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Effective PR Writing for Executives

August 14, 2017 Amy Stevens

Traditional media still accounts for 69% of global media consumption in 2017, according to the June Zenith Media Consumption forecast. In other words, people still watch TV news and read newspapers or their affiliated social media pages. One of the many hats that a public relations professional wears involves writing copy for business executives to use and repurpose as they wish for these traditional news media outlets.

With so much content needed today, it’s commonplace for our clients to request case studies, thought leadership articles, blogs, newsletters, social posts or even LinkedIn profiles to be drafted by their PR agency. The more familiar term for this practice is ‘ghostwriting.’ There just isn’t time left over in most business executives’ days to draft something from scratch.

Yet, who better to be the voice of the company than the one making strategic decisions all day? A ghostwriter can tell the executive’s story in his voice. There are several benefits to asking for copywriting help from a public relations firm, an in-house communications department or freelancer. When this content is published, it can also inspire authentic conversations between management and employees, customers and stakeholders, show thought leadership and keep the company on the top of target audiences’ news feed and inbox. That’s a marketing win-win.

For PR and copywriting pros being asked to create content, here are four tips on how to best write for executives with flair – and on deadline.

Communicate the parameters – Some writing projects can be done without contacting the executive first. Another company contact may already have the background you need to fulfill the writing request.

  • However, if a discussion is necessary, let the executive know what you need to get the writing assignment completed. As soon as the go-ahead is given to start the project, send an email that includes:
    • Editorial specifications including word count, deadlines, photo or video requirements, publication writing style guidelines and research needs.
    • A calendar invite for a short, 15-minute call to discuss expectations, including any other details and messaging priorities.

Dive in – Now that you’ve agreed upon the rough outline for the writing project, use your resources and get to work. Here are some good places to start:

  • Client archives – Don’t start from scratch unless it’s necessary. Read past writing projects to get a feel for tone and style. Past topics can be a jump start for new content and give inspiration on where to look to find relevant information.
  • Non-profit organizations – If a website has a .org in its URL, it’s usually safe to quote statistics and findings. Non-profits also conduct their own primary research, citing current sources, and credibility is paramount to their existence. Check out industry resources whose mission is to keep their members informed with the latest and greatest news and research.
  • Google: Look for similar content online. You don’t want to write what’s already out there. It also helps with topic background. Google is the standard for a reason. It’s easy to use and can give you what you need if you know how to look. Don’t simply type in a word or phrase and click enter.
    • Use keywords with precision – If using two keywords, tie them together with a conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘or.’ For example, “‘Boats’ and ‘Historic.’”
      • Click the news category tab under the search box — This will bring up credible media outlets and blogs. You’ll be amazed at all the promotional websites that will be eliminated.
      • Use the tools – For the freshest information, search for recent updates. Did you know you can search for your keywords for anything posted within the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past month or past year? There’s even a custom date range option.

Write your draft – After all the information-gathering and fleshing out of prose, write until you can’t write anymore. Then go back and edit. Walk away for at least an hour or so and then read it with fresh eyes and edit it again.

Final Edit – Send your draft through an internal review process. At the Bradford Group, we never let an ounce of copy be viewed by the client until at least two, ideally three or more sets of eyes have read it and provided feedback and/or suggested edits. Typos will get caught – and you may also get some welcome advice on how to improve a sentence or two or suggesting content directions that may have been overlooked. Additional, helpful information may also be added by a colleague who recollects it from past projects.

An important note: If possible, build in some cushion on the final editor deadline. Give yourself enough time for all the steps – most importantly, client approval. Don’t assume the executive will be able to turn around your copy quickly, especially senior executives who can have busy travel schedules. If possible, work in a week or more to give them time to digest and review the material.

With the right process in place, ghost writing for business professionals can be fun and rewarding experience. Heck, you may even end up joining the Association of Ghost Writers some day!


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