Writing for Publicity: Four Foundations for Profitable Promotion

Writing for publicity is a hybrid of marketing and writing. Its purpose is to put your marketing message into words that make your audience want what you sell.

This means that you need to know what your marketing message is first. Unfortunately many companies that hire copywriters skip this all-important step. I see so many misguided ads seeking a “great copywriter,” as if the key to copywriting was possessing an elusive eloquence, the ability to chant some magic words so powerful that simply reading them forces audiences to buy a product.

While this mystique might benefit copywriters, the fact is, it doesn’t work that way, and if you think the key to hiring a good copywriter is finding a brilliant creative writer, you’re searching in the wrong direction. The secret to successful promotional writing is not the ability to sound like a Shakespearean soliloquy (although this doesn’t hurt), but the ability to verbalize a solid marketing message.

How do you write a solid marketing message? You start by answering some basic marketing questions. Here are four key questions a writer should be able to answer before you starting any type of publicity material.

1. What Are You Publicizing?

The first question is, what are you publicizing? You might assume the answer is obvious, but in fact, lack of descriptive clarity is one of the most common marketing mistakes.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to publicize a company that sells real estate. Now if you just say they sell real estate, that doesn’t really make them stand out from dozens of competing real estate companies in the same local area, or thousands of competing companies online. Just saying “ABC Realtors sell real estate” isn’t going to get them to Page 1 of Google any time soon.

The trick to improving this type of description is to add specificity. Are ABC Realtors the only real estate company of a certain type serving a particular suburb or county? Do they specialize in a certain category of real estate like commercial real estate or luxury real estate? Do they guarantee to buy a property if they can’t sell it within six months? Any time you can narrow down these types of details, you strengthen your description and the marketing message it conveys.

2. Who Are You Publicizing It To?

Another important thing to specify is the target audience for your message: who are you publicizing it to? Are you writing for men or women? College students or seniors? New Yorkers or Californians? Is your audience computer literate or technophobic? Are they McDonald’s employees or Wall Street investors? Visualizing your audience clearly will help keep your message on target.

3. Who Else Is Publicizing It?

A third essential marketing ingredient is your competition: who else is publicizing what you’re promoting? Sometimes you’re promoting a pioneer in a new market niche, which presents a different dynamic, but more often you’re squaring off against one or more competitors offering something similar. In this case you need to be able to tell people why, for instance, they should want a GM instead of a Ford or a Chrysler or a Toyota–which brings us to our final marketing question.

4. Why Should People Want It?

This is the big question our earlier questions set the stage for: why should people want what you’re promoting? You can break this question down by relating it to each of the three preliminary questions:

  • What are the benefits of what you’re publicizing?
  • How do those benefits appeal to your target audience?
  • How are those benefits different from what your competition offers?

If you can answer these questions clearly, you will have a solid foundation for answering why people should want what you’re promoting, and a launch pad for a successful promotional campaign.