Hughes PR

Getting it write

Catherine Bauer writes…

Whatever you are doing right now – STOP. NOW. PLEASE.

Did you know it’s physically impossible to lick your elbow; move your head back and forth with your mouth open or to stick your tongue out while looking skywards?

I have no idea if any of this is true. What’s more, I don’t care either.

WritingI was just trying to get your attention. Now that I have it, I hope I can hold it long enough for you to read to the end of this piece about effective writing.

When it comes to putting pen to paper – or as is more likely, fingers to the keyboard – it’s interesting just how many people seem to be truly borderline, if not genuinely phobic, about the process. I know people who’d rather walk stark naked along Rundle Mall or indulge in a little public speaking rather than sit down and write.

With a deadline looming, reorganising their business card contacts or cleaning out the bottom drawer suddenly become urgent priorities as they worry and fret, dally and procrastinate about their “chore”.

Words should be written because we want to reach an audience and have a purpose behind what we want to say, not because we want to say something – anything.

Reading or listening to a poorly crafted or badly written piece of writing – be a two-line advertisement, a novel, film script,  media release, web site, annual report or eulogy ,will make just about anyone cringe and squirm.

There are many reasons a piece of writing can be classified “bad”. It can be boring and overly long, meandering and seemingly pointless, contain factual, spelling or grammatical errors, over written with lots of “purple prose”  and clichés, or sin of all sins – full of jargon that your average Joe just doesn’t understand.

Bottom line – the audience tunes out and you’ll have missed your chance to be heard.

As one of my first editors was fond of saying, “writers are born, they’re not made. It’s one of those things – you either can or you can’t and those who can’t should do everyone a favour and leave it to those who can.’’

However, even if writing doesn’t come naturally, there are still some key rules and tips that anyone can follow to improve their writing and make it more interesting and effective. I’d say they apply to just about whatever needs to be communicated from business briefs, pitches and reports, to the web, blogs and marketing material – even that novel or film script.

  • Know your audience and who you are targeting. Research if necessary.
  • Define your message and plan what you want to say.
  • Never write about something you know nothing about.
  • Grab your audience’s attention straight away or don’t bother at all. This can be done any number of ways including: making a bold statement or claim; with a new or quirky piece of (reliable) information, a good and relevant story; humour or use of a particular style.
  • Never over write or labour the point.
  • Be clear and concise. Especially in business writing, don’t use two words if one will do.
  • Make it flow with a logical structure.
  • Make it “sing” and a pleasure to read with appropriate tone and clear language – no jargon.
  • Break it up into short sentences or paragraphs. Unless they are boffins, most people don’t read daunting great slabs of text.
  • Check and check again. Get someone else to check it. Leave it alone for a while, then go back and do a final check.

Finally, if tasked with a piece of writing and you really don’t know where or how to start, get the help of someone who can; brainstorm some ideas with a colleague or just sit down and make a start and see what happens.

– Catherine Bauer

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Hughes PR

The main event

Here at Hughes Public Relations we’re lucky enough to attend lots of events, and even luckier to organise lots of events.

I say “luckier” because when you organise an event, you get an insight into what makes your client and their customers tick in a unique way. Organising and attending an event for your client shows you what’s important to their business and how their current stakeholder relationships are tracking in a way that six months’ worth of boardroom meetings won’t give you.

The microphone's working!

I also say “luckier” because you learn a LOT when organising an event. And I don’t just mean about how to hook up a PA system. (That said, learning about hooking up a PA system is one of the most important things on the list. I speak from personal experience! The thing I learned? Don’t stop troubleshooting. You’ve probably missed something very simple.)

Working as a team here are Hughes PR, we have the benefit of learning from each other. Thanks to sharing knowledge and Tim’s spectacular organisational skills leading by example, we’ve pretty much now got the preparation part down pat. On the day, you never know what will happen, but we do our best to be prepared for every possible scenario!

A great event starts with a great date and time. No one is going to show up to your event at 10am on Mother’s Day, so it’s important to make sure you’ve chosen a time and day that’s going to ensure the majority of your target audience is able to attend. On this, Tiffany Farrington from the Social Diary has a fantastic blog post on when not to hold your event.

A great event starts with a comprehensive event brief. From ensuring the event has the right people invited to making sure we’ve got signage pointing people to where the action is, we have a template we use that leaves no stone unturned. Running sheets, speeches, flowers, gifts, photography, weather forecasts, council permits, name tags, parking… the list goes on. We won’t need everything on the list, but it’s an important touch point for all the possibilities.

From here, assigning responsibility for tasks and making sure all organisers are aware of their responsibilities so that nothing gets left out is hugely important.

We also have an event “tool kit” that we can take from the office to an event whenever required. The event tool kit is a little red (of course!) suitcase that contains essentials such as cable ties, gaffa tape, blu tack, permanent markers, spare name tags, a torch, and a audio visual technician. Okay, I’m kidding about that last one. I wish I wasn’t.

And the result of all this planning and contingencies and tool kits and extensive training in audio visual troubleshooting? Hopefully a client event that meets their objectives – gets all the right people together and communicates the right things to them – and has a working microphone!

If you ever need help managing an event as part of your PR plan – we’re here to help.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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