Reference no: EM131377374
Backgrounders are in-depth information pieces. As the name implies, they provide background information for anyone wishing it-reporters, ad copywriters, speechwriters, and editors. Backgrounders are almost always prepared by the public relations staff. A good backgrounder is comprehensive, yet concise. It should never be used to espouse company policy or philosophy-that is reserved for controlled media, such as ads and editorials.
Backgrounders frequently accompany news releases in media kits. They usually supply enough information to fill in any gaps left by the release. Often, they are just insurance against getting called in the middle of the night by a reporter who is editing your news release and in need of some background.
Other times, they are important sales pieces, setting up a historical need for a new product. To make a backgrounder comprehensive, the public relations writer must research as many sources as possible, including old articles, brochures, reports, news releases, and materials published outside the organization. Backgrounders can also benefit from personal interviews. As with news releases, backgrounders are more readable if they contain firsthand information. A backgrounder should begin with a statement of the issue being addressed Because it is not a news story or news release, it need not be presented as a lead nor need it follow the inverted pyramid style. Most backgrounders, however, do follow a basic pattern:
1. Open with a concise statement of the issue or subject on which the accom-panying news release is based. Try to make it as interesting as possible. This opening statement should lead logically into the next section.
2. Follow the opening with a historical overview of the issue. You should trace its evolution-how it came to be-and the major events leading up to it. It is permissible here to use outside information. For instance, if you were writing a backgrounder on a new surgical technique, you would want to trace briefly the history of the technique's development and tie this in with information on techniques that had been used in the past. It is advisable to name your sources in the body of the text when appropriate. Readers of backgrounders want to know where you got your information.
3. Work your way to the present. This is the meat of your backgrounder. Your want to explain the issue you opened with and its significance. Be the place to sell your company's philosophy. merit or factual. Remember, a backgrounder is an information piece, not an advertise
4 Present the implications of the issue being discussed and point the direction for future applications. Even though a backgrounder is a public relations piece, it needs to be carefully couched in fact-based information.
5. Use subheads where appropriate. Subheads negate the need for elaborate transitions and allow you to order your information logically. Subheads need to be carefully chosen and should contribute to understanding.
6. Most backgrounders are four or five pages in length. Let your information dictate your length; however, don't become long winded or pad your docu-ment. Editors will recognize fluff immediately. The object of a backgrounder is to provide information and answer anticipated questions, nothing more.
The backgrounder in Exhibit 7.18 was used as an accompanying piece to a news release touting the advantages of fire-resistant latex foam for use in upholstered furniture and mattresses. After you have read it, consider the following questions:
• How does it follow the recommendations for writing a backgrounder?
• How does it differ?
• Does it trace the history of the issue adequately?
• Does it bring the reader up to the present and cover the current status of the issue?
Can you tell from reading this backgrounder that it was meant to sell a prod-uct? Probably not, unless you knew in advance that it was part of a product-related press kit. The object of a backgrounder is to provide background, not to sell anything. In this particular backgrounder, information is provided concern-ing fire safety and the need for purchasers of upholstered furniture to be aware of the dangers of fire.
The next step is to present readers with a suggested action. This can and often does come in the accompanying product news release. Thus, the trick to writing backgrounders is to make them relate to your subject without actually pushing your product, philosophy, or service.