Some Thoughts on Writing Better Copy via Forbes


Words: how do they work? Forbes contributor Robert Wynne wants to tell you, and he has some good points!

His primary complaint: “Most press releases are drier than bone”. Indisputable fact.

On that topic, Wynee rightly focuses on writing a great headline to bring attention to the key hook beneath it. Let’s try some examples here:

  • Forbes Contributor Advises Communications Professionals on Crafting Compelling Headlines
  • Forbes Contributor Tells Communications Pros: Keep It Brief When Writing Headlines
  • Forbes to Comms: Short and Snappy Gets You Noticed

We like the last one best.

On writing press releases, Wynne advises PRs to envision their headlines as tweets and frame the hook as clearly as possible in the limited space available. Other valid points:

  • Don’t repeat your headline’s main point in the body of the release
  • Avoid all sales/marketing jargon if possible
  • Limit quotes from sources and outside experts to one or two lines

That last one is particularly relevant, because we have to admit that we never really read the quotes in press releases. In fact, if they’re just regurgitating existing talking points, we say why include them at all? At the very least, you can stick with a single quote to get the same job done.

On pitch letters:

  • Position your client’s product as the solution to a problem that exists for the specific reporter you’re targeting 
  • Place said product within a larger trend story in order to remind reporter why he or she could care. This is very hard to do with certain products, but of course you’ve still got to try.
  • Write a subject line that poses a very specific question said reporter would like to answer for his or her readers. The example given is “But where do you grow soybeans in the slums of India?”, which is a pretty good one.

On writing op-eds, he brings in some heavy hitters to discuss the importance of:

  • Making a clear point
  • Not being afraid to skirt controversy
  • Creating some perceived value for the reader, primarily by exposing them to information or perspectives they may not have considered otherwise

Also: when writing an op-ed or guest post, one should always do the thing that journalists hate by “burying the lede”, because in this case the real lede is promoting your client—and of course no one wants to read content that only serves to do that.

We know that most of our readers go over these points in their sleep, and it’s true that they’re a bit broad. But it never hurts to go back over the basics, does it?