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Remembering a modern master of messaging

Novelist and humanitarian Toni Morrison, who died on August 5, left behind a legacy of writings that serve well as examples of how to tell a story with heart. Although described as a black American female writer, her writings can best be called universal for their simple elegance.


Just connect


By creating characters that are cherished for transcending time, nationality and other particulars, Morrison made connections with readers that will outlast her. She knew her material by heart, wrote from her heart, and connected with a sense of subtlety and authenticity. She defined knowing your material as an investment in time. Time spent in research, editing, reworking, all the way along, keeping in mind the audience, and how what was said would impact them.


What’s not said


By knowing backwards and forwards what did matter, Morrison was able to reduce what was said to an elegant minimum, creating spaces for readers to jump into and imagine things themselves. Many great advertisements do the same thing. As does negative space or white space in photography and art. Master jazzman Miles Davis thought of this as power of the notes that are not played. Conscious omissions allow audiences to read between the lines, capturing key messages without being blunt or prescriptive.


Show, don’t tell


Morrison suggested storytellers avoid ‘thrilling sentences’ and let the plots unfold in pauses in the action that allow readers to become a part of the narrative themselves. By not overdoing it, Morisson delivered powerful themes in ways that respected the reader, choosing what was not said as carefully was words that were used, effectively allowing audiences to draw their own conclusions, which can lead to greater impact.


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Basic PR tips for small startups

When you’re just setting out there with an entrepreneurial idea and limited budgets, you have a lot to handle just getting the project or platform ready, never mind choosing marketing channels or putting together an effective PR strategy. There are a few simple tips however that will help your startup attract potential online exposure, at least in a small way that will set the stage for your project growth. You don’t need to invest hundreds of hours in learning all about PR; just a few simple takeaways.

1.) Key messages are the most important thing

Key messages are the statements about your product or service that are arranged in an easy to understand fashion that quickly communicates what you are all about. If you’re not sure how to compose a key message, imagine someone asks you this question: “If you would like the world to know only one thing about your company or product, what would it be?” Whatever you answer will be your key message, or another way to understand it would be as the headline of your first press release

2.) You can use more than one key message

Usually you will have one overarching key message, which functions as your overall communication summary. However, you can use additional important messages (called sub-messages) which also convey other important information about your startup. Imagine that the key message is the headline to your press release and the 2-3 sub messages are the bullet points arranged just below your headline message.

3.) DIY PR is perfectly okay at the outset

Social media has made everyone their own publicist, so where in the past you would have had to pay a lot of money for advertising or magazine advertorials, now this buzz can spread for free over your social channels (if your messages are on point and people find them interesting).

4.) Content is important for everything

At the beginning when cash is tight, you are going to be writing everything yourself, and that’s perfectly fine.  All of the content you put on your website should support your key messages, so keep information short and sweet and make sure everything points back to your overall communication direction, which is your key message. The content will flow easily then and people will not be overwhelmed (hence bored) with pages of text.

5.) Outsource your editing or proofing to cheap freelancers

It’s always helpful to have someone else review and make slight changes to your content, as they will probably see errors to which you are oblivious. Sites like fiverr give you the option of getting semi-pro writers to look over your stuff and suggest ways it can be improved in terms of general positioning of your content and messaging.

6.) When you’re ready to up your game and grow your business

Public Relations does one thing, and that is to amplify the message. When you’re at a point when there is some interest in your startup and you really need to launch properly, this is the perfect time to engage with a PR firm.


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