As a PR firm most of what we do is content-driven. From traditional press releases to advertising copy to website verbiage to a Facebook post – we pride ourselves on using the right word or phrase to trigger the desired response.
If writing is the focus of public relations, does it matter if there is any design sense involved? And, even if it matters, how can it be incorporated?
Design does matter in PR – not that every public relations executive needs to work exclusively in Adobe InDesign, but little touches can make a big difference in driving home a concept.
I love to look at good design. It just pleases me. When I see a brochure or a commercial or a car or a chair that has been designed well, I am drawn to it. The design doesn’t have to be over the top in some way – in fact, sometimes the best design is very simple – but I notice when care has been taken so that it both achieves its purpose and is remarkably engaging to the eye.
I also love to read. Whether a blog, a news story or a murder mystery, I love to take in new information and ideas through the written word. But sometimes when reading, the words are not enough by themselves to hold me there.
I don’t mean that novels should start incorporating stock photos every other paragraph. But there are ways to help the reader’s eye continue moving through the content and discern what is important.
Let’s start with the font. There are two main kinds of fonts: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have “feet” on them, like Times or Garamond. Sans serif fonts don’t have those feet, like Arial or Verdana.
When there is a lot of text to read, serif fonts are usually recommended because the feet on the font help lead the eye to the next letter, which leads to the next word, and so on. You will see serif fonts used in most books and newspapers. Sans serif fonts are typically better for short bursts of copy such as headlines and small paragraphs of copy.
Within those two main categories, there are hundreds of font options that can be selected to help denote a feel – fun or serious, contemporary or classic, etc.
Little touches can make a big difference in driving home a concept.
Spacing can be also used to help establish a feel within text. And I don’t mean the debate about if there should be one or two spaces after a sentence’s period. (The answer is one.) Spacing can involve determining if paragraphs will indent the first line or not, or if there should be an extra space between paragraphs. It can mean setting up some copy as bullets just to break up the text, or adding pull quotes. It may involve using an ellipsis or dashes to help the reader interpret the meaning the writer is trying to present.
Another important factor is the medium of the content. Something written for Twitter can include hashtags or abbreviated words, but that would be inappropriate for most press releases. A blog may need to incorporate images to help move the eye along, while a book will typically just use text and white space so the imagination takes over for the visual element.
These are all factors that support the written content so that the reader gets interested and stays engaged.
Public relations can and should incorporate design. Little touches can mean a lot.