Tag Archives: writing

3 rules when pitching a story

By: Hope Salyer


Source: Janet Murray

Public relations specialists have to keep up with the latest trends and news going on around the world in order to better serve their clients. They also have to stay current on the latest trends in the PR industry.

One big trend in the PR field that has been going around recently is the importance of knowing how to pitch a story to journalists. This has always been a struggle, but with the ever-growing social media platforms, journalists are now sharing the mistakes that PR practitioners often make when trying to pitch a story. Here are three rules to follow to help you pitch your next story to a reporter:

  1. Know the reporter and his or her target audience.

As PR specialists, we are always told the importance of knowing our target audience. We think about who we are writing a story to, what language we should use for that audience, and even what pictures to include that the target audience would find helpful. We oftentimes are so focused on our own target audience, that we don’t think about the target audience of the reporter we are pitching.

When sending a pitch email or tweet to a reporter on your upcoming story, be sure to do some research on what topics that reporter covers. You don’t want to send a pitch about Kanex’s new GoPlay Series of portable gaming controllers to a reporter who covers the beauty industry. You have to know what that reporter is going to want to cover, and what is going to benefit him or her as much as it will you and your client, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time.

  1. Know whether your story is actually newsworthy.

PR practitioners spend so much time trying to help build a client’s visibility that they can sometimes get caught up in seeing their client in the news. You have to keep in mind whether your story or pitch is actually newsworthy. Not everything that your client does is going to be important. It might seem that way in the moment, but PR practitioners have to be able to decide what matters to reporters and what doesn’t.

If you are constantly sending pitch emails to the same reporter, he or she is going to get sick of seeing your name in his or her inbox. You have to focus on building a mutually beneficial relationship between you, the PR practitioner, and the reporter.

  1. Know how to send a pitch.

Screenshot by Hope Salyer

Numerous journalists have been posting photos online of pitch emails from PR specialists. The reporters are unable to tell what is being sent by a PR practitioner, and what is a spam email. Pitch emails that follow the spam format are oftentimes deleted within seconds of opening them because journalists don’t know what email is going to help them cover a story and what email is going to give them a virus.

Pitch emails that begin by saying they saw a link post from the reporter and have a similar story at this link are suspicious to journalists before they even begin to read the email. Try to keep from linking out too much in emails. One link to the story is fine, but you don’t need to link to the reporter’s story from last week.

These are my top three tips for pitching a story, but I want to know what yours are as well. Leave a comment below on what your “Golden Rules” are for pitching a client story to a reporter.

Hope Salyer is a junior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Chief Financial Officer of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s first semester serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency in the Detroit area. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email hsalyer@emich.edu.


Becoming a better writer

By: Josie Bobeck


Photo created by Josie Bobeck using Canva

I love writing, and I love that I’ve found a career path that will allow me to do something I enjoy doing and be creative. Writer’s block is a real thing, though, and it can really suck sometimes. For instance, I had absolutely no idea what to write for this blog post. It takes a certain spark of motivation for me to get it into gear. Over time, I’ve found that there are tips and tricks to become a better writer.

Write down all your ideas. It doesn’t matter what they are, but just do it. That way you can go back and reflect. You might overhear a snippet of a conversation or hear a song lyric or quote that inspires you, and that can really help later on.

Read more. Back in high school, I took AP Literature and Composition, and that class forced me to read some classic pieces of literature that stayed with me. The more you read, the more you’re introduced to different styles of writing. The more you know about the different styles, and the more cultured you are, the better your chances are of finding your own voice.

Write, and write often. You won’t get any better at something if you don’t do it often. The more you write and revise your work, the more likely you are to catch your mistakes and be confident in your work.

Right click. Your thesaurus is your best friend when it comes to expanding your vocabulary. Keep a list of words in your documents so you can refer back to them later.

Don’t be afraid of criticism. If you want to become a better writer, part of that process includes making mistakes. That’s OK. You’re supposed to. You’re not going to be a perfect writer overnight.

Don’t put it off. Even writing essays for class can improve your writing. Don’t wait until the last minute to write that three page paper. Put 100 percent into it and your effort will show.

It’s possible to become a better writer and to enjoy it. All it takes is some practice. It may not come easy, but in the end it will be worth it.

Josie Bobeck is a junior majoring in public relations with a minor in psychology. This is her first semester serving as vice president of member relations. She hopes to one day work in nonprofit PR. Josie enjoys spending time with her two dogs, her cat, and her family. Josie can be reached on Twitter @josephine3laine or via email.



Tips to improve your writing speed

By: Katie Gerweck

Source: psychologytoday.com

Source: psychologytoday.com

It happens to everyone. You sit down, determined to write a great press release or blog post. But as much as you try, the words just won’t come out the way you want them to, and you struggle to organize your thoughts into a coherent message. It can be hard to write quickly, which is a problem- especially in public relations, where the turnaround on papers can be very short. Luckily, there are ways you can improve your writing speed and get the words flowing.

1. Get your ideas on paper

Too often, we’re so caught up in writing the perfect sentence or paragraph that all we can do is stare at a blank Word Document. When this happens, it can be helpful to simply put all of your thoughts on paper, even if it isn’t perfect yet. Getting all of the half-formed ideas and phrases out of your head and out in front of you can make it easier to organize your thoughts and gives you something to build on. Which leads us to…

2. Outline

An often-suggested method to improve writing speed is outlining your ideas. Having a framework for your ideas makes writing easier because you won’t have to stop after a paragraph and ask yourself where you’re going with it- you’ll already know, because it’s written down. Outlines also help keep your papers to-the-point and flowing smoothly.

3. Practice!

The most obvious way to get better at writing quickly is to write often. The more you practice, the more naturally writing will come, and the faster you will get. You can even set a timer to force yourself to work on a deadline, and see how quickly you can type up a press release- then try again to beat your old time. (You’ll be happy you did when you’re asked to do a timed writing test at a job interview!)

If you don’t overthink it and can organize your thoughts, you’ll find that putting a paper together becomes much easier and with practice you’ll be able to write much more quickly and efficiently.

Source: 10 Simple Ways to Double the Speed of Your Writing … Right Now

Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA, and also works as a copy editor for the Eastern Echo. She was the copy chief for the Echo during the summer of 2015.

Tips to get writing experience

By: Katie Gerweck

We all know that in public relations the ability to write clearly and concisely is key. It’s important that, as students, we gain as much writing experience as possible so we can sharpen our skills. Although we get a good deal of practice in the classroom, there are other places we can get experience as well.


Internships are great for many reasons. You get real-world experience, make connections, and learn new skills. You also get a fair amount of writing experience. Beyond the typical press release, you’ll likely have the opportunity to work on writing projects that you normally wouldn’t cover in the classroom–  like writing Tweets for a business, or working on its blog. (Not to mention it’ll give you some great pieces for your portfolio).


Blogging allows you to establish a presence online, and have some fun, too. With blogs, you can write about the things that interest you, and can design it to match your personality. Maintaining a blog keeps your writing skills sharp but gives you more flexibility in the topics you cover. You can start your own blog on free platforms like WordPress or Blogger, as well as be on the lookout for other blogs who allow guest submissions.

School Newspaper or Other Publications

You don’t have to be a journalism major to write for your school newspaper, and it’s another great way to get writing experience. Whether it’s a hard news story or a more feature-y arts and entertainment story, writing for the paper will help strengthen your skills. Like public relations practitioners, journalists use the AP stylebook and often have short deadlines.

However, you can write for other publications as well. Whether you want to write essays, poems, or non-fiction, there’s a place you can submit it, and hopefully get published. You can either do your own research or start with a list of publications, like Newpages.com’s Young Authors guide. (Although this guide includes many publications that only accept submissions from kids, there are also some for young adults/undergrads).

Regardless of which method or methods you choose, it’s important to keep practicing and strengthening your writing. Let me know how you get writing experience in the comments below!

Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA, and also works as a copy editor for the Eastern Echo. She was the copy chief for the Echo during the summer of 2015.

Expanding our writing tool box: Using style guides

Every time somebody inquires about my major, I am reminded of the general public’s view of writing.

The moment I announce that I am pursuing a degree in written communication, I am faced with one of three responses:

  • “You must be crazy. Why would you want to do something like that to yourself?”
  • Groan. “I don’t even want to think about writing—yet alone majoring in it!”
  • “That just sounds awful.” 

Such responses reinforce the misconception that writing is a horrid, terrifying form of torture used to elicit pain and suffering from students and professionals. I often wonder where these thoughts come from. What could have possibly happened to have led people to believe that writing is not only a burden, but a task that should be avoided at all costs?

Given, writing can be challenging at times. Writers who strive for perfection—or at the very least—thoughtfulness and clarity, can understand the detailed challenges of diction, syntax, and addressing a specific audience.

Source: Your Dictionary

Source: Your Dictionary

However, here’s a little secret. From one writer to another…

Writing doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be impossible to navigate, or dreadful to experience. 

There are resources available to make the art of writing more manageable. Among my favorite writing resources are style guides, which detail exactly how a text should be written and formatted.

Because every writing style has a different purpose, each one has its own quirks and rules for application. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. Great. More rules to learn—as if there weren’t already enough. 

The beauty of a style guide, however, is its ability to preserve relevant knowledge in a way that is both manageable and navigable. We don’t have to know everything there is to know about the AP, MLA, APA, or Chicago styles of writing. Why? Because each of them has a style guide that allows us to clarify only the information we do not understand.

It is important to realize that style guides contain a wealth of knowledge and information for writers. Yet, without understanding how to efficiently use a style guide, that reference material is only so helpful. (Not very).

Here are four tips to help you effectively navigate and utilize the next style guide you encounter:

Familiarize yourself with the table of contents. Looking through the table of contents of any style guide allows you to accomplish an important task. It helps you understand the overall organization of the book, or in the case of an online style guide, the organization of its webpage. It can be helpful to see which sections of information are paired together, and the order in which they are presented. This information, though it may seem insignificant, allows you to critically consider the location within a style guide that is most likely to contain the information you are looking for.  

Skim through the material. While the table of contents can give you an overall idea of what is included within a style book, flipping through the pages can provide significant insight into the material discussed between a style guide’s covers. When I first bought my AP Stylebook, I flipped through about half of its pages—just looking for the types of things that AP style differentiates between. Now, when I am unsure of which word to use, or how to structure a statement, I might think to myself: “I noticed that the style guide talked about time zones, it most likely has a rule about daylight saving time, too. I’ll check the index.” I don’t have to know everything that is inside a style guide, but knowing the types of things that are covered helps me to use my stylebook effectively. The more you use your style guide, the easier it will be to navigate the material inside.

Read the examples. Examples are included in style guides for a reason. They are available so that users have a sample from which to model their own work. For example, when I first learned how to cite sources in MLA format, it was not helpful for me to read a lengthy paragraph describing how to cite a particular source. Instead, I learned this material by examining sample citations, and modeling my work off the examples presented in the style guide.

Don’t be afraid to take notes. Just like a well-used novel, a style guide is not expected to look brand-new. It is okay to highlight sections that seem important, or add extra examples in the margins. Personally, I use Post-it tabs to mark the sections to which I often find myself referring. I may not remember the exact page in my AP stylebook that discusses the difference between “people” and “persons,” but I can easily spot the neon orange tab that marks its place.

Natasha Wickenheiser
EMU Student
Guest Blogger

How to beat writers block and spark creativity

With a career in public relations, it is inevitable that you will be writing just about every day during your career.

Even if you love to write, you’ll probably get writers block.

Below I have listed some interesting ways to beat writer’s block on those dreary days.

Source: Ladies Who Critique

Source: Ladies Who Critique

Watch a movie! Whether it’s a movie you’ve already seen, or a new blockbuster film, a movie always makes you feel some type of way. Pick a genre you are in the mood for and watch. Even if it’s terrible, just watch and express how it made you feel in a short blog post. Now, rewrite it into something you’ll love.

Take a nap! Writing can often be tedious, especially if you’re not in the writing mood. A quick, 15-minute power nap can do wonders. After waking up, don’t jump right into writing, but linger until you eventually find yourself back at the writing table scribing classics with pen and paper.

Take a bath! There is something relaxing about a bath that cures everything. Get your favorite bath salts and bubble bath and lounge in a nice, relaxing, warm bath. You may even want to light candles and get a favorite drink. Trust me, your writing is in need of aromatherapy.

Indulge in food! If food, especially chocolate!, makes you happy – indulge! Things that make you happy release endorphins, which, in turn, fight off stress.

Take a break! More than likely, when it comes to writer’s block, all you really need is a break. Sometimes we work ourselves into a tizzy and lose control of our emotions and abilities.

Change your surroundings! By working on something in a new place, you can release new ideas into your mind. Don’t stress yourself out on one thing, either. Try working something else and then go back to your original project.

Read a good book! A good book takes your mind to a new place and changes your feelings all together which can open your mind to new ideas and creativity. If you don’t like to read, try some writing exercises.

Caffeine! Drink some caffeine, but don’t settle for a boring cup of coffee or a can of Coke. Try something new and exciting from Starbucks – the Pumpkin Spice Latte, perhaps?

Find inspiration! Inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere, and different things inspire different people. Quotes are my go-to for inspiration, but people work, too. Connect with people who inspire and motivate you to help clean your mind and spark creativity.

Release stress and tension! Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Mix up your workouts, too, so they don’t get boring. Running, swimming, yoga, walking or boxing are all great ways to exercise. For more ideas, check out this article.

How have you overcome writers block?

Gabrielle Burgess-Smith
Vice President of Public Relations

How to write like a professional

Ever feel like you don’t know what it is you read in that letter you just received or that e-mail your boss just sent you?

As an Eastern Michigan graduate student it is an everyday surprise on how most professionals lack professional writing skills.

Not only am I astonished by the lack of professionalism in the work place but also the lack of professionalism that they are supposed to teach us in college.

I have learned that writing a simple work email to writing a very important letter is rather rough in most professional settings, unless you have that one person who really knows what they are doing.

I have been an intern for the University for a year and a half now and have had the opportunity to work with outstanding leaders and professional role models.

With the experiences I have had I have also learned how your writing can be a communication tool or it can be just another, “trash filler.”

Source: Jon Donley Media

Source: Jon Donley Media

Working in a professional setting I have read important letters that make no sense, don’t get to the point fast enough or have more typos then anyone cares to read.

Of course we have all made this mistake as beginning professionals. So what are some ways to change your email or letter to something actually worth reading?

Professional Letter Tips:

  • Take the time to research and see who it is you need to contact. Having their name on the letter makes it much more personal. (“Dear Mr. Smith” vs. “Dear Potential Sponsor”)
  • Put your main point in the opening paragraph. Most readers won’t stick around for a surprise ending.
  • Be organized with your writing. Most important to least important and make sure each paragraph has a point.
  • A letter is to give someone a brief explanation on why you are contacting them, don’t give them every detail. However, make sure you put your contact information if they need more information and let them know to contact you if they have more questions.
  • Always be consistent whether it be the name of something or a format of something
  • Always have more than one person proof read important emails!

Professional E-mail Tips:

  • Always fill in the subject line with a topic that means something to your reader. Not “Shirts” or “Important!” but “Deadline for New Shirts.”
  • Put your main point in the opening sentence. Most readers won’t stick around for a surprise ending.
  • Please avoid talking like you are texting (abbreviations and acronyms): you may be ROFLOL (rolling on the floor laughing out loud), but your reader may be left wondering WTH (what the heck).
  • Always proof read what you are writing even if it is just a quick e-mail. Typos and errors can leave someone wondering what you are talking about or lead to miscommunication. Does it make sense to you?

Professional Writing Tips by Professional Writers:

  • Ernest Hemingway: Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. These rules were two of four given to Hemingway in his early days as a reporter–and words he lived by!
  • Samuel Johnson: Keep your writing interesting. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
  • Stephen King: “Read a lot and write a lot.” Reading and understanding different styles is integral to finding your own style.
  • George Orwell: Orwell offered twelve solid tips on creating strong writing, including an active voice rather than a passive one and eliminating longer words when shorter ones will work just as well.

As these are just a few tips to take account for while writing, they also seem to be areas that are forgotten about the most.

As summer is coming to an end and the new school year is approaching us fast let’s remember to always practice professionalism in our writing even if it is just a quick e-mail here and there.

Lisa McClees
Vice President of Special Events & Programs