Just as practice is the way for musicians and other entertainers to get to Carnegie Hall, writers need to consistently practice in order to both improve and maintain their skills. A Publicity Club of New England member pointed out in a blog post: “Unlike remembering to ride a bike when you were a kid, writing requires practice to maintain your skills. You’re never going to become a better writer overnight. It takes practice, constant re-writing and more practice to excel.”
The author of that blog post also notes (correctly) that members of the public relations industry are, in fact, writers: “Whether we realize it or not, we are writers at heart in the PR profession. Between drafting pitches, writing new business proposals, sending client emails, editing press releases or writing entire whitepapers—a majority of our time is spent communicating through our writing, and your writing can always use improvement.”
Here at JCPR, we are always open to new ideas and programs designed to improve our writing. The Hemingway app and AP style are helpful tools to refine written content, as are writing seminars and workshops.
However, simply attending one or several seminars or workshops to satisfy job requirements is not enough to genuinely make a PR professional a better writer. The old adage “you never stop learning” may sound like a cliché, but it’s the truth. Writers in PR and other fields need to consciously remind themselves that their writing can always use improvement, and should be willing to learn and try something new, no matter what their age or experience.
PR professionals and clients must also keep in mind that no first draft is perfect—indeed, that is the reason it’s called a “first draft.” Transforming a first draft into a final draft takes much more than one or two clicks of a mouse—it requires a lengthy review process.
To ensure that they and their clients are on the same page — and potentially mitigate assignment revisions — PR professionals should, whenever possible, consult with each other as well as their clients before undertaking press releases or other written projects. Even a five-minute call with a client will suffice in order to obtain an accurate big-picture perspective on written content and the purpose it serves in PR campaigns.
Shortcuts, and making assumptions about what a client wants to convey in a particular piece of writing, will not help PR executives grow—as professionals or as writers. The Publicity Club of New England member reminds us: “Go back to work and review (this is a theme, can you tell?). Give your work and mind a break and review again. Don’t just write it and click send—that’s not helping your writing or client service skills.”
Unlike writing assignments, which become final drafts, writing skills can improve but never become “final.” PR executives are writers by trade, whether they know it or not, and must remain open to absorbing and practicing ways to take their writing to the next level. Public relations agencies, therefore, should look to invest to upskill their workers if they want to maintain their top positions as players in a highly competitive market but also because when employees are good at what they do, they’re happier and performing better; this, in turn, helps the company thrive.