PR Tools: Fire Prevention, a good cause, extinguished with poor news release copy

In this news release, definitely for a good cause, there are several instructive writing tips that shorten the headline and lead, but also add clarity. 

Original headline

Trainers from Firefighters Without Borders Headed to Lac Seul First Nations this Month to Educate Residents on Fire Prevention & Ensure All Residents Have A Working Smoke Alarm (28 words)

Better PR Writer edit

Trainers from Firefighters Without Borders head to Lac Seul First Nations to educate residents on Fire Prevention, ensuring all install working Smoke Alarms (24 words)

Note that the headline revision is in ‘down style,’ or initial caps only with proper nouns, i.e., Lac Seul. Now standard for headline writing in most places (New York Times, no; Globe and Mail, yes for down-style.

A-B Comparisons

  1. Headed to Lac Seul
  2. Head to Lac Seul

The first meaning is ambiguous; there is an implied future but why not just say ‘head,’ a positive present tense. That also allows eliminating ‘this month’ as the present tense indicates it’s happening now. It’s similar to the rule that when describing when something will happen, the year is unnecessary if it’s the present year. 

To Educate Residents on Fire Prevention & Ensure All Residents – a word repeat in a headline is an absolute no-no and should indicate review is necessary. 

  1. Ensure All Residents Have A Working Smoke Alarm
  2. Ensuring all install working Smoke Alarms

Residents isn’t needed when ‘all’ is used and ‘have’ is such a weak verb (to be avoided); ‘install’ makes it stronger than just ‘have.’ 

Original lead

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Oct. 16, 2019 /CNW/ – Firefighters Without Borders (FWB) has partnered with the Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services to help improve fire safety in the Northern First Nation Community of Lac Seul, located near Sioux Lookout, Ontario, as part of Fire Prevention Month (month of October). (42 words)

Lots of extra words. Look how they can be eliminated. 

Better PR Writer edit 

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Oct. 16, 2019 /CNW/ – Firefighters Without Borders (FWB) has partnered with Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services to help improve fire safety in the Northern First Nation Community near Sioux Lookout, Ont., as part of October’s Fire Prevention Month. (35 words)

These changes eliminated unnecessary words

  1. in the Northern First Nation Community of Lac Seul, located near Sioux Lookout, Ontario
  2. in the Northern First Nation Community near Sioux Lookout, Ont.

The community has been identified as Lac Seul, so no need to repeat it. It should be clear. ‘Located’ is almost always unnecessary and Ont. is the CP Style designation for the province in copy; ON is the postal address. ‘Near Sioux Lookout, Ont.’ works better. 

  1. as part of Fire Prevention Month (month of October)
  2. as part of October’s Fire Prevention Month.

Follow up paragraph

This paragraph should illuminate and amplify, which it does but with too many words.

A. FWB has enlisted Chris Miller and Jeff Jones, fire prevention officers with the City of Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services, to visit Lac Seul from Oct. 27-30 to help train Fire and Emergency Services volunteers on proper delivery methods of Fire Safety and Prevention information for households and schools. (49 words)

The underlined phrases needed pruning. Compare the two versions. 

B. FWB’s Chris Miller and Jeff Jones, Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services fire prevention officers will visit Lac Seul from Oct. 27-30 and help train Fire and Emergency volunteers on properly delivering fire prevention information to households and schools. (38 words)

Author: rotmanprwriter

PRWriter, Copy Doctor, Humber College PR and writing Prof

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