PR Professionals and Their Role As A Storyteller

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 1, 2008 in CMU PRM, Design, Public Relations, Writing

With my internship with CMU Public Relations and Marketing coming to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned. Since last May, I have been writing for several CMU publications. Each publication has a different audience.

A Sample of Publications and their Audiences

  • Connections – Donors and volunteers
  • Centralight – Alumni
  • Reference Point – People who love CMU Libraries
  • Parent News – CMU parents
  • Counselor Connection – High school counselors
  • CMU Welcomes You – Recently accepted high school seniors

I’ve also done copywriting for advertisements, posters, brochures and Web sites.

The art of telling a story

I recently read Are you a storyteller? What is your story? by Think Maya. Her post inspired me to think about the role of a public relations professional as a storyteller.

In her post, Maya said, “When a story has nothing to do with me but is intense and engrossing, I insert myself in the story and come alive.”

As a PR professional, I need to find these stories. For Reference Point, I interviewed the artist Deborah Friedman and wrote an article called “Beneath the Orange Paint.” The article will be available on my Web site by mid-December. Friedman, who is from Detroit, started a series of paintings called “Claudene” after seeing the decayed homes in Detroit becoming covered in orange paint. It was a very interesting interview and is one of my favorite articles.

Maya also said stories need to evoke emotions. I think for any kind of PR work to be effective, it needs to evoke some type of emotion. Last summer I conceptualized and wrote the copy for an ad for CMU license plates for Centralight Magazine. You can see the PDF of the ad here.

When I was writing this ad and working with the graphic designer, I wanted it to evoke emotion in alumni (since that is the target audience of the magazine). The original copy was much longer, but Dan Digman helped me tighten it. The line says “On the road to where you’re going, remember where you’ve been.” The story I am telling is to remember your alma mater while you are advancing your career…because CMU helped get you there.

Stories “transport us away so gently into a different world, where we can ‘feel,'” Maya said.

The picture of the open road, I think, does this for the reader. This graphic was exactly what I had visualized and the designer, Amy Gouin, really did a great job.

No matter what the project is, as a PR professional I need to be able to tell the story, evoke emotion and transport the reader.

Related Posts:
Six Steps to Splendid Features
Ten Things I Learned as a Publications Intern
Alternative Story Forms: You don’t have to use the inverted pyramid every time
Getting The Most From Interviews
Ten Tips To Revising Drafts For Journalists and PR Professionals

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Ten Things I Learned As A Publications Intern

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Aug 29, 2008 in CMU PRM, Internships, Portfolio, Public Relations, Uncategorized, Writing

It feels weird not to be working for CMU Public Relations and Marketing every day. I miss it already. I’m really thankful that they are continuing my internship into the fall semester.

Here are ten things I learned as a publications intern, and I would like to thank every person at PRM for helping me learn so much over the past four months.

1. Adobe InDesign. When I started working with PRM, I had no idea how to use this program. I’ve now put together CMU Welcomes You, a tabloid for potential students and two flyers for the CMU/United Way Fund Drive.

2. Storytelling. I had been taught basic news writing in JRN 202. I could efficiently tell you the who, what, when, where, why and how. I could place quotes throughout the story. Dan constantly encouraged me to improve my writing by “telling the story.” Make it real. Make people go, “Wow. I want to know more about this person in the story.”

3. Write tight. Don’t waste any words. If you don’t need them, cut them. By removing the clutter, you can make the remaining words mean more to the reader.

4. Interviewing. What makes this person tick? How are they unique? I learned to ask questions beyond what the story required and then to listen to what people had to say to me. You’d be surprised at the number of the puzzle pieces of storytelling that would fall into your lap if.

5. Multiple entry points. People have busy lives. Write so they can scan the story and get the gist of what’s going on and introduce multiple entry points. Pull-quotes, boxes and subtitles are all easy, but effective ways of doing this.

6. Print it. I don’t know many hours I stared at a computer screen, trying to catch errors or rewrite a story. When you have a hard copy in front of you, you see the story in a new light.

7. Thin and trim. Quotes are a vital part of the story, but trim them down to the real meat. It will make it much more impactful if you paraphrase the less important information preceding the good quote.

8. Be active. Writing actively will engage your readers.

9. What’s next? Keep your writing relevant to your audience. Get them to ask, “What’s next?” and then give them the information they need.

10. Keep an open mind and be enthusiastic. I don’t know how many great portfolio pieces fell into my lap because of my positive attitude. Did I know how to design a tabloid and place ads, articles and photos? Certainly not. As a PR major, do I have much experience coming up with ad concepts? I didn’t, but I do now. I accepted any project they asked me to do, from writing copy to transcribing interviews. Some were certainly more fun than others, but my attitude, enthusiasm and drive is what opened doors for many great projects.

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Morning Sun, MAINStage

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Aug 24, 2008 in CMU PRM, Public Relations

About an hour ago, I remembered that I was supposed to buy a copy of the Morning Sun, Mount Pleasant’s newspaper. Lindsay from CMU Public Relations and Marketing had told me that it was possible that an article from CMU Welcomes You, the publication I have been working on throughout my internship, would be in it today.

I walked to the Post Office and managed to buy the very last copy. When I got back home, I flipped through the section welcoming back CMU students. It took a minute, but I found one article I had worked on about student organizations.

In about an hour, I’ll be heading to MAINStage to get pictures and video for PRM. I’ll be taking photos of Eve 6 and Every Avenue at the free concert tonight.

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Social media, PR, and what I’ve been up to

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Aug 8, 2008 in Books, CMU PRM, Freelancing

I’ve been reading blogs lately, but haven’t had time to post. I think once I start classes again, and am not working full-time, I’ll be able to post more often.

Chris Brogan, a blogger I recently came across through Google Reader, posted links to 20 free eBooks about social media. I haven’t had time to blog, let alone actually look at these books, but his blog is great so I’m sure the books are too.

Also, if you are a PR person, I would suggest checking out Bill Sledzik’s debate on what PR is and is not. I find the posts interesting. A lot of people have been commenting on it, which makes it even more interesting.

What I’ve been up to:

First of all, I’ve been working full time for CMU PR & Marketing…and loving it.

I have been working on editing the copy for my pro-bono client. I found a graphic design student at CMU who was able to create some wonderful new logos for them to consider as well. I meet with the client Tuesday, for lunch, to show her what I’ve been working on.

I designed a flyer for the United Way/CMU Silent Auction. Everyone seemed to love it, which is great considering I have only had a short tutorial from Dan on using InDesign.

My freelance project with Young Money magazine should be starting up soon. I’ll be writing on ‘green living’ and I’ve already been getting ideas and trying free products (most of which were sent to me for free, making it even better).

And I’ve been seeking other freelance opportunities. If you see any good ones, send them my way!

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Working Hard on a Saturday

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Aug 2, 2008 in CMU PRM, Pro Bono, Public Relations

Today I spent four hours working on brochure copy for my pro bono client. They have several brochures in need of updating. I saw the need and contacted them, offering free services.

I’m really excited about it because redoing these brochures will really make a difference for this non-profit. Their brochure about giving is very wordy and confusing. They actually hired a professional to do it back during their capital campaign.

My internship has been great. I’m working on CMU Welcomes You again. I am basically redoing the design and format. Dan said what I have is great, and now that we have that version to fall back on, I can go ahead and change things to make it more engaging.

It’s been quite interesting, considering the fact that I had never used Adobe InDesign before accepting this internship. I’ve picked up a lot though. I think my experience with Microsoft Publisher helped. I brought home a print-out of CMU Welcomes You to look at this weekend. We are trying to make it more engaging. The publication goes to potential students, meaning many of the recipients are high school seniors with the attention span of a goldfish. Most won’t bother to read anything that doesn’t look remotely interesting.

Looking at the few pages I have already redesigned, I think I’m heading the right way. I might try tracking down some people to test the publication. If they can tell me where I lose their attention, I might be able to fix it.

I have a new assignment at work as well. It’s a contest, but that’s about all the details I can give right now. I’ll be writing copy for the posters, a press release, and Web copy. I might even try designing the poster. We have graphic designers in the office, but they are so busy with other projects. I would love to give it a try. I’m going to have to pick up a book on Adobe InDesign though. I have some good ideas…

I have finished my biology class (with a B!) and I’ve got less than a month before I go back to school. Until then, I’ll be working full-time for CMU Public Relations and Marketing. I absolutely love working there.

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