Writing is a cornerstone of all that we do as PR professionals.
To become a PR pro, many of us (like me) attended journalism school—where the PR program resides at some universities—or took journalism courses. That gives you an idea of how important writing is to the PR industry.
At my alma mater, all PR majors were required to spend a couple of semesters writing for the student newspaper. This taught us to think like a reporter—ask questions, interview more than one source and make sure to accurately quote our sources. This training serves PR pros well in their work with both reporters and clients.
Whether or not you had the experience I did, many young PR pros want to know how to improve their writing. Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t create a perfect first draft. Just get the words out. You can go back to perfect it later, but it’s important to get all the information on paper first.
2. Write when the mood strikes you. There are times during the day that are generally better than others when it comes to focused writing. However, sometimes an idea will just hit you—that’s the time to go with it.
Run with the inspiration to achieve some of your best work. Writing a 500-word blog post can go much faster when you’re feeling inspired to write vs. when you’re forcing yourself.
3. Allow time for rewrites. My best work is a product of having enough time to fix mistakes.
There are times when you must get your copy written under a deadline, but a much more effective process is allowing yourself a couple of days to write, walk away and then come back to refine your work.
You’ll be amazed at what you catch and can improve if you give it time to breathe.
4. Proofread your work. Read your work out loud. This will help you catch errors that you might otherwise miss. (You might want to try this when no one else is listening.)
5. Have others review your work. After you’ve proofed (and re-proofed) your work, ask someone else to review it.
Spell check is great, but it’s not the same as having a colleague or friend review your work. Another pair of eyes can catch the things that spell check won’t. Ask him or her if your articles makes sense—in this case, it can be better to ask someone who isn’t well-versed on the topic review your writing.
There are people who say, “It’s great!” every time or those who are overly critical—steer clear them. You want someone who can catch any glaring mistakes. If you’ve reviewed your piece 20 times, you’re less likely to notice them, and spell check doesn’t catch everything.
6. Use facts and figures to support your thoughts. Use Google and conduct research to find facts and figures to which you can refer. Include your research (depending on what you’re writing) and always cite your sources.
Including facts can be very helpful for presentations, press releases and blog posts. Citing someone else’s research when you don’t have your own is perfectly acceptable.
7. Follow style guidelines. If you’re writing a press release, AP style is generally preferred.
You can always improve. Based on the number of writing errors I see on a daily basis, it would serve us all well to write more carefully.
What works for you when you write, Ragan readers? What writing tips would you share with others?