the date of founding, annual turnover, share capital, number of employees, head office address, and so on. Backgrounders are normally quite straightforward to write, with a little desk research using the Internet, the company's annual report, and so on.
Backgrounders are most commonly used in press packs (see above), but they may also be enclosed with press releases or published on company websites.
These are articles supposedly written by your client (or some other senior person in his company), but actually ghost-written by a PR writer, i.e. yourself. Generally speaking, such articles will have been requested by the newspaper or magazine, perhaps in response to a news story featuring your client, or even following receipt of a press release. By-lined articles are not normally written 'on spec' (i.e. without a definite market lined up).
These articles are published as editorial rather than advertising, so it is important to keep any commercial messages low key. The length, subject matter, and tone will normally be determined by the editor of the publication concerned. Your job will involve speaking to the nominal author of the article and writing up his views and opinions in a way that meets the editor's requirements and matches the style of the publication concerned. It is clear, therefore, a good idea to speak to the editor at an early stage - even before you do the interview – to check on his exact requirements. Of course, your client will have his own agenda as well (and he is the one who will be paying you), so as far as possible you need to try to balance the interests of both parties.
Writers who also have experience in journalism (freelance or otherwise) will have an advantage with this type of job, but any competent copywriter should be able to tackle it without too many difficulties.
Forward Planning Notices
A forward planning notice is used to ensure that a future event is booked into the diaries of editors, journalists, TV/radio producers, and so on. There is no set layout or style, but to be effective a forward planning notice should be headed as such. Forward planning notices are best kept to a single page but should cover such essentials as when and where the event is taking place, and contain enough detail so that the editor can allocate the right person to cover it. State the nature of the event – press conference, public opening, photo call, etc. – and at the end of the notice be sure to include contact details (yours or your client's) for further information. Forward planning notices are usually followed up with a press release just prior to the event in question.
Interview Opportunity Notices
Interview opportunity notices are a special form of 'forward planning notice'. They are mainly aimed at radio show producers and set out who is available for interview, why they are worth talking to, when they will be able to go on air, and whether or not they will be available to go into the studio. The latter may be an important consideration, as interviews (even on radio) often work best when both parties are together in the same room. In addition, sound quality will be better than if the interviewee is speaking down an ordinary phone line.
Interview opportunity notices, like 'forward planning notices', should be kept to a single page if possible. They should have contact details for more information (and to arrange interviews) at the end.
The purpose of a picture caption is to provide additional information to accompany photography. As some stories are pitched to picture desks on the strength of images alone, however, PR picture captions need to be more detailed than the one-liners typically used in newspapers and magazines. In effect, PR picture captions need to be written up as mini press releases, no more than a single page long, but with a heading, body text, contacts for further information, and so on.
When writing picture captions, it's important to identify the people shown clearly, ensuring their names are spelled correctly and any professional titles (e.g. Dr) are included. For photos showing more than one person, identifications should go from left to right. The caption should make clear when and where the event in question took place. Captions should be written in complete grammatical sentences and (if possible) in the present tense. In most cases, two or three sentences should be sufficient to identify those pictured and explain what is going on. A sample PR photo caption is shown below.
For Immediate Release
GIDDY UP, BRONTO!
Alan Burke, an 11-year-old student at the Newtown Technology School in Middletown, gets a lift yesterday from 'Brenda', a brontosaurus character from television featured at a new exhibition on dinosaurs at the Middletown Museum of Science.
The exhibition is sponsored by local education and training company No Limits, whose managing director Natalie Short is on the left of the photo. Also pictured are Newtown Technology School headteacher Dr. Martin Johnson (center) and biology teacher Clare Harris (right).
Further information: Mike Swales (press officer)
Tel: 0302 295707
In the commercial world, the term white paper is used to describe a report or essay covering a particular area of industry. They are used in a business-to-business context, and usually to promote technology, format or platform rather than a particular product. For example, a motor vehicle manufacturer might commission a white paper on the future of alternative fuel vehicles, to help promote its new range of electric cars.
Typically white papers are quite long – up to about 5,000 words – and they can be highly technical. They are expected to be relatively objective and 'academic' in tone, covering the pros and cons of different options in the area being discussed. If you are asked to write a white paper, you will need to undertake extensive research, and will probably want to have access to research, statistics, case studies, and so on, to ensure that you can write authoritatively on the topic. You will also need to establish clearly with your client the purpose for which he requires the white paper, and the underlying message he wants it to help convey.
When writing your white paper, break it up into sections with relevant headings, and include any relevant illustrations, diagrams, tables and so on. Note that researching and writing a white paper can be very time-consuming, especially if (as is likely) your client asks for revisions and rewrites. It is, therefore, best to negotiate an hourly/daily rate for the job rather than a fixed fee.
Newsletters are typically produced for one or more of a business's publics, to keep them informed of developments related to the company.
Many medium to large businesses, for example, produce an in-house newsletter for employees, to keep them informed about such matters as policy changes, new contracts won, appointments and retirements, company charitable support and sponsorship, business success stories, employee news, and achievements, pay awards, share option schemes, pensions, and so on.
In many cases, these newsletters are produced internally, but in others, a specialist PR agency may be engaged. Either way, as a freelance copywriter you may be asked by a client to help prepare material for the in-house newsletter (although not usually to write and produce it all yourself). For example, you might be asked to interview a long-serving employee to get his recollections of the early days of the company and turn this into an article. This type of work can be interesting and enjoyable, and as newsletters are produced on a regular basis, it can provide an ongoing source of income.
Another type of newsletter produced even by small businesses is one aimed at customers and potential customers. These newsletters are typically quite short – perhaps no more than a single page – and provide snippets of news about the company, current special offers, hints and tips, and so on. As a freelance copywriter, you may be asked to contribute material to such a newsletter, or even take on its production yourself. Again, this can be interesting work that provides you with a steady source of income, month after month.
Increasingly nowadays, both internal and external newsletters are sent out by email to save on print and postage costs. This can actually give writers more scope, as they can include clickable links to interesting items anywhere on the Web. Writing for the Internet is discussed in detail in the next article.
Brochures and Leaflets
We mentioned these in the article on sales letters, but brochures and leaflets can equally be written and used for PR purposes. To remind you, strictly speaking, leaflets (also called flyers) are printed on a single sheet, either one or both sides; they may then be folded to yield multiple panels. A brochure consists of several sheets that are stitched or stapled together.
One example of a PR tool used successfully by some businesses is a how-to guide. For example, a dry cleaning firm might produce a brochure on how to remove difficult stains, a removal firm a leaflet on everything you need to consider when moving home. These may be sent or given to customers and prospective customers, and help create goodwill towards the business concerned. In addition, an informative leaflet may be kept for future reference; and every time the recipient sees it, they will be subtly reminded of the business concerned.
PR leaflets and brochures aim primarily to provide useful information. They do not attempt to sell anything directly, as an advertising brochure or leaflet does. Rather, they aim to create goodwill towards the company, which in turn makes it more likely that people will trust and buy from them (and, of course, contact details for the business concerned will be clearly visible...) Nowadays, such guides are often published online on company websites as well.
If you are asked to produce a PR leaflet or brochure, you will need to liaise closely with your client regarding what information he wishes to impart. This may involve interviewing the client or a senior colleague in the business to get his 'top tips', and/or additional research via the Internet and so on. The actual guide should be written up in an accessible, factual style, with no hint of advertising hype. As we have emphasized throughout this article, PR aims to inform rather than to sell. In general, you should aim for the style of a popular magazine article when writing PR brochures and leaflets.
In the article, we discussed the world of public relations writing. The article began by explaining what is meant by public relations (or PR for short) and how it differs from advertising. We set out the differences between advertising style and PR style, which any copywriter hoping to work in this field must understand. We went on to look at press-release writing, probably the biggest single source of work for PR writers. The article then examined advertorials, covering what they are and how to write them. We concluded by examining a range of other PR writing tasks copywriters may be asked to perform, including case studies, press packs, newsletters, forward planning notices, PR leaflets and brochures, and so on.