Clarifying your message: why good copy is essential for good PR
Frist impressions are so important.
Did you spot that? That awkward, slightly cringe-inducing moment when you spot an accidental typo in some copy? As a self-confessed grammar nut, it hurts me slightly to see it hovering there… even though I put it there on purpose!
If you glided right by without even noticing the, some might say, glaring error in the first word of this blog post, that’s OK (no judgement!). But it might be helpful for you to bring in a second pair of eyes to help you polish your copy. Read on for a few reasons why…
First impressions count
Let’s start again, shall we? I believe first impressions count – particularly when it comes to PR and media relations. As a writer who receives lots of press releases (as well as a PR consultant), I know how quickly many journalists can make snap judgements about whether a press release or potential story is relevant to them. It might seem harsh but with hundreds of press releases avalanching into their inboxes daily, something as small as getting their name wrong, not being clear or including spelling mistakes can result in your email ending up in their bin.
Getting your brand or organisation featured in the press can be challenging with so much competition. So, I believe you should be doing everything you can to give yourself the best chance of success. And that includes a quick proofread and polish.
Clear, concise copy gets your message across effectively
Journalists are incredibly busy and usually don’t have much time to go through all the information being sent to them by various organisations. That’s why it’s important your copy is clear, concise and gets to the point quickly. If you’re sending a press release or pitching a story idea, make sure your key points (when, where, why, who, how) are clearly outlined in your first paragraph. The journalist should be able to see – at a glance – what you’re trying to say and why it’s relevant to them. If they can’t, they might pass you by.
Unclear or poorly written copy can result in missed opportunities. Think about it this way: imagine you’re a journalist trying to choose between two potential stories. One is well-written, includes all the information you need and will be ready to go live after just a few edits. The other is a similar story and, if you’ve understood it correctly, is also relevant to your audience. However, you’ll need to go back to clarify a couple of things, ask for some extra information and spend time rewriting and editing to make sure you’ve caught all the typos. Which one is going to make the cut?
Building relationships is an important part of PR. Yes, you might want to secure coverage for the specific story you’re working on right now, but you should also want journalists to see you as a reliable source for relevant, on-point information (which is also why tailoring your story to targeted media rather than the outdated ‘spray and pray’ method is vital).
Sending clear and polished work, rather than something sloppy, shows journalists you value your work and your relationship with them. Over time, if you consistently send them relevant, high-quality copy they’ll come to see you as a trusted pair of hands that can provide clear, and well-written, information that’s easy to weave into their stories. I don’t know about you but that’s definitely the reputation I’d want to have.
Muddled copy muddles journalists
In some instances, poor copy is embarrassing but not the end of the world. In others, mistakes can change the entire meaning of your text. As an example, here’s a short poem that my late grandad used to enjoy reciting to us:
Caesar entered on his head,
A helmet in his eye,
An angry glare upon his feet,
Of course, with correct punctuation, you’d have: Caesar entered. On his head, a helmet. In his eye, an angry glare. Upon his feet: sandals. A bit more boring, perhaps, but makes more sense. This specific example might seem a bit silly but, hopefully, gives you the idea. Tiny differences can and do change the meaning of what you’re trying to say. When you’re liaising with journalists, the last thing you want to do is to confuse them or accidentally give them the wrong message.
Whether you’re writing a press release, article or blog post, having a second pair of eyes look over your copy is hugely valuable: whether that’s another member of your team or an external proofreader. We’re all busy, we all make mistakes and we can all go snow blind after staring at the same piece of work for too long. If you’ve already put significant time and effort into developing your copy, investing in checking it over is an important part of the process. Because – in my opinion – good copy is essential to good PR.
A PR consultant and copywriter with a love for nature and the ocean, Melissa is passionate about making a positive difference to our planet and to people’s lives. Find out more about her consultancy services and DIY PR resources at https://melissahobson.co.uk/
If you want to feel confident that the copy you’re publishing is clear, concise and connects with your audience, please check out Emma Hewlett Proofreading services.
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