Laura Petrolino

Five Things to Remove from Your PR Proposal Right Now

By: Laura Petrolino | July 31, 2017 | 
10

Five Things to Remove From Your PR Proposal Right NowPR proposal development is a necessary evil.

It can often be a time-consuming venture, which may or may not yield a return-on-investment.

You want your prospect to feel confident you know about them and their industry.

You also want them to understand more about how you think and see it in an action, in a way that is applicable to them.

But you don’t want to give it all away for free.

Needless to say, successful PR proposal development is an art and a science.

And, even if you get that fine balance of it just right, you still might sabotage your work if you make even one of these avoidable mistakes.

Don’t Be Passive

There are many reasons to not use passive voice in your PR proposals.

It’s wordy, less clear, and can be slightly ambiguous. But the one I want to focus on here is confidence.

Passive voice is called “passive” because the subject in the sentence is passive.

The subject lets something be done to it versus doing it actively.

It takes the subject out of the driver’s seat.

Is that the type of impression you want your PR proposal to project?

The fact is PR pros use passive voice in proposals a lot.

I mean, A LOT.

And while I don’t have scientific evidence to prove this, I think it’s because we often aren’t confident when we write proposals.

We are unsure, nervous, and maybe even desperate.

We DON’T feel we are in the driver’s seat.

In turn, that causes us to give away the power throughout the entire new business process, and that reflects in our PR proposal.

Which sounds better and more to you:

  • A content marketing plan will be developed to drive leads to your site (passive).
  • We develop a content marketing plan that drives leads to your site (active).

Identify and Fix Passive Voice in Your PR Proposal

  • Look for words ending in -ing
  • Sentences with the word “will”
  • (And my favorite from Grammarly) If you can add  “by zombies” on to the sentence after a verb

You might not feel confident, but don’t let your PR proposal give you away.

Stop, Drop, Remove Extra Words

Word are like snowflakes.

They are beautiful and expressive, unique and delicate, and even magical.

Until, that is, they come pouring down at you like a blizzard and bury everything in a 100-mile radius.

Use words efficiently.

Don’t bury a city under an avalanche of useless words.

Some examples:

  • “Out” used in “build out,” “seek out,” “send out.” Take out OUT (#meta). It’s not needed. 
  • “Currently.” You are writing this currently, so it is what it is…no need to specify.
  • “And, also,” which is essentially just saying “and” twice.

After you write your proposal, go through and see how many words you can eliminate.

Keep the meaning, lose the fluff.

(And trust me, I’m as much as fault as anyone on these first two, so I know the struggle and need for constant re-review.)

Show Them You’re an Expert

Let’s go back to confidence.

You are being considered for the job because you are an expert.

Experts making recommendations based on skill, knowledge, data, and expertise.

They don’t think or believe things, they know.

So stop saying “we think,” “we believe,” and the like.

Own it.

Likewise, you shouldn’t have to “think,” “guess,” or “believe” something, if you do your research, and you should.

There should be no use of generality in your PR proposal.

Know what your prospect is currently doing (both good and bad), know what their competitors are doing, know what the industry is doing.

Experts know their prospects and you’re an expert, so do the work.

Curse of Knowledge Wrecks PR Proposals

We work in this industry day in and day out.

This means there are a lot of things that seem like “common knowledge,” or “obvious,” which actually aren’t.

It may be obvious to you, but it’s not to your prospect.

That’s why they want to hire you, as the expert (see above), to help.

So be aware of things you say plagued by the curse of knowledge and always err on the side or explaining things too well versus too little.

Prospects develop greater trust in organizations that help them understand the lingo and “common knowledge.”

And that knowledge helps them understand why you are the right choice for their business.

Did You State that Before? Who Cares?

This is one I used to be VERY guilty of.

Gini Dietrich helped me amend my ways.

Do you say “as stated previously,” or “as mentioned above,” or the like?

Don’t. Stop right now.

While well meaning, this does two things you want to avoid:

  • It makes your reader stop the flow and frantically go back to find where you said such a thing before.
  • It makes them feel stupid because they may have missed what you said before. They lose confidence they know what you are saying at all in the proposal.

Both of these things are very bad.

So, just say it again.

Remember, you have the curse of knowledge.

So while it might seem repetitive to you, it really just makes the proposal easier to read for your prospect.

What other things would you add to this list?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • I feel like you read something of mine right before you wrote this… despite (or perhaps because of) years of essay writing in school, and subsequent writing for work, I still consider myself a flabby writer. I have to change my style constantly (vs. constantly having to change my style?) with regard to voice and publication guidelines, and yet I still find it difficult to trim the fat and… get to the point. Grammarly can be super helpful. This post was helpful in its ability to get me thinking about my word/phrase choices: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/words-you-no-longer-need/

    • Grammarly is a huge help and the plugin for Chrome is awesome! I actually meant to mention that in here

  • Good tips. The only one I take issue with, at least to some degree, is the final suggestion. Many people read proposals in a non-linear fashion, so it is OK to reference a section where you explore a topic in greater detail. If it is a quick point, restate it. But if the full context is needed, go ahead and refer back but do so with specificity (in other words, “in section XYZ above” instead of “as noted previously”). You may even paraphrase the point but reference the section only for detail.

    • Yes, totally agree. And you laid out perfectly the proper way to handle a situation like that. Direct them specifically to where they can find more detail vs. just refer vaguely to some other reference point.

  • Oh, the curse of knowledge. This so dangerous because you take for granted what you know and assume your prospects know it too.

    Very good reminders, Laura.

    • Yep. It’s so easy to do when you work in the industry day in and day out. We forget what we know ISN’T common knowledge. And that’s why people pay us to help their businesses.

  • This remains my favorite image of all time. I may never beat it myself.

    • Mihai

      What is it so special about it?

      • Well, frogs for one. Frogs in love, for another.

        • Mihai

          It makes sense!

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