Working as a freelance public relations writer involves writing both convincingly and logically. The secret to writing “convincingly” is the secret to all professional writing: you must fully understand your target audience (i.e., who they are, their needs and desires, etc.) Nearly all public relations projects for a client demands that you to concentrate on different, specific audiences, such as:
1) Your client’s core customers. Your client’s customers already know about your client and the activities of his or her business;
2) Prospective customers. These customers have heard about your client but don’t fully know about his business or what services or products that he offers.
3) The media. Better known in general terms as “The Press,” these media moguls are only interested in receiving press materials that relate to a useful product, service or cause to mention in their publication, at their website, or by other distribution.
DIGESTING AND SIMPLIFYING INFORMATION
When a client outsources a PR assignment to you, your first task is to absorb all
the facts and information connected to the product or service or event that your client wants to offer and publicize. Perhaps your client is extending a new line of merchandise, or wants his community to know about a new outreach program for alcoholics, or inform car buyers about a change in ownership at his dealerships in three counties. Your task is to: 1) scrutinize that information for primary key points (of which you will eventually simplify and convey the benefits to the target audience); 2) identify how the information can influence the industry and people; and 3)
convey the information in a straightforward, succinct style.
Digesting the information is the simplest part. Your client should give you as much information as you need to create an effective PR plan, along with contact information to interview individuals for quotes, figures and stats, different viewpoints, and so on (if applicable). Contemplate how to tie in with what your client is providing with the demands and ambitions of his target market.
If a prominent financial company wishes to distribute a press release about
their reaction to the gradual surge in gold bullion values, you may likely need to scrutinize the securities market to figure out what that means to investors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (depending on the company’s target audience). If you understand the prime audience, then you understand specifically where to search to identify their common worries. Common research strategies might consist of online searches, forum posts at active discussion forums, social media sites, Google News, etc.
If you have to produce PR
materials intended for a certain industry trade organization or a sector of an industry, such as generating publicity and buzz for a local restaurant, then you need to conceptualize ways in which your client’s restaurant is more unique and better than other restaurants in the area.
Once you’ve completed the research, you can begin the PR materials. Using Example # 2, your job is to: 1) communicate persuasively the purpose of the publicity, 2) tie it in with the target market’s desires and needs, and 3) showcase related information that connects the
audience back to the client by using contact details, the restaurant’s location, special event dates, special prices, and so on.
YOUR WRITING STYLE
Because most PR is persuasive, advertisement-like content, you have more freedom in writing creatively, than you would writing academic, research-driven content; but remember, you must adapt your writing to meet the needs and desires of the target audience.
Suppose you are writing a press release announcing the debut of a new role-playing game for the iPad and are
sending press materials to a teen-aged video gaming website. Common sense tells you that a dry, formal writing style stuffed with facts about its programming language will miss the mark completely. Instead, your writing style will be lively, energetic, enthused and conversational, hitting all the major points that excite teenage gamers.
Suppose Apple Inc. hires you to generate “tech buzz” for a new memory chip that will power the upcoming iPad, your writing style—aimed at technologists and industry trade professionals—will be
more formal, factual and verbose. Stay away from hyperbole, such as proclaiming how this new chip will “completely reinvent the technology sector,” or any claims that an educated engineer can’t confirm. Stay with the facts as accurately as possible. Remember to write press materials that target the client’s primary audience, and this includes knowing the audience’s education and reading level.
FINDING PR WRITING JOBS
Where can you find public relations jobs? The quickest way to find PR jobs is to browse the popular job sites, such as Monster.com,
CareerBuilder.com, CraigsList.org, Freelancer.com, Elance.com, and oDesk.com. Corporate and business Public Relations departments offer high-paying, regular jobs. Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies usually employ their own full-time and part-time PR writers, and sometimes outsource parts of a larger PR campaign during busy times. Another excellent job source are nearby non-profit organizations, political associations, or social networking clubs. These organizations depend on successful public relations to flourish and prosper in their communities, and you
can secure plenty of reoccurring work from one or two of them. A downside to non-profits or other regional associations is they may have reduced budgets or they may not pay on time after a project. Be sure you trust the organization before you consign to any project-based or full-time PR work.
Most of all, beware of writing press releases and executing PR campaigns for individuals and aspiring independent entrepreneurs. This kind of PR can bring you many fulfilling projects, based on your interests. One-time PR projects may involve marketing an author’s new self-published novel, or composing press releases for a YouTube garage band, or networking with influential journalists to establish interviews for a new bakery class, etc. The drawback is individuals often have limited or zero finances for PR, and they ask you to “volunteer” your services, affirming that “It’ll improve your portfolio and establish connections for you in the industry” or that “Once I become successful I can pay you.” Say “No thanks!” to these job offers.
NEVER work for free, no matter how good the “promises” sound. Doing free work wastes your time. In my 10 years of experience in PR, I will tell you outright that you cannot advance your career by working for free, except for developing a portfolio of PR samples. Also, working for free can and will keep your hourly rates low and this will prevent you from making a profit from your writing. It’s bad for you, for your business, or for other PR writers.
If you possess the competency to break down complicated information skillfully and communicate it plainly and persuasively into concepts that your audience grasps and comprehends, then you have the “starter” skills necessary to begin a career in freelance public