5 Formulas to Fuel Your Next Writing Project

February 2023
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Writing is fundamental to what we do. It’s an essential part of sharing stories and key messages with our audiences, and we all learn pretty quickly that we can’t just wing it. We need guidelines and checklists to ensure that we include all the necessary information, in the right order. That’s where formulas come in. 

Formulas provide the foundation and structure for good, effective writing. And since each type of writing assignment has its own unique formula, knowing which one to use — and when and how — will help your efficiency and success as a writer. 

Here are five go-to formulas to help in your next writing project. 

1. News releases

Regardless of the topic — an event, a new company or product, a promotion or a major achievement — every news release follows the same basic news article formula. 

I like to imagine the formula as a martini glass or funnel shape that starts with the foundational news lead, answering “who,” “what,” “when” and “where.” From there, you move into the “why,” establish credibility with a quote, provide essential details and so on. Following this formula will help you ensure that every release you write includes the information your audience needs, in a progression that keeps them interested and engaged. 

2. Feature articles and profiles 

Feature stories and profiles take the essential elements of a news story and add interest, depth and details to foster understanding. When teaching undergraduates, I like to present the news article/profile-writing formula as a roller coaster. It begins with a delayed lead, or nut graph, that prepares readers for the subsequent focus statement — a one-sentence distillation of the story’s meaning. 

From there, the loop of the roller coaster is the body of the story, where we write about the struggle, key decisions, etc., before leading out with the conclusion. Following this formula will add efficiency to the feature-writing process, while helping create engaging stories and profiles that provide the right balance of information and emotion. 

3. Podcasts 

Promoting your cause, event or organization on an existing podcast can be a great way to share your message, while creating your own podcast can offer an effective platform for communicating your organization’s message externally, to customers, or internally, to employees and stakeholders. 

As any PR pro who’s produced a podcast can tell you, it’s not as easy as giving someone a microphone and letting them talk — it takes careful planning, editing and a formula for presenting what your expert has to say in a compelling way. There are multiple podcast formulas floating around out there, but I like the 10-step formula Webberize, an Omaha-based podcast production company uses. They break down the process, from start to finish: 

  • Develop your idea.
  • Establish your podcast crew — most teams typically include a producer, an editor, a sound designer and a host.
  • Plan things out — from your production calendar to topic of each episode. 
  • Select your technology — choose the tools you’ll use for recording and editing. 
  • Choose a name for your podcast.
  • Select your cover artwork — the image that will be displayed on listening platforms.
  • Determine your digital tools — choose a hosting service, and set up a website and social media profiles. 
  • Follow the rules — get familiar with guidelines for guest release forms, sponsorship transparency, etc. 
  • Determine your metrics for
  • Develop your content. 

4. Speeches and remarks 

Speechwriting is its own artform — and the responsibility of writing speeches or remarks for company or organizational leadership often falls on the PR team. 

Earlier in my career, I attended a speechwriting boot camp in Washington, D.C., where I had the honor of meeting and learning from Lincoln, Neb., native and John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. 

He taught us the following five-step formula, which I’ve consistently used in my speechwriting in the years since. 

  1. Outline: Draft the outline of your story. 
  2. Headline: Present your big idea.  
  3. Front Line: Share your most
    important point. 
  4. Sidelines: Add in some quotations, humor, and poems that support your message.
  5. Bottom Line: End with a memorable conclusion. 

Or, as Sorensen summed it all up: “Outline, Headline, Front Line, Bottom Line, and don’t forget to throw in some funny lines.” 

5. Op-Eds 

A well-written op-ed has the power to educate, raise awareness and change minds on a large scale. But before you can start, you’ll need a firm understanding of the subject matter, access to experts who can help support the points you’re making and a good formula for structuring your message. 

Formulas are essential. They help us stay consistent and efficient as writers, and they can mean the difference between good and great PR writing. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re a senior-level professional, optimizing these formulas can help you break down each writing assignment into its essential elements and create engaging, effective communications that get your point across clearly and compellingly. 

Return to Current Issue Writing & Storytelling | February 2023
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