By Cathy Cowan @cowanandcompany

We live in a 140 character, 30 second news bite world and PR professionals need to get with it. A new survey commissioned by Cassies, the annual awards show presented by the Institute of Communication Agencies

So what does this mean for PR? First of all, our message needs to be strongly crafted to get noticed. We need to adopt a more social media/copywriting tone to our writing. Unless you’re writing about major news like an acquisition, no one has the time or brain cells to weed through traditional PR text book writing. Make it punchy. Make it interesting. Try to say it in 50 words instead of 100.

Trust me – I know it’s not easy! We PR people love to write. That’s one of the reasons many of us got into PR in the first place. Lots of my favourite PR peeps are former journalists lured to the dark side of PR. We’re good at writing and we have lots to say. However, and I say this with love, save it for your novel.

Writing isn’t really about the words, it’s about the idea. Sometimes, part of wordiness is just searching around for what’s at the heart of your message and idea. Next time you need to write something, take some time to really think through and bullet-out what your core thought and message is. What will interest your audience? Think first. Write later. This will help you get to your point a lot faster.

The next step in the one-two punch of making your PR writing more impactful is choosing the right format. The formerly ubiquitous 2 page Press Release with multiple quotes and boilerplates is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I don’t believe the Press Release is dead – nor do I believe it will ever die. But I do believe it’s undergoing an extreme makeover. News Releases are no longer one-size-fits-all. We need to develop our News Releases to fit the message. Formats can include e-postcards, new product announcements, media alerts, emails, bulletins and yes, sometimes even the classic News Release, boilerplates and all, when the right occasion calls for it.

For many of us, the new requirements for PR Writing are a constant struggle. It goes against what we were taught in PR or journalism school. But awareness is the first step and we must constantly challenge ourselves to create PR writing that meets the needs of our audiences. Our readers want and need their info fast, simple and easy to digest.

Think first. Write later. Better PR will follow.


This post was originally published on the Cowan and Company blog on February 12 2014.


About Cathy Cowan

Cathy Cowan is the owner and President of Cowan & Compan, an award winning boutique PR firm for first class consumer brands. Clients include L’Oreal Paris, Casey’s, Prime Pubs, Bier Markt, East Side Mario’s, Pedorthic Association of Canada, Kraft Canada, Philips Lifeline. In addition to twice being named “Small PR Agency of the Year” by IABC Toronto, C&C has been recognized with numerous awards for media relations, special events, social responsibility and marketing communications. For more information visit

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