DIY PR: Learn How to Write (Press Releases)

You know how to write! Of course you do! You can put letters in order and they form words others can read. Writing to get someone else interested in what you’re doing is more than that. It’s presentation, it’s word choice, it’s grammar and punctuation and spelling, it’s being descriptive while being succinct. And it’s important.

1. Spelling Counts. So Do Grammar and Punctuation. 

Thank God for the backspace key.

That means spell things correctly, have your commas and semi-colons in the right places and craft your words with careful thought and consideration. Don’t take shortcuts, and do have someone proofread. Have them do it twice. Then you should do it twice, no matter how smart you are, or how often you’ve done this, because you are not perfect. Case in point, I titled yesterday’s post DYI instead of DIY at first and didn’t notice until someone else pointed it out. Doh! Look at every word and dissect it to make certain it’s correct! Personally, I draft my important emails and press releases in a word doc program first — no chance of hitting send too soon!

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Do-it-Yourself Public Relations (or, DIY PR)

This morning, I had a notion.

Publicity is important to any endeavor that seeks to make a profit. Regardless of the reason for that profit, whether it’s to sustain a creative endeavor, earn an income, bring attention to a cause, share a thing of interest, or something else entirely. But getting publicity is notoriously difficult. There’s a lot of competition for people’s attention out there, and in the past, only certain channels have had the power of broadcasting your endeavor to the masses.

That was the past. This is now. And now is a world where the eager masses can give $3 million to an idea that is presented well. Where social media can sustain revolutions. Where anyone can tell the world what they have to say, and the world can hear it.

I ended up doing PR in a weird way. Ten years ago, I joined Phoenix Online as a volunteer staff writer to make a video game. A pipe dream from my youth, something that sounded fun and creative while I was in the funk of temp jobs and living at home following graduating college in 2002 as an English major with a tacked on Philosophy minor. Over the years, I ended up one of the Directors of a fledgling company, and roughly two years ago, I inherited the job of running PR.

And I kind of freaking love it.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t what I studied. I had the work of those before me to build off of. I’ve had help learning how to write a press release and reach out to the press and getting contacts to build my own press list. I’m not the kind of person who can easily go and talk to just anyone out of the blue. I don’t even like calling people on the phone. The night before my first ever interviews at PAX East 2010 I hardly slept because I was so freaking nervous.

Bottom line? I’m no expert. But despite all that, and that I almost always feel like I’m winging it, I’m certainly doing alright, and more and more lately, I’ve felt I actually have enough knowledge on how this stuff works to be able to offer advice or help people out. If I got here in a non-traditional way, anyone can.

So I’m borrowing a page from my friend Cassandra, who has successfully adopted a schedule model to keep her posting regularly on her blog, and once a week I’m going to post about things I’ve learned about Public Relations. This is no college class, this is no formal education, this is just my experience and what I’ve learned from it, and hopefully it can prove useful to someone else.

Coming now and every week: Do-It-Yourself Public Relations!