Wilcox, D.L. & Reber, B.H. (2015). Public relations writing and media techniques (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson (ISBN:978-0134010496)
Getting Organized for Writing
What is Public Relations?
“Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.” From “Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations,” page 2, 11th edition, by Glen Broom. See also, APR Study Guide, page 16.
Framework of Public Relations Writing
Public Relations – Many people think PR stands for press release, the historical publicity technique.
Writing – Only one part public relations
Public Relations is a four step process
Text lists, page 1
RACE: Research (and objectives – not mentioned in textbook), planning, communication and evaluation
ROPE and RPIE
ROPE – Research, opportunities, programming and evaluation
RPIE – Research, planning, implementation and evaluation
Four step public relations process from PRSA study guide, see page 22
Different organizations and different authors use different acronyms: RACE (Research and planning, Action, Communication, Evaluation), ROPE (Research, Objectives, Programming, Evaluation), or RPIE (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation). The APR process uses RPIE. Whatever you call it, public relations planning addresses these four topics:
- Research/analysis of the situation
- Planning, goal/objective setting
Strategies – PRSA study guide, see page 62
The overall concept, approach or general plan for a program designed to achieve objectives. Each objective can have multiple strategies. General, well-thought-out tactics flow from strategy. Strategies do not indicate specific actions to achieve objectives.
Examples: Use communication vehicles that can be understood by a public with limited education to demonstrate that riding public transportation to work is an attractive alternative to driving
Tactics – PRSA study guide, see page 62
The exact activities and methods used at the operational level to implement a strategy and reach an objective. By helping achieve objectives, tactics, in turn, support goals that have been set to carry out the mission or purpose of the organization. Tactics/tools involve use of selected personnel, time, cost and other organizational resources.
Examples: Design, produce and distribute radio, television, print and online public service announcements. Conduct a “Why I’d rather be riding” essay contest.
Framework of Public Relations
- Public relations writing, such as news releases, along with media placement, actually getting published or broadcasted, all happen within the four step PR process, see above.
- PR professionals writing news releases and other publications or materials have a valuable role of starting and carrying out the tactics of the PR process.
The Public Relations Writer
- Journalism and public relations writing is very similar as both strive to provide accurate, credible information
- How they are different:
- Their objectives are different: PR agency is actually enlisting the help of a journalists to spread message, while a journalist reports on a story of interest to community.
- Audiences are different: A journalist might have a readership or broadcast area, while a PR agency is seeking help to reach out to specific publics or groups of people.
- The variety of channels used to distribute: PR agency reaches out to many news agencies, journalists, publics and partners, legacy (newspaper, radio, TV), online and social media. Journalists, news agencies, distribute via their legacy, online and social media
Basic PR Writing Tool Kit
- Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone
- Dictionary, latest AP Stylebook, book or online edition
- Media Lists – Media databases, lists
Research for PR Writing
- Search engines, Google, Yahoo!, Bing to make a quick search for information
- Statistical Abstract of the United States – for detailed information and fact checking
- Databases – Academic Search Premier, Lexix/Nexis, more gathering in-depth information a
- Public Relations starts with basic steps of determining purpose and content of a message.
- Jargon – Don’t use jargon, instead translate for the public information the more clear and interesting to the public.
- Writers need to create strong images to make information more clear and interesting to the public.
- Write in active, present tense when possible
Errors to avoid
- Spelling, grammar and sentence structure are very important if you want to gain credibility with readers.
- Strive for brevity and clarity, avoid long-winded sentences and jargon.
- Hype and exaggerated claims ruin message’s credibility
- Avoid words and terms that can be considered sexist or racist
Becoming a Persuasive Writer
- Persuasion is part of the human fabric that’s been around since at least ancient Greeks.
- Ancient Greek concepts of ethos, logos and pathos are today’s credibility, logical argument and emotional appeal.
- PR writers likely spend a large part of their day writing and distributing messages with the objective to persuade and motivate.
Basics of Communications
- Model of communications, basic: Sender, message, channel (medium) and receiver
- Multiple channels: The goal is to reach the largest audience, so many channels area required.
- General Public – There’s no such thing as the general public in public relations. It’s a specific publics or audiences, likely segmented by interests, gender, education, income and more.
Theories of Communications
There are several theories giving insight how people are persuaded and motivated
- Media uses and gratification – Recipients might want to be informed, alerted, entertained to help meet their need.
- Cognitive dissonance – People will not believe a message or news unless they are given information causes them to question their own beliefs.
- Needs awareness of topic, provide new developments and credibility, a quote from an executive, CEO, leader or person that respected.
- Framing – PR practitioners construct a message that focused on key attributes, such as a cause, candidate, product or service.
- Spin – What it could mean: Making sure a story is told in a way that is meaningful to the audience.
- Could also mean: Twisting a client’s response for an issue to make them look good.
- Vital to know – More than one study notes that about half of the content found in the media today from from public relations sources. See page 24.
- PR writers use framing – Select certain facts, likely situations, context to distribute message to media.
- Diffusion and adoption – A process of acquiring new ideas in five steps
- Awareness, interest, trial, evaluation and adoption.
- PR writers are most influential in the awareness and interest stages.
- Hierarchy of needs – These are basic human survival techniques
Safety needs, social needs, ego needs and self-actualization needs
Factors in Persuasive Writings
- Audience analysis
- Source credibility
- Appeal to self-interest
- Clarity of message
- Timing and context
- Use of symbols and slogans
- Symbolic use of colors
- Suggestion for actions
- Audiences – passive and active, meaning seeking information, with planning for communications channels to reach the two groups
Strategies for Persuasive Writings
- Drama and human interest
- Surveys and polls
- Emotional appeals
- Types of endorsements – Proclamations by civic officials, editorials and produce reviews by the media, statements by trade or professional organizations and celebrity endorsements
- Emotional appeals and fear arousal – most effective with suggestions and solutions for solving problems or the situation
- Techniques: Yes-yes, offering a structured choice, seeking partial commitment and asking for more, settling for less
- Highly educated audiences, or neutral or opposed to a topic are most persuaded by two-sided arguments.
Persuasion and Propaganda
- Plain folks, testimonials, bandwagon, card stacking, transfer, glittering generalities
- Almost all are used in some form in public relations writing.
- Up until the seventeenth century propaganda with considered a positive turn, related to the propitiation of the faith, Roman Catholic Church. After World War 1, the term changed to a negative term.
The Ethics of Persuasion
- Persuasion – Should not be manipulative or misleading. Needs to be truthful of all facts and ideas
- Telling the truth is core principle of many public relations professional groups, PRSA.