March 17, 2011
PBRL 3012 - Persuasive PR Writing
Mount Saint Vincent University
“Don’t tell me words
Before we get started - watch the first
two minutes or so.
-Speechwriting is an art as old as human communication itself
-Every culture since the dawn of time has communicated orally to inspire
-A major discipline in all aspects of communications practice, public and
private sector, is speechwriting
-A CEO presents an annual report
-A politician runs for or accepts office
-A coach gives an inspiring half-time speech
-A keynote speaker gives a commencement address
-A president speaks from the Oval Office
For class discussion:
What speeches have inspired you?
Have you ever written a speech? Given one?
What factors matter?
Writing the spoken word.
- The oldest form of rhetoric
- Done well: Ignite passion, move nations
- Done poorly: Bore to tears, damage brands
Questions for discussion
What do you do when you’re at a speech that loses you? What do you feel
about the speaker?
>> Guide conversation toward importance of understanding audience,
appearing human, impact of not doing so.
What about at a speech that engages you?
>> Guide conversation toward focus, impact, connection of well-written
What is happening when someone is speaking? What makes a good speech?
What makes a boring one?
>> Guide conversation to lead into emotional connection, need for
Know your audience
- What will matter to them?
- What is likely to connect with them?
- What state of mind are they in?
Who’s hearing the speech? This affects how you write it. Not all audiences are
Questions for class
What tools might we use to understand our audience?
What are some examples of an audience?
Guide toward: Political rally vs. public appearance, internal employees,
graduating class, etc.
Variables of current news and events, importance of overall social climate
Know your speaker
- What do they want to say?
- How do they speak?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
All speakers are not created equal.
What if your Mom spoke to you like your Dad? Would you buy it?
What if I spoke to you like a car salesperson?
Understand who you’re developing speaking notes for, even if it’s yourself.
Tone, diction - how do they speak Are they funny or dry and conservative?
Any examples of someone who didn’t seem sincere, or like they were being
What did you make of the ghostwriting article (Review ReadTweets)
Logos and pathos,
Aristotle had a lot to say about rhetoric
Remember from first few classes - ethos, logos, pathos
He was really talking about public speaking.
Still today, speeches hinge on these principles
What’s interesting about the term “logos?” What matters more - how people
feel about a company (how Aristotle meant the term) or its symbol (how we’ve
interpreted it)? How are these two things connected?
What is it to be “pathetic?”
Can you think of any speakers recently who succeeded at inspiring emotion?
What about appeals to reason?
Logos - appeal to fact
- Rational, factual, direct appeals
- Useful in crises or acute need for action
- Youtube: Obama’s response to BP spill
What were your initial reactions when you saw this video?
What do you think the strategy was in terms of positioning it?
You mentioned war. Let’s talk about that. What is the effect of the wartime
Why would the speechwriters choose this?
What else does Obama do during the speech?
How should terms like “you know” be used?
Sometimes, approaches can be combined. Is there any pathos here?
Pathos - appeal to emotion
- Emotive, passionate, inspired
- Useful in motivation, leadership, inspiration
- Youtube: Obama’s acceptance speech
Discussion for class
Can anyone tell me why his family was on stage? What role do they play?
What climate was America in at the time?
Who is the audience here?
Why does the pathos approach work?
How do Obama’s speechwriters use the audience to their advantage?
Before you write
- Talk to your speaker
- Review previous speeches
- Understand their personal diction
- Understand the physical setup of the venue
It’s important not to assume you know what your speaker wants to say.
You may have ideas, but theirs matter more.
Talk to them as early as possible.
Prompt: Why might this be important?
Where will the speech be given?
Prompt: What are some examples of venues? As examples are mentioned,
discuss each. What are the differences?
George Bush at Ground Zero
As you watch, think about venue
George Bush addresses recovery
workers, Sept. 14, 2001.
What makes this work?
How much of it is scripted?
What effect does the bullhorn have? Does it play a symbolic role?
Who is more powerful - speaker or audience?
As you write
- Use conversational language
- Include expressions and turns of phrase you
might not use in printed material
- Embrace the first person (especially in
Be careful with language. Too conversational, it will be colloquial and
dismissed. Not enough, it will be cold and corporate.
Write how people speak, to a certain extent. But, depending on dialogue, there
is room to increase the level of rhetoric. This is how “great quotable quotes”
What does using first person do?
What are some turns of phrase to consider? When might we include more?
What are the effects of including terms like
“I always say...”
“One thing is for certain...”
As you write
- Think about the beginning, middle, end
- People especially remember your
introduction and conclusion.
- Write for the sound byte: Be quotable
A speech is like a story - an open, a climax, an end
“Without further ado.”
Avoid this kind of empty opening.
Conclusions are especially powerful.
What do we really mean by that?
What are we thanking the audience for?
“Thank you. And God Bless America.”
How is this different as a conclusion?
What does it leave the listener with?
After you write
- Edit, edit, edit
-Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
- Share, share, share.
Work closely with teleprompter or AV people if possible
If not, print pages in large type with spacing
Speeches are powerful media relations and social media tools.
Include notes to “check against delivery”
Use the passion of the remarks in quotes and other public spaces ongoing.
This is an official photo from the White House Photostream on Flickr.
What does it say about the editing process?
Don’t take edits personally - but leave lots of time for them.
Underscores need to understand speaker.
On a related note, why do you think Obama’s administration wants us to see
- Great speeches are sometimes spontaneous
- Remember that you are writing for human
- Counsel your speaker to be human, to be
“real” - not simply to read remarks.
Speeches are unique because of a certain lack of control.
A speech is like sending a soldier off to war - once it’s with the speaker, it’s
out of your hands.
Your role as PR counsel goes beyond the speech itself.
What other advice do we need to give?
What are the variables we can’t control?
How would you counsel Stephen
Harper following this speech?
Student faints during Harper
What could he have done differently?
What is the effect of the lack of reaction?
Listen closely to the moderator. What is happening? What reality are they
What do you think the media coverage of this speech will be?
- Look up often, make eye contact
- Smile (when appropriate) and otherwise
convey the emotion yourself
- Use gestures and body language
- Never, ever “just read”
-Ensure your speaker has this direction.
-This may not always be easy depending on who it is, and your relative
position to them.
-Be careful about unsolicited feedback on the delivery of a speech - generally
speaking provide feedback when asked. You’ll feel ownership of what you
have written, but it’s the speaker’s speech after he or she delivers it. Learn to
Body language - “the hand talker.”
Sincerity in emotion
What speakers do you know who seem cold?
What about ones who seem genuine?
- Choose a rhetorical approach (or combo)
- Know your audience and your speaker
- Know the venue
- Edit, rehearse, and share
-In closing, review the Top 100 Speeches link from the course blog.
-Tumblr has an excellent way to treat quotes. Include some of your favourites!
-Appoint a speechwriter in your groups, if you haven’t already, for your final
presentations. Each scenario includes a lot of potential for strong rhetoric.
Take advantage of it.