Most PR and Marketing Folks Don’t Use Outlines, But They Really Should

by Mike Drago | Content Creation

outline

I. Intro: Most PR and marketing folks don’t outline before they write for clients, but they really should
II. Reason One: Saves you time
III. Reason Two: Ensures you touch all the bases
IV. Reason Three: Helps you write with clarity, precision
V. Reason Four: Helps client communications
VI. Conclusion: Outlines can make you more effective

I. Intro 

  1. Your fifth-grade teacher probably taught you how to make an outline. If you were like most kids, you found them a tedious waste of time. You probably don’t use them in your public relations and marketing work today. Maybe you think you don’t have time. You do have time, and you should outline.  
  2. Outlines save you time in the writing process. They also make your writing clearer and less bloated, and they help ensure you and the client stay on the same page from the start. 
  3. By writing content that is clearer and less bloated, your work will be more effective, clients will be more satisfied and everyone lives happily ever after.

II. Reason One: Saves you time

  1. Time is the most valuable resource you have in your PR and marketing business. You need to make better use of it.
  2. Outlines save time because they force you to refine your ideas. By the time you start writing, you’ve already thought through a beginning, middle and end to your work.
  3. Writer’s block and other dithering is all but eliminated, and you lessen the time lost chasing down answers to questions you forgot to ask.
  4. As a bonus, you’ll write fewer words. Fewer words means time saved. Bingo.

III. Reason Two: Ensures you touch all the bases

  1. Maybe you think you have all the information in your head. Maybe you do. Probably you do not.
  2. By making a complete outline – or even drawing up a rough, topic-only outline before you interview a subject-matter expert – you’ll think of questions you can’t answer without help. At that early stage, there’s time to consult, or re-consult, the SME. The alternative is to figure it out when you’re on deadline and can’t reach the SME. Take your pick.
  3. By thinking ahead, you greatly increase your odds of producing content that is both intelligible (i.e., not packed with filler buzzwords) and comprehensive.

IV. Reason Three: Helps you write with clarity, precision

  1. Too much content filling up the Internet today is bloated, aimless and imprecise. Often, that’s because the writer didn’t know his or her destination or goals in writing. He or she simply started to type and, at some point, stopped. If you have no roadmap, the reader will know that immediately and abandon you.
  2. Outlines help to clarify your thinking and create that roadmap the reader needs. They force you to think through beginning, middle and end. What’s the main idea? What’s the argument for that idea? What’s the call to action?
  3. By signaling clearly to the reader that you know your destination and how you will get there, you increase the chances he or she will follow you.

V. Reason Four: Helps client communications 

  1. How many times has a client sent you back to the drawing board on finished content because you completely missed the mark? If you work through an outline together with the client, that won’t happen anymore.
  2. Outlines can serve as a mid-project milestone that ensures you and the client agree on your direction. At that point, there’s still plenty of time for the client to change your course, or for you to ask more questions.
  3. The outline discussion is also a time to refine an idea and an opportunity to generate ideas for future projects.
  4. When you and clients are on the same page from start to finish, they will rarely be disappointed, and they will feel more invested and engaged in the finished product. 

VI. Conclusion: Outlines make your content better

  1. Dust off your fifth-grade outlining skills and get with the program.
  2. Outlines can save you loads of time while making your writing more readable and, overall, more effective.
  3. Your clients will be happier, and who couldn’t use more happy clients?

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