If you want a lesson in good writing, just listen to well-produced radio programs such as those on NPR. I listen to NPR as a news source but also for background music that doesn’t clash with my writing efforts as I work in my home office.
In thinking about what makes radio stories such a good illustration of solid writing that can apply to B2B copywriting, PR writing, or journalism, I came up with the following attributes.
Get to the point. Radio stories are usually short in duration—even on NPR—so they must immediately establish the story’s focus.
Clarity. I just read an email from a B2B marketer on the subject of clarity. Clarity reigns. It’s the basis of all successful communication. Good radio excels because it’s clear.
Simple words. This is especially true in radio. Listen closely and you’ll notice simple language. No fancy adjectives or crazy verbs. Radio words are easy to comprehend quickly.
Quotes. A well-selected and well-placed quote adds color to a radio story or other form of communication. Bland quotes, however, add no value and can actually detract from the core message.
Here’s a story NPR did last year on the Bank of Floyd, the hometown bank in my little town. It’s an interview format:
Amid Financial Turmoil, Small Banks Thrive
Unfortunately, we’re living during a time when the business news is often bad. That means clients have assignments that require delivering bad news. I worked on two such projects in recent months, which got me thinking about important elements of “bad news” copy.
Here are three:
1) Be direct.
Get the bad news out early, quickly and completely. Don’t bury it. To borrow from Nike, “Just say it.”
2) Be clear.
This is a key element of all effective copy, but it’s especially important when you’re delivering bad news. This is no time to be fuzzy or cute. Your message needs to be crystal clear.
3) Be honest.
Don’t try to gloss over the bad news or give it a slick PR or marketing spin. I know it’s tempting, but don’t do it. You won’t fool many people. In fact, you could lose credibility. Once you get the bad news out, you can move on to the positives and any plans for overcoming difficulties.
Although I sometimes write journalistic pieces, I’m not a journalist. Nonetheless, sometimes style questions arise for me.
The other day I wrote “David vs. Goliath” in a proposal. When I returned to that phrase during my final edit and proofread, I wondered if it was correct. More specifically, I wondered if “vs.” or “versus” was the correct usage.
I tried my luck with an online search, but since I don’t have an online subscription to the AP Stylebook (or any other stylebook) I wasn’t confident about finding a reliable answer to my query.
So I headed to my basement. That was the last place I remembered seeing my old AP Stylebook, the one with the faded red cover that I threw in a box when I moved my office back home in April.
There it was! I leafed to the V’s and found my answer: “abbreviate as vs. in all uses.”
Continue reading “Are Stylebooks Still in Style?”
I have a friend who is a longtime journalist. He has served many media outlets in many capacities: reporter, editor, coach/teacher, seminar leader, ethicist and diversity expert.
Alas, his longtime marriage to journalism, for all practical purposes, has ended in divorce. Now he has a new bride, corporate communications and PR. As we sometimes joke, he has crossed over to the dark side.
The new bride is bedeviling him at times. She is not like his first and only true love. She has an evil streak. Yesterday was a prime example when I got an S.O.S. about the “PR quote.”
I come from a background where quote marks are used to set apart words that were actually said, he explained. Quote marks are sacred. My boss tells me we make up the quotes for the press release, he continued. Then we rewrite them and make them even better.
(I think my friend was actually surprised by this practice, although as a longtime journalist I thought he would be aware of it.)
Continue reading “The Fake PR Quote”
What are smart communication strategies in a down economy?
That’s the question I posed to a slice of my LinkedIn network. The answers I received from marketing, PR, ad agency and communications professionals fill a new 20-page report — and I’d like you to have a free copy:
Smart Communication Strategies in a Down Economy
The articles and mini essays range from traditional outbound marketing such as direct mail and phone calls, to the latest thinking on online tactics. I encourage you to grab it now.
Then I’d love to hear what you think, including your “smart communication strategies” for the next edition of the report.
Are traditional print PR and media relations dying? BtoB columnist Paul Gillin made that argument in a recent column.
Not long ago, a Wall Street Journal mention would generate a lot more excitement than a Web link. No more, according to Gillin.
“It’s time to embrace the new reality: Online results are now unquestionably more important than print PR success,” he wrote.
Gillin then cited this personal example:
In January, one of my blogs benefited from references from two prominent media bloggers — Jeff Jarvis and Tim Windsor — as well as from citations in The Economist and The New Yorker. The first three references provided dramatic and immediate results: In each case, daily visits to my site surged by the hundreds; subscriptions to my RSS feed and newsletter jumped; and daily traffic settled down 10% to 15% above previous levels. More important, one of those links resulted in an inquiry that generated new business.
Comments to Gillin’s piece varied, but many seemed to agree. Print may not be dead, but it’s definitely no longer the prize it once was. Link over ink? It’s sure looking that way.