My foray into public relations writing has been challenging yet invaluable. As a member of the media who regularly receives media kits, I never realised how much effort it takes to compose a news release —until I had to pen it myself. Particularly, the intimidating task of churning out a newsworthy angle stifled my writing. This reflection will focus on my experience writing a news release for a charity run.
This cover page was designed by Melissa Koh
Despite painstaking efforts, my initial drafts were heavily critiqued. I wrote long paragraphs, as opposed to Smith’s (2016) recommendation: keep paragraphs short with a maximum of six lines “for visual appeal and readability” (p. 188). Additionally, contrary to Starr and Dunsford's (2014) advise — be concise and factual without using promotional language — I made the mistake of using emotive descriptions. Starr and Dunsford (2014) add that opinions should be represented with attribution to maintain objectivity and credibility, which I initially failed to provide. More importantly, my writing style did not match that of the organisation I was writing for, which called for a more thorough research. Week 7’s lecture provided an important reminder, “you don’t write because you want to say something, you write because your client has something to say” (McNamara, 2018, p. 4).
Thorough research was immensely crucial. Apart from relying on readily available resources, I attended information sessions, interacted with attendees, and even contacted a former lecturer who had taken part in the charity run last year. Yes, I like to go above and beyond. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Carol Neill (Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Bachelor of Arts, Social Sciences) for her valuable input.
Team PACK Women (from left): Alison Gale, Prameela Mallireddy, Carol Neill, Kirsty Whitby
The process of drafting and refining in response to constructive feedback fuelled my growth as a writer. My lecturer, Sean McNamara, had been incredibly helpful. As 12th-century philosopher, Zhu Xi, reinforces, “If you find faults, correct them. When you find none, try even harder” (Smith, 2016, p. 34).
I had the luxury of five weeks to write, re-write, and refine my news release. However, most public relations practitioners do not have that luxury, especially when communicating in a crisis (Zappala & Carden, 2010). According to Zappala and Garden (2010), such circumstances require quick and accurate communication —not to mention the onerous task of tailoring the message to suit different audiences and media channels. I have not only gained a newfound respect for public relations practitioners, but also developed a keener interest in the public relations industry.
Moving forward, I believe due diligence and consistent practice is crucial in honing my writing abilities. Additionally, constantly seeking feedback is a good trait to have. Finally, in this constantly evolving industry, commitment to a continuous process of learning, unlearning, and re- learning is key to obtaining meaningful results. Do I see myself in public relations? I wouldn't say no!
McNamara, S. (2018). Writing for a client: Identifying needs and issues [PowerPoint slides].
Smith, R. D. (2016). Becoming a public relations writer: Strategic writing for emerging and established media (5th Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Starr, D. P., & Dunsford, D. B. (2014). Working the story: A guide to reporting and news writing for journalists and public relations professionals. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Zappala, J. M., & Carden, A. R. (2010). Public relations writing worktext: A practical guide for the profession (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge