2013 New Year’s Resolutions for PR Pros

January 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

By: Casey Schaak

Vollrath Associates is ringing in the New Year as any PR agency should – with some New Year’s resolutions. As we venture into 2013, having survived both the busy holiday season and the supposed Mayan apocalypse, it’s important to look ahead and set both personal goals and professional goals. Keep your career aspirations on track and improve your skills with these four PR resolutions for 2013:

Hone Your Writing Skills

Whether it’s informal employee newsletters, informative customer e-blasts or professional corporate releases, every PR pro knows the importance of developing content and tone to effectively reach the target audience. Don’t lose sight of your audience and don’t get caught up in the monotony of writing projects – develop fresh and unique angles to keep readers interested and informed.daily-writing

Most of us have areas that could be improved – writing style, grammar and spelling, proof reading, you name it! Now is the time to improve weak spots and enhance strengths. Make a list of goals to kick off 2013 as a writing wiz.

Wow with Social Media

Don’t let social media fall flat. Spice up posts with photos, videos, links, and relevant and interesting information that followers will want to see. It’s all about visuals, so start a Pinterest or Instagram account (if you haven’t already) to upload and share photos that will intrigue fans. Above all, keep followers engaged through questions, contests and polls. Social Media followers are your brand advocates – give them something to talk about!

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Keep Up with Networking

While PR pros are no stranger to networking events, it’s easy to fall into the comfort zone of talking with friends and co-workers instead of branching out. Make it a priority to meet new people when enjoying a lunch, dinner or presentation. Not only can you pick up some interesting tips for the trade, but you will enhance your own speaking skills and meet some interesting people along the way… and you never know when a new business or networking opportunity is around the corner.

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Stay on Top of Industry Happenings

We all know the feeling of juggling multiple clients in completely different industries. It isn’t always easy to stack-newspapers-magazineskeep up with everything from food and beverages to technology, transportation, manufacturing and beyond. Kick-off the New Year by refreshing your reading list, daily newsletters and Google alerts. Make sure you have the right clients and the right industries covered – you’re subscribed to the appropriate industry trade magazines and newsletters, the correct daily and weekly papers for your areas and that your Google alerts cover both industry and client keywords. That way you’ll know exactly what is happening when.

With these PR resolutions in mind, along with any additional goals of your own, 2013 is sure to be a success!

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Write a Better Feature Article

July 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By: Julie Caan

Writing a feature story is one thing, but writing a feature story that people will actually want to read is another.

Creating a great feature story isn’t easy; in fact, it’s really tough.

Every day, we’re entrusted with telling our clients’ stories through articles, blogs, newsletters and other communication. It can be easy to slip into bad writing habits when writing for a company’s internal audience: enter clichés, corporate-speak, abstract concepts and the like.

My fellow VA team member, Casey, and I recently attended a presentation about how to write stronger feature articles. The talk left Casey and I feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to write. Throughout the talk, we were reminded that it’s all about the little things when it comes to writing interesting feature copy.

Avoid Boring Writing:

This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, but corporate writing can be really boring. Next time you sit down to write think about WHY you’re writing, WHO you’re writing for and WHY they should care. I know this all sounds basic, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forget about your audience and most importantly, the PEOPLE behind the story.

Think of it this way: you’re the messenger and what you’re writing (whether you think so or not) is important to someone, somewhere. Don’t abuse this privilege; make sure you’re writing something people can relate to and draw meaning from—and try to have a little fun along the way.

Next time you write a feature, keep these building blocks in mind:

Elements of a Great Feature Story:

1. Attention grabbing, non-newsy lead (take a step back and reflect on the news)
2. Color (pay attention to detail—inject life into your writing!)
3. Narrative writing style (set the scene)
4. Include point of view
5. People (human beings doing things to influence a story)

Now, I realize that not every feature story you write is going to be “dramatic” or even all that interesting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write a quality piece that will resonate with your audience.

The talk we attended also emphasized being specific, focusing on people and writing with clarity. How many times have you buried a complicated acronym in the lead, or used jargon your audience might not understand? Instead of describing a new initiative using obscure, abstract language, use specific words that will paint a picture in the readers’ minds. Rather than writing about a new policy or procedure, try SHOWING your audience the change using people and actions they can relate to.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I learned from this presentation was the importance of using people to tell stories (after all, this is feature writing we’re talking about). It’s simple really. When you’re writing about people, make sure to inject all the qualities (when appropriate) that make them who they are into your story. For example, if you’re interviewing someone for a corporate profile, pay attention to what’s on his or her desk, photos or even that obscure collection of piggy banks hiding in the corner. This is the stuff your readers care about. Rather than resume-dumping right off the bat, why not try leading with some ‘color?’ Pay attention to detail. Humanize the piece.

To close, I’d like to share some general tips that apply to all types of writing:

• Set a timer for one hour and write without looking back (good old school tip that really works!)
• All great writing lies in great editing: it will take time to carve the perfect masterpiece
• Have fun with your writing!

Nobody’s a perfect writer and while some assignments may seem destined to be boring, it’s your job to turn them around. Cut to the heart of the story, create images and include PEOPLE. Set the scene for something your audience will want to read and something you will want to write!

What do you think goes into writing a great feature story? Any tips?

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