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Write Your Way to a PR Job
Friday, May 11, 2012 (All day)

With the onset of social media, the public relations profession is experiencing unprecedented change, but the ability to write well remains essential for success. In fact, PR consultants can spend up to 70% of their day writing communications plans, news releases, speeches, social media copy and other materials. If you’re a professional writer looking to add PR to your services, your timing couldn’t be better. You already have many of the necessary skills for PR, including the ability to write in a clear and persuasive way, and to translate complex material into jargon-free information.

Plus, organizations today are also creating and publishing their own PR content for online newsrooms, blogs and Facebook pages. There is a growing need for people who can make stories come to life, and prepare content that turns readers into fans and keeps them coming back.

A way with words will get you two thirds of the way to success in PR, but for those just breaking into the profession, there are some things you need to consider:

Lack of industry experience – Writing news releases using the inverted pyramid style takes practice and follows industry-standard format and style guidelines. Communications plans tend to use specific formats that are taught in PR schools and honed in the workplace.

Writing is just the beginning – Although you may be hired just to write, you need a working knowledge of media relations, influencer outreach, and event management as you’ll be writing materials for all elements of a campaign.

Writing for multiple audiences – PR materials need to be customized for different audiences. It’s not unusual to create several opening paragraphs for the same news release to suit the interests of different types of journalists.

Social media savvy is a must – Successful PR practitioners make time to author blogs, stay active on Twitter and post photos on Pinterest, whether they want to or not. You need to be able to speak with authority about the main platforms, and your portfolio should include social media content.

Getting started
Like any venture into new territory, you need to meet the people who might use your services, and show them that you understand and can deliver what they need.

Consider joining one of the professional associations serving Toronto communicators, and even if you don’t join, attend their networking and PD sessions to meet potential contacts, learn new skills and become aware of the issues/challenges facing the industry. IABC/Toronto has a sub-group for independent communicators that might be especially relevant for freelance writers.

Check out the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms for a list of PR agencies in Canada, as well as tips and guidelines for working with PR firms.

Hone your other PR skills by taking courses at postsecondary institutions. Ryerson University offers a variety of communications courses at night.

Click the News buttons on organizational website home pages to get a sense of how PR materials are written and formatted.

International Association of Business Communicators
Canadian Public Relations Society
Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms
Ryerson University PR certificate

Louise Armstrong is a freelance communicator with two decades of agency and corporate experience. She blogs at www.acallforclass.com.

- Louise Armstrong


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