The Academy Awards on Feb. 26 had nine films vying for the top award of Best Picture. Whether your favorite film walked away with the Oscar or not, all the films offer great advice for public relations professionals. Take a look at this PR Daily post by Dee Donavanic, “9 PR lessons from ‘Best Picture’ Oscar nominees.” As Donavanic points out, as public relations professionals, “We help clients determine their message, decide which audiences we want to affect, use the appropriate channels and find the most effective ways to tell captivating stories.”
As you work on your feature story assignments, maybe you will glean some creative ideas from one of your favorite nominated films. Here’s a few of Donavanic’s PR takeaways that stood out to me.
- “Fences”–The PR takeaway: “In PR, if you have a strong message, you can similarly adapt it in order to reach audiences through a variety of channels—whether it’s through a blog post, YouTube video or other means.”The operative word here for students this semester is “adapt.” You have to understand that each piece of writing is different. If you are using the same message for your feature that you used for your news release, you want to make sure you understand the differences. When I was in the Army, I heard the adage “work smarter, not harder,” and that is certainly applicable to public relations writers. However, if you do not adapt your news release message to fit a feature-style piece of copy, it will not be effective, and that means you are working harder not smarter.
- “Hell or High Water”–The PR takeaway: “Be strategic.”Donavanic reminds PR professionals to always begin by identifying your goals. If you are sending out a news release about an upcoming fundraising gala, what’s your goal? You probably have a dollar amount in mind that you want to raise. To reach that goal, you are going to need people at your gala. That means your news release should give your audience all the information they need to answer your call to action.I think some of you failed to look at your goal before writing your news release because you left out key information such as where to purchase tickets, how much the tickets are or even where you are holding the event. If you have a call to action, always make sure you provide the necessary information so your intended audience can respond.
- “Hidden Figures”–PR takeaway: “Use your team.”I like this one…a lot! As Donavanic said, “People with different backgrounds can contribute different perspectives and lead you to a solution that you may not have thought of on your own.” If you are working on a campaign, don’t shy away from asking for help early in the planning stages. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Teamwork is essential in the public relations industry; learn to be a good team player.This can apply to your writing assignments also. Taking part in the revision process allows you to brainstorm ideas with others, which can make your copy more effective. If you have not been taking advantage of this process, you are, essentially, submitting a draft as your final copy. That probably doesn’t meet the “work smarter” criteria. Use your team.
- “Moonlight”–PR takeway: “Get up close and personal.”This hits the nail on the head for those of you still working on your feature stories. If you are using the same message as you did with your news release, this is where you dig deeper to find the backstory. Grab your audience’s attention, pull them into your story.Using the previous fundraising gala example, the news release shares the basic information about the event with your audience, but your feature story needs to get personal. Tug at some heartstrings, paint a vivid picture for your audience–give them a reason to want to support your cause.
- “LaLa Land”–PR takeaway: “Persistence is the key to results.”This is a great one to end with for students because at this time of the year, you can start feeling worn down, but I want to encourage you to hang in there. It might mean starting early on writing assignments so you have time to submit one, two or even three drafts–be persistent. It might mean you are taking those baby steps toward landing your dream job by seeking out one, two or even three internships–be persistent. You will see a return on your investment, but you have to be persistent.
In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.