Writing for the Web

Last night’s San Diego Press Club “Writing for the Web” panel discussion provided some valuable insights regarding the differences between writing for print and writing for the web.

Christine Benton of Burson-Marsteller offered a number of SEO tactics for writers. She suggested that writers should use headlines, subheads and section headers that include searchable keywords.  Go to https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and search for your keywords.  If there’s a term more popular than yours, consider replacing it.  She also suggested that writers optimize the title, URL, and first 100 words of news articles. She added, “To measure your results — on the day before your story goes live, do a search for your keywords and see how high your site ranks.  Do the same search on the day your story posts and compare.”

 Helen Change, business editor of San Diego News Network, said that people scan the web, they don’t really read, so insert lots of subheads, hyperlinks, lots of video and make it short. She suggested that you market your stories via Twitter, Linked in, Facebook, etc.

 Scott Lewis, editor of Voice of San Diego, said, “The web is freedom.  The web is everything you want a communication device to be.  But with freedom comes a burden, to get noticed you have to do something that no one else is doing, you have to add real value.”  He said under the old journalistic system, editors were the gatekeepers/created the portals for readers.  Now people can create their own portals.

 Scott concluded:  “To know what you want to achieve and build a community that shares that vision.”

 Ron Donoho, editor at SanDiegoDTOWN, and a blogger for NBC7/39, commented about the changing media landscape.  He said, “A lot of younger people think that if it’s news, the news will find them.” He uses email, Twitter and Facebook to maximize the reach of his website. He added that he gets more comments through his Facebook page than through his website.

 They all laughed about the question, “Where does your news life end and your personal life begin?

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Public Relations Tips from Edward Bernays, the father of PR

Some years ago, I was privileged to attend a presentation by Edward Bernays, widely regarded as the father of public relations. His presentation focused on “how to approach a new client or new project.”   Although he started is own firm in 1919, it’s surprising how well his recommendations stand up in our communications milieu.  Here are his recommendations:

 1. When you get a new client or project, call a university professor for the best and latest books on the industry or subject. (Search engines and Amazon may have outdated this suggestion!)

2. Check out the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov), Library Journal (www.libraryjournal.com)

 3. Start where somebody left off, instead of trying to invent a program.

 4. Ask the client, chairman, or president to send out a letter introducing you and asking for cooperation from his employees and contacts.

 5. Develop a plan.  (He called public relations the engineering of consent and called consent a Jeffersonian concept.)

 Define your goal. (Use research to find out if and how the goal is reachable.)

  • Develop a strategy that involves the 4Ms:  mindpower, manpower, mechanics and money.
  • Use psychological themes and appeals:  self-preservation, parental love, social mobility, taste, smell, hearing, love, emotions, nationalism, etc.
  • Use impartial authorities — research scientists, academicians, doctors, government officials, journalists – to tell your story.  Bernays explained that PR was more like billiards than pool.  “”If you assert yourself directly on the various elements of society, as one directly hits another in pool, you will be labeled a propagandist by those whose attitudes and actions you are attempting to modify. … However, if you have independent sources deliver your message indirectly, as a billiard shot uses a cushion before hitting its target, you are more likely to gain acceptance and achieve the desire social ends.”
  • Find topics that serve the public interest.
  • Think Big.  Reach for the unreachable. Start, however, with what you think is reachable.
  • Consider the timing and planning of tactics.

 6.  Always ask to be paid quarterly in advance.

 Bernays died in 1995 at the age of 103. His Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) is the seminal work on the strategic use of mass communications to influence attitudes and behavior. His later works, Public Relations (1952) and The Engineering of Consent (1955), are considered classics as well.  Life Magazine in 1990 listed him among the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th century.”