‘You’ gets the story started in PR pieces
It’s counterintuitive, but true: The product is never the topic. The program is never the topic. The plan is never the topic. The topic is never the topic.
The reader is always the topic.
Here’s how six PR pros made the reader the topic in their PRSA 2014 Silver Anvil Award-winning campaigns.
Use the ‘Y word.’
The easiest way to write about the reader, in PR as well as in other pieces, is to use the magic word: You. That’s what PR pros did for these award-winning leads:
It’s on you. You have the power to save a life. That’s the message going out to [City] residents — especially those in the African American community — who will be asked to become potential marrow donors at a donor registry drive hosted by Be The Match®. The [date] event is part of a nationwide effort during African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month.
— Be The Match media advisory
The billion dollar-a-year tax increase, Amendment 66, is like the latest “As Seen on TV” product. It’s full of promised innovation and life-changing outcomes, but post-purchase you realize you just spent a lot of money and nothing is actually better.
— Vote No on 66 campaign op-ed
Your school is invited to join Celebrate My Drive (CMD) 2013, an opportunity for students and communities to come together to celebrate 2013’s class of new drivers. The first year behind the wheel is the most dangerous for teens, and it’s an issue we know is important to your school.
— State Farm Celebrate My Ride news release
Use the imperative voice.
Here’s another approach to leading with the reader: Use the imperative voice.
We learned in third grade to call the imperative voice the command voice. And it can be a command: Do the dishes. Make your bed. Clean your room.
When we use it, though, it’s the invitation voice: Grab a spade … prepare your senses … dig a little … learn a lot.
Davis, Calif., April 3, 2013 — As spring temperatures go up, it’s an excellent time for farmers, ranchers and gardeners to focus their attention down to the soil below them. A spring check-up of your soil’s health gives clues of your ground’s ability to feed plants, hold water, capture carbon and more. No fancy equipment required. Just grab a spade or shovel and prepare your senses to dig a little and learn a lot.
— Natural Resources Conservation Service news release
Use a placeholder for ‘you.’
I actually prefer to avoid you and the imperative voice in media relations pieces. For one thing, who’s you — the reporter or the end reader? For another, I still like to retain an objective, third-person voice in PR pieces.
The solution? A placeholder for you: Community members. New drivers. Farmers throughout the state. Teens who commit to safe driving.
That’s how these Silver Anvil award-winners set up their stories:
— Nicolas’ Garden news release
Bloomington, III., (Sept. 16, 2013) — Parents of teen drivers believe teens are obeying the letter of the law when it comes to graduated driving licensing (GDL) laws. As it turns out, what parents think — or hope — and what teens report actually doing don’t match up according to a new survey conducted by State Farm.
— State Farm news release
During National Teen Driver Safety Week, new drivers across North America are rallying their communities to commit to safe driving. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the US and Canada. Students in more than 3,000 participating high schools are celebrating the joy of driving while at the same time working to reverse this startling statistic.
— State Farm news release
A growing number of farmers throughout STATE have “discovered the cover” — and for some very good reasons. They’re increasingly recognizing that by using cover crops and diverse rotations, if s possible to actually improve the health and function of their soil.
— Natural Resources Conservation Service op-ed
Bloomington, III., (August 15, 2013) — Teens who commit to safe driving could have the chance to bring Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson to their hometown for a free concert this coming school year. As part of the company’s Celebrate My Drive® program, State Farm is teaming up with Clarkson and offering teens across the U.S. and Canada the opportunity to learn more about safe driving, win grant money for their school, and be one of two schools to win a free concert by Kelly.
— State Farm news release
Put the end user first.
Sometimes, the topic is just one or two members of the reading community. In this case, start with a placeholder for you anyway. Here, instead of leading with CHS Energy or its Tanks of Thanks rewards program, brilliant PR pros lead with the award winners:
Two local residents have received a special thank you for their contributions to the community. Colleen Wallien and Kirk Zastoupil of Aberdeen, S.D., were selected to receive free fuel from Tanks of Thanks®, a program that rewards people who do good deeds to help make their community just a little bit better.
— CHS Energy Communications news release
Want reader interest? Take a tip from these Silver Anvil winners and write about the reader and the reader’s needs, not about “us and our stuff.”