PR people are required to produce compelling messages day in day out. The success of our clients, and our own livelihood, depends on how well we turn abstract concepts into clear words and images. It is a skill that is hard to attain and requires a lot of practice. There is no workaround. The more you write, the better you get at it.
Somewhere along the road, however, you will inevitably end up in a rut. It happens to everyone, regardless of age and experience. Every idea you come up with starts sounding the same – stale and boring. You start losing enthusiasm.
Working in the software industry, and this being the 21st century, I wanted to see how (and whether) technology can be used to help with this problem. I wanted to find tools that can help PR people overcome the creative crisis, prevent mistakes and write more clearly.
These top 5 are the results. Best part: all PR tools on this list are FREE.
One of my favorite quotes on creativity is from Jack London, who famously said “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club”.
This app is the club you need.
The Most Dangerous Writing App is designed to shut down your inner editor and get you into a state of flow. If you stop typing for more than five seconds, all progress will be lost. After typing without interruption for the length of your session, you’ll be able to save your work. The shortest session is five minutes long. The app is free and requires no login. Data is not stored anywhere so you’ll have to paste your text somewhere else. The people behind the app are just sadists, I guess.
How to use it: Initially I didn’t think I can make it for 5 minutes. I am a slow writer and I tend to do tons of edits. But I persisted and then the text started accumulating. Suddenly, among the nonsense, there were a couple of good points I made, which I did not want to lose. So I continued typing until the end and suddenly my writer’s block was over. It is a great app if you are starting from scratch on some text. If you are a procrastinator, you know this is the hardest part.
The app circumvents that easily. For 5, 10 or more minutes, you just write, not worrying about how you sound. The inner editor will take over later.
Answer The Public will kick-start your inspiration when you’re stuck finding a PR topic or your next content marketing article. The premise is quite simple: the tool enables you to find out what questions and queries your consumers have by getting a free report of what they’re searching for in Google. For example, for the term “refrigerator” it provides me with possible topics of “refrigerator is not cold”, “refrigerator for office” and “refrigerator organization hacks”. These are just three examples among hundreds of suggestions you are getting on virtually any term, and if I were working in the refrigerator industry, I definitely would have written something on these topics.
How to use it: Simply go over to the website and type your topic. The tool will generate results. It works for all languages and is free to use (unless you need to export results or search by country, but most of the time you’ll be able to gather enough information right from the website).
The Hemingway Editor is a web based app that aims to make your writing “bold and clear”.
It highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic. The tool also advises you to cut out weakling words such as “maybe”, “very” and other things that indicate you are not 100% sure in what you are saying.
How to use it: Simply paste your text into the app. You don’t have to login or pay anything for the free version. Personally the biggest benefit of this app was that it forced me to shorten sentences and think whether there is an easier phrase to use. I didn’t agree with some of the suggestions, but that is normal. If you want your writing to be clear and concise, especially if you are writing for the web, Hemingway is a good way to go.
For the time being, it seems to be only working for English. However, if you write in a different language, you can still use it to check for sentence length.
PR Buzzsaw is another tool telling you that you are a bad writer. You paste your press release into the tool (no login necessary) and it automatically hacks PR buzzwords. The Buzzsaw can also be used for speeches, strategy documents, advertising copy or any other collections of words that need to be as clear as possible.
Terms like repurposing, solution, robust, best of breed, mission-critical, next-generation, web-enabled, leading, value-added, leverage, seamless, etc, are struck out by the Buzzsaw.
How to use it:
Paste your text into the app and watch the horror happen (or bliss, depending on your writing prowess). To use it in a language other than English, go to Google Translate, translate your text into English and then paste it into PR Buzzsaw. You’ll find that many PR cliches in your language are likely to have been translated from English buzzwords.
Changing your writing environment sometimes mean moving to another room, but have you ever tried switching your word processing app? For me, something as simple as changing the font can get me unstuck – and so does switching from Word to the Writer app. Used by over 851,000 writers, Writer is the coolest, fastest, distraction-free writing app around. It’s just you and your words… And some sounds. Before you start writing, you can choose to type to the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter. Every keyboard stroke will resemble a stroke on the either the mechanical or electric typewriter. By simply turning on the Typewriter sound, this app will make your writing process… more exciting. You can pretend to be an old-school journalist or a lone artiste in a black-and-white movie, ignoring the fact that you are actually writing yet another introductory speech for a board member.
How to use it: Go the site and register (it’s free). The app defaults to dark green text and a black background, reminiscent of hacker screens from the 90’s movies. Go to preferences to change it to a white-and-black combo. The typewriter sound is disabled by default, you’ll have to go into Preferences to enable it. You should also consider switching to a typewriter-ish font such as System Monoface to get the full effect.
What do you think about these apps?
Recommend your favorites in the comments!