Why and how a writing center can streamline your organization

PR pros and other communication specialists can help their colleagues with clearer messaging, which will enhance productivity—and minimize headaches for everyone in the pipeline.

Writing in the corporate world is terrible.

It’s full of poor grammar, verbose passages, incomprehensible wording and undefined acronyms. That bad writing undermines productivity as employees waste time trying to understand reports and misinterpreting instructions.

Public relations teams can improve that situation—not with another red-lined review, but by creating writing centers where they can help others in the organization improve their messaging. With their strong backgrounds in writing and storytelling, PR pros are well suited to manage writing centers.

Free guide: 10 ways to improve your writing today

PR would also benefit. PR would gain greater recognition throughout the organization, a chance to improve relationships with other departments, and better understanding of the organization’s inner workings. In working with individuals in other departments, PR might also uncover interesting stories for corporate communications.

Case study: Writing help for bank examiners

Harvard Business Review describes how a writing center helped bank examiners at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia dramatically improve their writing.

Many staff members collaborated on reports, some 40 pages long, that went through several reviews, says HBR contributor Josh Bernoff, an author on business writing and strategy. The writing and review process sometimes lost or muddled important points.

The bank hired Jessica Weber, former assistant director of the writing center at Salisbury University, as writing coach to improve examiners’ writing. She established a writing center. Writing centers often help college and university students improve a specific document or their overall writing skills. They are rare in the corporate or regulatory world.

Despite examiners’ initial skepticism, writing at the bank improved dramatically, convincing the Fed that it should hire a second writing consultant. Weber is working on expanding the program to other Federal Reserve Banks.

Not an editing service

A writing center is not an editing service, says writing tutor Darla Word, who worked at a university writing center. A writing coach works one on one with writers to improve their writing process rather than to fix finished papers. That enables writers to develop self-editing skills, she explains in The Benefits of Writing Centers.

Writing consultants also benefit, she says. Their verbal communication, critical thinking and writing skills often improve dramatically.

Consultants review grammar rules, explain why they react a certain way to an idea, and clarify how to strengthen thesis statements and other features of writing. They have to question what they read to find places that need more work. In teaching others to write better, PR staff members can themselves become better writers.

Setting up an organization-wide writing center

Bernoff offers these tips on establishing writing centers:

  • Obtain top-echelon approval. The crucial first step is convincing leaders that bad writing is hurting productivity and that you have a solution.
  • Gather similar writers. Working with people with similar tasks helps coaches to develop a set of criteria, materials and training methods to help them.
  • Make it voluntary. A buy-in program is more likely to recruit motivated individuals. Providing specific benefits will encourage others to participate.
  • Focus on coaching. Editorial coaching sounds more helpful than writing training. Seek to coach and edit to instruct, rather than to fix errors.
  • Measure results. Succeeding is not enough; you must prove that you have succeeded.

“If it works with bank examiners, it will work for you,” Bernoff asserts. “A writing center is an effective way to lift an organization’s writing culture by its bootstraps. That means everybody can spend less time puzzling out incomprehensible messages and more time actually getting things done.”

PR teams can improve writing skills within their organizations by creating writing centers where they coach co-workers on how to improve their writing.

Better writing will save time and improve productivity. PR will gain the organization’s respect and insight into what’s happening within the organization, and this ongoing practice could even unearth some interesting stories.

This article previously appeared on the Glean.info blog.

Topics: PR


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