Message Mapping for Stronger Relationships

I think Lewis Caroll said it best, “If you don’t know where you’re doing, any road will get you there.” I think a lot of marketers live by this quote. They arrive at their messages when they get there. Their messaging evolves over time, but as such is incredibly inconsistent to the eyes and ears of the audience. To build any form of message retention among your target audiences, you need to be consistent across all your interactions. Everywhere your audience interacts with your brand, the message should build upon the last interaction. One approach to making sure this happens with relative predictability is to map your messages across the stages of your relationship with any particular target audience.

Say what? Every audience you interact with is made up of people. Just like your interpersonal relationships, your relationship with these people builds over time. It gets stronger or weaker based on the stimuli you bring to the table. Thing about the strongest relationships you have in your network. What are the common threads? Chances are you make a deliberate or subconscious investment in the relationship. You make an effort to get together. You regularly share information via email or social media channels. Perhaps you just remember them on their birthday. The more frequent and positive your interactions are with this person, the stronger the relationship. [Read more…]

Action, Reaction, Interaction and Transaction

I’ve been writing a lot about strategy in this series on message planning. When you enter the execution stage and start to plan your individual messages that support your strategies, it helps to think about the results and performance you plan to achieve with each message. I think it’s useful to go through the exercise of planing the ideal action, reaction, interaction or transaction you might produce in response to each message. [Read more…]

How To Create A Message Platform

As promised in my Message Planning post, here is the first post in my series on message planning. If you don’t know how to put together a message platform, this platform will help you understand some of the components most commonly found in them. If you already know how to create a message platform, I hope you’ll pick up a tip or two that you can use the next time you have to put one together – and I hope you’ll chime in with your suggestions for the less-experienced readers of this post. Please keep in mind that there are many different approaches to developing a message platform. Not all platform components outlined in this post are necessary or appropriate for every organization. I’m providing these suggestions as guidance for those going through this process for the first time. It’s up to you to evaluate and decide which components will help you best meet your communication goals.

Rather than drone on about all the reasons why you should create a message platform for your organization, I’m going to assume you have already gone through that process. If you need a reason, I think a message platform is a great way to get everyone in your organization on the same page with who you are, what you do and how you want to communicate all those things in various formats inside and outside of your organization. Let’s get started…. [Read more…]

The Top 11 Journalistics Posts of 2011

best journalism posts 2011This is the third year I’ve written a “Top Journalistics Posts of the Year” post. The greatest hits meme is a little overdone, I know – but when you consider about half our readers are ‘new visitors’, a lot of these posts are new to them. I personally enjoy the exercise of reviewing our best posts from the year. Reflecting on my work from the past year gives me renewed focus for the coming year.

This couldn’t be more true this year. I took a look back at our Top 9 Posts of 2009 and Top 10 Posts of 2010 to see how the blog has changed over the past few years. The first thing that jumped out at me is how good the posts from 2009 were. Three or four of those first posts remain the most-viewed each year on the blog (I won’t reveal which ones they are, mainly because they’re great resources – but in desperate need of updating).

The popularity of these posts tells me two things:

1. Those posts were great – and well worth the effort that went into them (some of the more labor intensive posts to date)

2. If I was writing great content, posts from 2009 wouldn’t still be the most popular content in 2011

We have a lot of great content lined up for 2012. As always, we welcome your feedback. For now, without further adieu, here are the top posts of 2011: [Read more…]

The Write Stuff: The #1 PR Skill

Public relations is a melting pot of industries and areas of study – journalism, political science, social media, public affairs and business – to name a few. As professionals, our backgrounds are diverse and the paths that led us to PR vary. No matter how we got here, there is one skill we should all share: clear, exceptional writing.

Sure, the landscape of our profession is continually changing and we have new tools to learn on an almost-daily basis, but a commitment to fundamentals is what makes one PR practitioner standout from the next. We’re a fast-learning, information-hungry bunch, committed to understanding the latest trends. We should also show a commitment to traditional PR principles that remain unchanged on a daily and monthly basis.

The brief, casual language of social media has confused some people on what good writing requires. As someone who’s been in the profession for just a few years, I’d also add that writing is often overlooked in training. All that said, however, I am a proponent of excellence in writing for each and every PR pro.

Messages in 140 characters won’t always get you where you need to go. Here are three reasons why PR practitioners at every level need to embrace solid writing skills.

We pitch writers every day – You know those journalists you reach out to on a daily basis? Odds are they’ve been well-trained in the craft of writing. It’s our job to impress them with materials so well-written, they can copy and paste them (for journalists reading this, please chime in with your thoughts).

Clients expect us to write for them – Whether it’s an op-ed, a brochure, a speech or an annual report, companies hire PR people so that they don’t have to do the heavy writing. Wow them with sharp prose and articulate delivery. Clients should not have to correct or edit work that their PR team sends to them (unless they edit for personal preference, which I think we all witness more often than we’d like).

Only you can decide whether or not you are confident in your writing. Whether you are an entry-level newbie or a seasoned PR veteran, here are five ways to improve if you aren’t confident with your writing.

  • Practice self-editing – Whenever I proof documents for my colleagues, I often find simple, obvious errors that could be avoided with some basic self-editing. Take the time to proof and revise your own work. It makes a huge difference.
  • Use subject+verb sentence construction – Elementary school English teachers tried to drill this into our young brains, but most of us forget the basic subject+verb construction when we get into heavy writing. Writing sentences this way keeps them concise and focused, so revisit the time-tested lesson.
  • Avoid passive voice – This is part two on sentence construction. When you forget to use simple subject-plus-verb construction, you may have a sentence that reads like this: I secured coverage by calling the reporter sixteen times. Compare that to this active voice sentence: I called the reporter sixteen times to secure coverage. Avoid the passive voice for sharper, clearer writing.
  • Watch out for over-capitalization – People love capital letters. Sometimes they throw a capital letter into the middle of a sentence on a random word. Remember that for the most part, only proper nouns, titles preceding a name and the formal names of organizations should be capitalized. Check out the AP style book if you want stricter guidelines.
  • Learn and love style guides – The preferred style for PR writing is AP style. Buy a book, learn it, read it, love it. Use it while proofing every single document you write. If your agency or organization prefers a different style then buy that manual, learn it and love it. You should use AP style to write all media materials – press releases, op-eds and any other media specific literature.

Technological tools cannot replace the universal communication that we all share – writing. We have to communicate with the written word. The more we polish our writing, the more effectively we will communicate with each other and our audiences.

Do you know the difference between a clause and a fragment? Which versus that? Passive voice? If not, take a class or attend a seminar. Polish those writing skills until they shine.


About Jessica Love

Jessica Love is a public relations specialist at AugustineIdeas, an integrated marketing and communications firm in Roseville, California. She specializes in media relations, copywriting, message development and event planning for consumer clients in the food and tourism industries. Jessica is enjoying her PR journey as she navigates her way through the industry, trying to learn and improve every day so she can deliver optimal results for her team and her clients.


How NOT To Leave Blog Feedback

I love to blog. I don’t do it for fame or fortune, I do it because thousands of you read my posts and many of you have told me one of our posts has helped you in one way or another. I also blog because I’ve made hundreds of new friends through this experience, and I’ve learned a ton from many of you. Out of the 4,000+ comments you’ve left me, I’ve never been upset by one until yesterday. First, some background…

I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I posted. Most of you have enjoyed the guest posts we’ve put up, but I know the long-time readers want more content from Jeremy. I’ve always taken a quality over quantity approach with the blog – rather than drop any old content on you, I tend to wait until I have an idea that grabs me. An idea I think you’ll love. That’s why most of you keep coming back.

In my haste to get my post up, I didn’t follow my own advice and edit thoroughly. I’m sorry about that – but most of you know that’s not the norm on Journalistics. Now any of you could have given me a heads up like, “Hey champ, you might want to follow step 4 and edit your post.” I would have been fine with that. I would have laughed and done so immediately. [Read more…]

Outlines Help You Write Better, Faster

Would you build a house without blueprints? No, probably not. That would be a recipe for disaster. The same could be said for writing without an outline. An outline gives your writing structure and helps you organize your thoughts from start to finish, to ensure you get your point across or tell a good story.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the inverted pyramid style helps you write better press releases. Part of this approach is getting all the readers’ questions answered upfront (who, what, why, when, where and how), the other part is forcing you to outline before writing.

Do People Still Outline?

A lot of you are writers, so I’m sure you outline your writing from time to time. I’d guess that most people in the business world don’t. There are a couple of reasons I think most people don’t outline their writing anymore: [Read more…]

Can Twitter Make You a Better Editor?

You have anywhere from three to ten seconds to capture and hold someone’s attention in a conversation. On Twitter, you have 140 characters. Realistically, you have about one second if you consider the number of Twitter users (100 million+) and the number of tweets per second (1,000–4,000, pending on the current events). The point? If you don’t have a snazzy lede (am I old school for still spelling it that way?) you’re never going to get clicked.

So, tweeters got smarter. They saw what worked and what didn’t. They found ways to cut out the unnecessary info and focus on only the good stuff. They jazzed up their call to action. Basically, they became editors — and good ones at that (some of them, at least). Self-editing and style guidelines are now more important than ever because people can easily get content somewhere else. While Strunk and White never imagined a need for a well-defined Elements of Twitter Style, it does beg one question: Can Twitter make you a better editor? [Read more…]

The Elements of Style: Twitter Edition

I have at least four copies of The Elements of Style. Originally published in 1918 by William Strunk, Jr., this book has truly stood the test of time. It’s been a great writing resource for me over the years, even though there are still dozens of its rules that I break with each blog post. I recently read the book again and noticed how many of the rules are relevant for Twitter and other short-form, social media writing.

Here are some guidelines for tweeting adapted from or inspired by The Elements of Style. I hope you find these suggestions helpful and entertaining: [Read more…]