Thursday, January 3, 2013

PR Tips for Small Business - How to write good copy

Small business PR tipsDo you ever worry that you may be spending a lot of time writing something that no one is going to read?
When you’re running a business, you appreciate that time is money. Hence any significant business activity needs to offer you a return, to justify its continuity.    
It is generally recognised that writing blog posts and submitting newspaper articles has the potential to raise the profile of your business and generate interest in what you have to offer. However this is only true when the content has been well written – and not many of us can claim to understand the essential keys to writing good copy   
I recently spoke with Wendy McWilliams from WMC Public Relations about how to write copy that will engage readers and generate a response, if that is the desired outcome. Wendy brings more than twenty years of experience to PR, particularly supporting SMEs with their promotion and publicity. She offered some great tips on content writing relevant to all of us running a small business
Q: Wendy, do you need special skills to write articles that people will actually read?
Not really, but you need to be mindful of who you are writing for and who will be reading the article. And whether it is a technical article or one that is general in nature, there are some tips that can be used across all types of writing.
Q: So if you are writing a blog or a feature article for a trade magazine, you can apply the same principles?
Yes, you just need to write in different style. For example a blog can be a lighter style, whereas an article for a magazine would usually be more formal.
The first tip is to create a catchy heading and introduction. You want to capture the reader's attention so they actually click on the link or stay on the page and continue reading. If you aren't sure what works, look at the articles that attracted you or emails you received that prompted you to click on them for more information. What worked with you and what didn’t? Also, check the metro daily papers and see how they intro a story. Practice trying to make it as punchy and attention-grabbing as you can.
After people have read your intro they want to know more, so it’s important to then include all of the factual information. The who, what, when, where, why and how.

Another tip to good copy-writing is to add a human interest element. Depending upon your subject, you might consider how people have been affected. Be specific, not general when talking about how they have benefited.
Q: Any advice for the small business owner who wants to tell their story?
For a small business success story it's a good idea to include some background information about how you or your company came to be where they are and what influences or mentors you’ve had in the past. What initially motivated you to start the business and what it is you find most satisfying about the business now.
What or whom do you attribute your success to? What ups and downs have you had along the way? Obviously, you must make it real and honest – but try and include something that differentiates your business story to that of others.
I would also suggest you try and keep a news angle to the story. This is particularly important if you are pitching a story to the media, for example your local press..
Q: What about structuring your content – any tips?
You should try and keep the content of the article in a logical order; chronological is usually the best structure so that readers are guided through your story in a seamless way.
And I would suggest that you include advice or tips on how others can benefit from your learning and experience. It's like a bonus for them reading the article.
Q: Any final words?

There is an art to writing interesting articles and it does take a while before you become competent with it. What you write needs to be succinct and not contain waffle. Just put yourself in the readers' position and from that perspective, it's easier to write what you would like to read.

And one final piece of advice when writing your copy. Don't make spelling, typographical or grammatical mistakes, as this is one of the biggest turn-offs for most readers. It can definitely undermine the impact of your message and detract from your own credibility. So try to get it proof-read by someone else before you publish the blog post or submit your article.

And for some other great advice on PR, take a look at our post PR Tips for Small Business

Copyright 2012. Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development - a corporate training company based in Melbourne that delivers management courses, leadership training and interview coaching