Learn & Reflect: 3 Lessons from Writing Boot Camp

Madeline Petschow with PRNews Boot Camp speaker Nati Katz, SVP of Tech Practice at Burson Cohn & Wolfe.

By Madeline Petschow 

I’ve been on many adventures in my time at DePaul University. As I plan to graduate at the end of this quarter, I look over my time at DePaul and recall many fabulous experiences as an undergraduate PRAD student.

It’s as if students think that experiences should wait until after they finish college. I am here to tell you to please do the exact opposite. Experience everything and jump right in!

I had the pleasure of attending PRNews‘ 2018 Writing Boot Camp in New York City to enhance my PR writing skills through an intense one-day workshop led by several PR and communications industry veterans.

How does a senior at DePaul get to go to The Big Apple?

I was lucky enough to go as a result of receiving the “Reach for Excellence in Public Relations” award from DePaul and its College of Communication, where I was given the opportunity to participate in a PR or communications professional development seminar of my choosing.

In my time at DePaul I was fortunate enough to attend other growth experiences including the New York Way trip, the International Advertising study abroad, where I attended my first Cannes Lions, amongst my other involvement with PRSSA and The Ad Society.

There were 3 key lessons from my writing boot camp experience. They were:

#1: Keep it Simple

We often overcomplicate and look for complex words to use when writing about the brands and corporations we work for. I am here to tell you to chill. At the end of the day, people want things in bite size pieces they can easily understand. If that simple word sounds fine, don’t rack your brain trying to find a larger and more impressive word. Do not write to serve yourself or to make yourself feel smart, write for your audience. As Jonathan Rick (@jrick), President of The Jonathan Rick Group, said multiple times during his presentation, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Keep this in mind when writing.

#2: Write with SEO in Mind

For most PR professionals SEO can be a bit of an afterthought. A presentation by Ben Spangler of Spark Foundry (@sparkfoundryusa) explained the need for SEO keywords and to generate them during the creative process. If you are able to identify your target audience, which we all should, you are able to identify keywords that can be used in your writing. If you want your news release to show up higher in search results, using keywords can help get it there. You can incorporate these keywords into your titles as well as the anchor text that links back to the company website. Using features like Google Adwords Keyword Planner can help you to further develop those keywords for your press releases and additional content.

#3: Pitching? Think like a Journalist

Today’s journalists are understaffed and busy. To be able to connect with a journalist, you must think like one and connect your story to newsworthy trends and topics. You can connect your brand story with breaking news updates or economic trends such as the GDP, Consumer Confidence Index and the current unemployment rate. Most importantly, remember that these emails and phone calls are going to real humans just like you. Remember that we are working together. Lastly, it is crucial for you to “read excessively”, says Nati Katz, (@N_Katz) SVP of Tech Practice for Burson Cohn & Wolfe. Our ability to write and pitch journalists is grounded in reading their work and keeping up on news. I walked away with one reoccurring lesson and it’s to always be a veracious reader of news.

In closing, my daily diet of digital periodicals consists of theSkimm, Quartz Daily Brief, Ad Age Wake-Up Call and the finance daily email called Finimize. I also listening to Skimm Notes on The Skimm app and WSJ’s What’s News on Spotify. I also enjoy the AP News app. I always round it out with reading a physical copy of The DePaulia because I’m “old school.”

Happy reading and writing, PR professionals!

Heartfelt Thanks
Thank you, Bob Kornecki, for funding the Excellence in Public Relations Award and thanks to the DePaul PRSSA chapter for making me aware of the scholarship and encouraging me to apply.

Madeline Petschow is a senior at DePaul University studying public relations & advertising. She is a member of PRSSA and The Ad Society. Upon graduating she plans to work in public relations and build her blog on balancing life with self-care. Find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter @maddie_petschow

2 thoughts on “Learn & Reflect: 3 Lessons from Writing Boot Camp

  1. Thank you, Ron, for providing a forum for Maddie and other students at DePaul University to express their points of view and successes. We appreciate it.

    #DPUFamily #DePaulU #PRAD #publicrelations #Chicago

    Onward and upward.

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