Brittany Walters-Bearden, Co-founder, At Large PR
Whether you’re facing a media interview, writing your professional bio, or drafting a press release, messaging is important. By following a few simple steps, you can improve your messaging and, in the process, your image and sales.
Before you start, think about who your core audience is. Don’t say “the media”. Who are you try to communicate with through the media? Draft your message, keeping your audience and their needs in mind.
Now, go back and edit your message.
Step One: Replace any technical terms or buzzwords with language that is easy-to-understand and will speak to your core audience. Don’t use words that don’t have meaning. What do words like “consumer-driven”, “solutions”, “methodology”, and “holistic approach” really mean? If it’s the marketing equivalent of calling something “awesomesauce”, “epic”, or “thebombdotcom”, cross it out and replace it with real language. Cut out all the cray-cray words.
Step Two: Get rid of everything but the essentials. Why?
Media interviews: If you’re going to be quoted, chances are high that you will be only partially quoted. If there is extraneous information that could be quoted instead of key information, cross it out.
Press releases: Chances are that journalists aren’t going to read your release in its entirety. In a very unscientific study conducted by me, it was found that approximately 90 percent of the questions reporters ask publicists are already covered in the press release. Of course, this is completely okay, it’s our job to answer questions or direct reporters to the people who can, but it is important to remember that there are instances in which a story will be written solely off of the press release, and the only way that you will know that it happened is through Google Alerts. Make sure the important information is what gets read.
Professional bios/ LinkedIn bios: Even public relations professionals need help from time to time. When I was writing my professional bio to accompany guest pieces, I called my sales trainer and asked him what he thought I should include. His answer?
Brittany Walters-Bearden is CEO and a public relations specialist at At Large PR. She specializes in personal branding PR for entrepreneurs and non-fiction authors.
That’s it. No one cared about how, like George Jefferson (see: The Jeffersons, 1975-1985 for the following paraphrased quote), I climbed the ladder of success rung by rung, clawing and scratching my way to the top from a giant pool of copywriters until I emerged victorious. They just needed the essentials. By having a long bio, chances are people won’t continue reading past the first few sentences, where, if you confuse your message, as many people do, by telling the story in chronological order, you are still toiling away in the shoe department of your high school job.
His advice was good, because, when clients submit their bios to publications that are featuring their op-eds or guest pieces, they are generally cut to one or two sentences. By giving the editor too much to choose from, the part that really matters could be what gets cut. Imagine if you submitted a bio that detailed your entire professional history, starting with your education, and the editor took the first two sentences—you would sound like a recent graduate with no professional experience.
Similarly, for places like LinkedIn, imagine that people are using it the same way singles use the app Tinder—you know, the one where they swipe through pictures of other singles and, on a cursory glance, essentially tap “hot” or “not”? People are busy, and social media is sometimes considered a necessary annoyance. They won’t get much further than the first sentence, so make it count.
Step Three: Evaluate whether or not your message is appropriate for your audience. If your message still doesn’t communicate to your audience, keep revising until it does. For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry, is it more sympathetic to refer to “patients” as “sufferers”? There is no one-size-fits-all approach, because referring to someone as an “endometriosis sufferer” is, in fact, more sympathetic (and “endometriosis patient” feels somewhat chilly); whereas, referring to people with spinal cord injuries as “sufferers of spinal cord injuries” feels tone-deaf.
Better messaging takes constant vigilance. It is easy to slip and use the phrases that come to mind first or the phrases used when communicating within the office in interviews, press releases, and written communications, but by staying aware of your words and your audience, you can greatly improve your public perception.
About the Author
Brittany Walters-Bearden is a co-founder of At Large PR. She specializes in personal branding PR for entrepreneurs and non-fiction authors. Walters-Bearden is also a contributor to Entrepreneur.