If you can write a regular column for a magazine, newsletter or newspaper, you can “become a sought-after expert on a local, regional or national level,” explains Roscoe Barnes III, in Public Relations made easy. Barnes adds that your column would be far more effective in reaching your audience than an occasional press release or article.
Start by establishing your objective and audience, identifying your resources and deciding what type of column will work for you. Barnes suggests possible approaches.
- Commentary. Whether you take a stand on a particular challenge or address a local/national issue, your Commentary is an opportunity to “explain problems and offer solutions.”
- Question-and-Answer. Invite readers to send you questions … and use them as the basis for your column. Since they will see their questions in print, they might share the column with family and friends and “become loyal clients, customers, and even fans.”
- Straight News. If your company is not making ongoing, weekly news, then find news to discuss, via the Internet, e-newsletters, research, or tuning into other media.
- Instructional. “One of the most popular columns you can write is the one loaded with how-to information,” Barnes says and adds that you can “recycle the work in a small newsletter or repackage it for a wider audience.”
Once you decide on your approach, Barnes presents…
Time-Tested Tips for Writing a Good Column
- Use engaging headlines. While you should study the publication’s style and fit in with its editorial package, “you want your work to be different and stand out from the rest,” even knowing that your headline will probably be changed.
- Make it relevant and client-centered. Show your readers “how they are affected by your information,” include actual examples, case studies and personal stories.”
- Make it friendly. “A friendly column is personable, chatty, and entertaining….Use short and simple words, vary length of paragraphs and sentences….and include images and ideas that your readers can relate to…”
- Watch out for jargon. “When writing for a general audience…hold back on industry jargon” unless you explain it.
- Make it lively – tell a good story. “You can open with a dramatic, startling statement, compelling story or anecdote, something that will hook readers or build suspense.”
- Mix it up with different literary forms. Barnes suggests that you “use stories in some columns, news in some, and maybe a little history in others.”
- Include a Resource Box. This ‘box’ of information at the end of your column briefly tells readers who you are and how they can benefit from your services or products and includes necessary contact information.
Finally, as you have seen above (!!), when writing your column, “always credit sources.” For example, Public Relations made easy was published by Entrepreneur Magazine/Press.