How To Write Like A Journalist Without Setting Foot In A Newsroom
Most journalists are great writers — and they are judgy when it comes to prose, whether it’s their own or the work of others. They’re also typically slammed, grinding out copy as fast as they can before moving onto the next story. As they are only human, many reporters don’t have the bandwidth to cover every story that comes their way.
Writing a great pitch and press release is an important part of capturing reporters’ attention. Some journalists will use your content verbatim. Other reporters, respecting your hard work, writing style and talent, will cover your story because it’s intriguing, and your writing has left them wanting more.
What’s the best way to secure media coverage from a busy, discerning journalist? Write like one.
What Do Journalists Want From PR Pros?
Whether you’re writing a press release, pitch, press kit, key messaging, social media copy, white paper and more — the same techniques journalists use are often effective for any kind of PR writing. If you think and write like a journalist, you’ll help create a story that is more compelling, to the point and hooks your audience.
Journalistic writing style is used by news organizations when assembling a story for publication. It includes a hierarchy of information, starting with the main points at the top of the piece. News articles follow specific principles, including AP style, to ensure proper vocabulary, usage, punctuation and grammar. This formula can be used for any writing style and is an effective way of disseminating information that is clear, concise and provides context to readers of varying reading levels.
8 Ways To Write Like A Journalist
- Gather pertinent information. You may need to visit where the story (press release, pitch, etc.) takes place and interview those who are involved, such as company executives. Do online research and look for information that is backed up by facts.
- Decide on an angle. Your story is newsworthy based on the theme and focus you choose. For example, a hard-hitting news story uses a different angle than a human interest or feature story. Decide on the angle of your story and present it in the first paragraph of your writing.
- Write a great lead. If your piece starts out boring, it will get ignored. Write a lead that grabs the audience’s attention right away so they will hopefully read the rest and get to the meaty details. In the first paragraph (or two), answer the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why, so readers will understand what you are telling them and why it matters.
- Structure your information in order of importance. This is the old school, inverted pyramid journalism style, where the bottom section is the point of the story. Start off strong, pepper in supporting details and then reiterate the importance at the end.
- Include quotes from those involved. Good journalism includes interviews and quotes, so talk to whoever is involved with your story. Even though you are writing on behalf of your brand or client, quotes from the key players create a more interesting, well-rounded and trustworthy article.
- Write it so the audience can understand. Get to the point. Use detailed short sentences. Write in an active voice, which is more direct, has a faster pace and requires fewer words to pack a punch.
- Make sure your sources are verified and trustworthy. Telling an accurate story means that you must gather details from different sources, so you’ll need to verify the information even if you must contact your sources a second time. If you have a quote from a partner company or expert who has agreed to be featured, check their legitimacy and reputation. Doing so protects your credibility and your brand. It also helps avoid inquisitive questions and suspicion from reporters that could lead to a negative story, which is never your intent.
- Take your time. Don’t just send it off. Read it — and read it again. Have your boss and colleagues review your work. While this should go without saying — remember to check spelling and edit it for content and clarity. Media outlets do not have the time or the staff to make a lot of corrections, so turning in an article that is less than perfect dampens, if not ruins your chances for publication or broadcast.
News Writing Vs. Public Relations Writing
An experienced journalist can write a well-written article much faster and more effectively than someone who is new to the industry. You can learn from your writing and slowly perfect your skills. Learn from your mistakes — even the mishaps that make you cringe.
Note: Establishing relationships with media is huge. Once you get to know a handful of great reporters who cover your industry, they’ll tell you what they’re looking for — and they are more likely to cover your story because they know you and like you. Read their stories, pitch them well, and write the heck out of your piece. Good luck!
Trust Relations Team