Web 2.0 demands brevity from PR professionals

Since the beginning of my career in J-school, I have asked myself how I can become a better storyteller. As one who loves learning about all things PR, I am curious about new ways to present information that will be most effective and beneficial to those whom I address. Tom Gable, founder and CEO of Gable PR discusses some important writing techniques in a post titled Bulldog Reporter: Tips on Writing for the Web, New Media. In the post, several of the author’s peers gave advice about the future of good writing on Web 2.0 at a conference he attended. As a journalism student, I have been taught and reminded that accuracy, word choice and clarity are some of the fundamental ingredients in the perfect press release or pitch. The participants in the conference Gable attended stressed similar components, however, the one thing they emphasized and what I wish I had spent more time learning was the importance of writing with brevity.

Twitter has changed how people want resumes, status updates and popular trends dispersed. In our field, press releases and pitches will soon, if not already, be subjected to such constraints as 140 character limits or short spaces available on the Web. Never before would I have imagined that such brevity in my writing would be so important. I think that if we are capable of producing a valuable message in such a small space, then we will have produced effective storytelling characteristics.

One point that Gable’s PR company checks when writing about anything is ‘can the story be summarized in a compelling headline, Tweet or one or two-sentence sound bite or elevator pitch? If posted through social media, will it generate interest and action?’

I would say many projects, if written with creativity, could generate an interest and action in its audience. In the end, however, I ask myself, with such brevity how does an interested audience get the details?

Will the rest of our storytelling rely on links and Google?

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9 Responses to Web 2.0 demands brevity from PR professionals

  1. astrazza says:

    I think you bring up a good point about brevity. People don’t have the time to read everything. There’s so much information out there, and we only click on only things that interest us. The headlines are what catch us—I too often find myself clicking on a headline, reading it for awhile and then clicking out before I finish reading it all. The story tends to lose my interest. I think that a good story doesn’t have to be long, after all it’s harder to keep your writing tight. I want to know basic who, what, when, where and why. I like having links on stories that way if I’m interested in learning more about it I can click on, but I still understand the gist in the original story.

  2. wwillis says:

    I actually feel that J-School has emphasized the importance of brevity, but in classes that are focused on print journalism students. In newswriting we learned to cut everything but the most vital information for our stories. Writing resumes, press releases and pitch letters in a concise way is not something we have learned thus far. It is a challenge, and as you said, if we can accomplish effective storytelling in such a small space, then we have completed our objective. Overall, I agree that brevity is important for the field of PR and is a trait worth learning.

  3. bihrig says:

    Brevity has certainly become more important over the last few years. I’m glad short and concise writing is growing in popularity. I almost never read more than the title or first few sentences of a magazine article or newspaper article. If the topic is compelling to me then I might continue, but in my recent experience it is unlikely. Twitter’s 140-character limit has challenged people to make what they have to say make an impact. Rather then rambling on thought has to go into what you want readers to get out of the context. I think a story can certainly be summarized in a short compelling headline. If the reader is interested and wants to know more, they will seek out more information. Keeping articles, story, or whatever it may be short and sweet is the way I personally prefer it.

  4. ncano says:

    I think people are always on the go, that they want their news quick and fast. We aren’t all interested in just reading a long news article, because sometimes want the headline to describe what is taking place in the article and then we will decide if the story is worth reading. That is why I think in the editing course in the Cronkite school, my instructor focused on teaching us about strong headlines. The headline will always grab a reader’s attention so I agree with Gable. I think social media is important these days because it’s quick and can appeal to the on the go person. People can check Twitter, or other applications like New York Times from their phones quickly while they are on the subway or stuck in traffic.

  5. Britnee says:

    Thank you for the comment! I appreciate your insight. I think a lot of us are guilty of only skimming for the important information versus the details through out a story. I think this is a trend for most, if not all computer users. What will be quick, concise and to the point is going to be read most.

  6. ecain says:

    I think that is was great that you decided to blog on this topic. Brevity is very relevant especially as Twitter continues to take over the universe. I definitely agree with Gable that the shorter you can make your message the better. Aside from Twitter, the world we live in today is so fast paced no one has time to sit and read a lengthy press release. In my experience at my internship (which I think you had the semester before me :)) I find that when I call and follow up with editors I have emailed a pitch to, they are more likely to take the story after my one sentence verbal pitch, rather then writing a story off of the lengthy press release I emailed them. Overall, I think keeping our messages short and sweet is going to be something that we will need to perfect in this field as the world of Web 2.0 continues to grow.

  7. sclarke says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It made me think back to my last internship where twitter was really starting to take off. I would have to pitch an event on twitter in 140 words. I found it so difficult to get all the important facts in! However, you are right. As PR professionals, we are going to have to learn to pitch stories in a 140 character limit. People like short, simple and to the point. I believe that is why twitter has become such a hit.

  8. kinoshita says:

    I agree that consumers are demanding the point sooner rather than later. With information coming in the forms of tweets and status updates where there are space constraints, being cheeky is the key to an audience wanting more. I agree with Ashley that there is so much information that many times we get what we consider to be the best out of each article and move on to the next.

    Ultimately, however, I believe the trend will shift back to a more traditional sense of storytelling like you refer to. Where you can go into detail with creativity. Who knows when that might happen though. Maybe when tweets are 40 characters long and every 7 letter word has been cut down to two letters. Eventually we will all be reading and writing technology driven shorthand, not the English language.

  9. bjohnson says:

    Wwillis: I’m glad to hear that you agree that brevity is important and I find your education views regarding the topic interesting as well. I agree with you in that respect. Bihrig: I think you are right in that if people want more information then they will seek it out and read it more than the 140-character synopsis they probably got first. Twitter has revolutionized the microblogging world, in my opinion. Ncano: Headlines sure do play an invaluable role with media. PR and print practitioners should be concerned with informative headlines. Ecain: Yes, we did share the same internship! I definitely agree that journalists appreciate a message that is narrowly tailored and informative. Informative messages are definitely more exciting than a dull, long pitch. Sclarke: Practice will make perfect. I think we need to take pitching via Twitter as an industry challenge to perfect our messages. A 140-character message could be very impressive if done effectively. Kinoshita: I find it interesting that you think the trend will move back toward a more traditional approach. I haven’t considered what that might entail but it is something to think about, nonetheless.

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