If you're writing a news release or blog posting or newsletter article, it's easy and very tempting to make yourself or your organization the star of the show. And it's the exact opposite of what you should do if you want to get a journalist, blogger or, in these days of direct-to-consumer publishing, your potential customer to read it.
I once sat in a meeting with a bunch of business executives who wanted positive publicity on their recent organizational restructuring. "Great idea!" the PR people said. But how can we demonstrate the improvements? Had they reduced headcount or cut costs? Had they streamlined departments in an innovative way?
"We can't talk about that," they said. "We don't want to put any numbers out there. We don't want anyone to think what we were doing before was bad."
"Then how can we show that the restructuring was positive?" we asked. It would be the first question a journalist would ask.
"Just say that it was," they answered.
So despite our misgivings, we wrote the release making them the star -- the headline was something like "Productivity Further Enhanced at XYZ Corp." It included several quotes from management trumpeting a list of restructuring actions taken with no real context or insight into what had been in place before. And guess what? It generated absolutely no news coverage and probably drew no readers. Why? Because we didn't give the reader a reason to care.
The first rule of public relations writing is to focus on your audience first. Who do you want to read it? What do you want them to remember? Why should they care?
Key to remember is that just because we -- or our bosses or clients -- think we have an important story, doesn't mean that the rest of the world does. The PR pro has to take a step back and look at the story with an outsider's perspective. And sometimes that means telling a client or a boss that there isn't a story there. It's a hard message to deliver, particularly to successful business owners or executives who live and breathe their work. But doing so will help you set realistic expectations for your efforts.
And save the fluffy "We are a good company" stories for the employee newsletter.